Friday November 28, 2014

Is the third time the charm for Ottawa?


View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Randy Brenzen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: How long will the new Ottawa Redblacks last in the CFL.

Welcome back

It is great to see Ottawa back in the Canadian Football league. Of course, with the franchises’ sketchy record over the past two decades, the question of how long it will last is inevitable.

Ottawa sometimes gets a bum rap. The sports fans, it has been said, are fickle. They don’t support their teams. When I lived there the explanation for this was largely based on the premise that Ottawa is a government town and a university town. Everybody was from somewhere else, so loyalty to sports teams was hard to come by. Evidence: the folding of the original Ottawa Senators the folding of the Ottawa Rough Riders and subsequent folding of the Ottawa Renegades.


The original Senators demise is ancient history, not applicable to the present.

And the Rough Riders were largely a victim of the times. Remember, the team was founded in 1876 and lasted 120 years winning nine Grey Cups along the way.

Through much of the 1980s and certainly the 1990s, though, the whole league was in a struggle for survival. The Alouettes were gone for a decade. There was the fiasco of American expansion. Ultimately, Ottawa couldn’t hang on. The Renegades waere an ill-conceived and badly managed revival.

Today, the league has never been in better shape and the RedBlacks ownership group appears to be pretty solid. The city is ready for professional football. The team, I believe, will be around for the foreseeable future.

I’d like to add a couple of personal notes. By the time my family moved to Ottawa in 1970, Roughriders green was already coursing through my veins, but when Saskatchewan was not playing, the Rough Riders were my team. I’m happy to have a secondary side to cheer for again.

That being said, I wish they were back as the Rough Riders. We were wrong to block the use of the name. Ottawa had it for decades before we did. They are different kinds of riders, theirs referring to the loggers who rode the booms down the rivers and ours to North West Mounted Police officers who broke wild broncos for the force.

So what if a league with only nine teams has two teams with similar names, it’s all part of the history of the league and would have made for a nice little east-west instant rivalry.

-Thom Barker

No Hope for Ottawa

Ottawa has a CFL team! Ottawa has a CFL team!

This just proves that if you try hard enough even bad ideas can come to fruition.

The Ottawa RedBlacks are in the CFL and are set to kick off their inaugural CFL season in Week Two against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

But be warned: blink and you’ll miss them.

That’s because football in the nation’s capital will simply not succeed. There is no “well maybe this time…” No. They were a doomed team as soon as the city was granted a franchise.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the idea of the RedBlacks lasting. I mean, I cheered for the Renegades when they were around and I’ll do the same for the RedBlacks. I just don’t see them surviving much longer than five years.

Actually, the only way they’ll last for longer than that is if they happen to win the Grey Cup in their first couple of seasons.

Because if they don’t win, and quickly, their “fan base” will dwindle, interest will go elsewhere and Ottawa will be third time the fool.

It’s not that I don’t want them to succeed. I honestly and truly do. I’d like nothing more than to see Ottawa succeed and become an example of successful expansion.

I just don’t have any hope.

Maybe they’ll prove me wrong (hopefully).

But in all honesty my faith is better put in the Bombers losing. Because THAT is a guarantee.

- Randy Brenzen

Third time’s the charm

The Canadian Football League is making yet another return to the nation’s capital.

But will this edition of an Ottawa CFL franchise fare any better than the old Rough Riders and the short-lived Renegades?

The Rough Rider heritage suggests football can succeed in Ottawa. Founded in 1876 the team survived until 1996, ceasing operations following a period of bad teams and bad ownership.

The Renegades hit in 2001, and were just awful as the CFL expansion rules left the team with little talent.

A dismal team and worse ownership made the Renegades a poorly executed, five year experiment which ended in failure.

Enter the RedBlacks, a team which should manage to survive and thrive in spite of the previous record of teams in Ottawa.

There are four key reasons the RedBlacks have a brighter future.

To start with, the ownership group included several Ottawa businessmen with records of business success, and strong community ties. That should equate to better business decisions in terms of RedBlacks operations off the field, with an eye to the team being part of the community long term.

The stadium is the second plus for the RedBlacks. The location and design are both such that it should be a venue where fans want to go to enjoy an event.

Three; the CFL in general terms is stronger than it was in the last days of the Rough Riders, or the short-life of the Renegades.

Television revenues are better, and fan interest generally stronger as new stadiums have sprung up in Winnipeg, Hamilton, and soon Regina.

And finally the CFL did a far fairer job of the expansion draft process.

The RedBlacks are sprinkled with players at least familiar to the league, and they managed to grab an experienced quarterback in Henry Burris. Ottawa is not playoff bound with the current roster, but competitive they should be.

In fact, I think the RedBlacks will have a better record at season end than Winnipeg.

So now, with Ottawa back in the CFL fold, I hope work is fast-tracked to finally adding a 10th team to the league.

Whether that is Quebec City building on the interest in Canadian football established by Laval University, and creating a natural rival for Montreal and Ottawa, or whether it is a team in the Maritimes tying the league coast-to-coast, it is the next natural step, and cannot come too soon in my book.

— Calvin Daniels



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