I like it, I like it a lot. I am speaking in reference to the city of Ottawa being back in the CFL and the Redblacks in the East. It was approximately two ago years the announcement was made and it looks like all is ready and the plan is active.
This will be a challenge on a number of levels. The first is creating a winning football team. Second is creating a home field, stadium feel that pulls people to a game as much as a winning team.
When I was young, now many years ago, I went to Exhibition Stadium to see the Argonauts play and Ivor Wynne Stadium to see the Tiger-Cats play as much to be a part of the atmosphere as to see the team win. I liked the crowd, the hot dogs, and the halftime marching band as much as anything on the field.
And back in those youthful days it was rough. There were certain sections in both stadiums that if you were looking for trouble, all you had to do was walk through with an attitude and you would be confronted. Yet even with that "fear factor", I loved going to the games. It was an event and an experience.
If Ottawa can have success on two levels, a competitive team and empowering atmosphere, this can and will be a success, but you do need both. For those who have never been, Ottawa is a great place. A simple description but accurate, as the city and surrounding area has everything you need. It isn't what I would call an elite athletic mecca of football enthusiasm. It is no Regina, but as far as attracting free agents, Ottawa as a city is as affluent as any in Canada.
I am sure that is one of the attractions of the Ottawa ownership group led by Jeff Hunt in that they do have the surrounding environment to progress and grow. And there is no comparison between previous ownership groups and the five main people presently involved, which means everything when times get tough and they always do.
The single biggest challenge for Ottawa will be quality depth. Over the course of 18 games the season becomes a battle of physical heath, or maintaining physical heath. I think Ottawa will be able to find 24 good CFL starters but what happens when the starters can't start a specific game? Is the second team player a competent player or a detriment?
Somehow Marcel Desjardins and Rick Campbell have to find players that can play right now. I guess you could say that about every team but I believe with Ottawa, it is a greater challenge. Other teams usually have a plan of development because they are established teams. Ottawa is not established with veteran status and leadership. It is all new and unique and youth will be more prevalent here than on any other team.
It is an operating agenda of complete unknown because there are no previous reference points of success. Very exciting, but also very concerning. From the renovation of Landsdowne Park to the new TD Place, a very experienced coaching staff and management team, to an ownership group of wealth and commitment, a lot of things have gone "right" in Ottawa.
The unknown will be the players and how quickly and effectively they work together as a team. You don't always need the best players, but you need players that are at their best working effectively with others.
One of the positives that will come to the forefront as the season moves on is that because new players will have the opportunity to play, new stars will shine. New faces with new personalities will emerge and that creates a conversation and attraction. Selling football is about winning, but it's also about finding an identity within the city. I am sure many Ottawa sports fans can name more than a few Ottawa Senators players. The same has to happen with the Ottawa Redblacks. They need their players to embody the personality associated to that name.
And speaking of names I like, I'm bordering on love of the name "Redblacks ." Our colours in Canada are red and white and the black and red fit with the Ottawa Senators. The more the CFL can associate with the NHL, the better in every way, in my mind. For those who don't like it; give it time. The name is open to interpretation within the individual imagination, so however you want to look at it, it is up to you.
Too many Lions, Tigers, and Bears. The Redblacks is original and I like it. I like it a lot.