Friday 12 August 2011

Enough About Labour Day

A lot was being made by fans and media about the fact that the traditional Labour Day meeting between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats would not be taking place this season. For the majority of us, this story died back in February about a week or two after the league unveiled its schedule. I criticized the league for not ensuring that the Labour Day Classic took place in 2011. My anger, however, did not last long. For most of us, this was a dead story. We had moved on.

Well, apparently Sun Media's Bill Lankhof didn't get the memo.

This past Monday, Lankhof wrote a piece that was syndicated across the Sun's vast network about how he felt the CFL had erred in not scheduling the Argos in Hamilton on the first Monday of September.

My problem isn't just with Lankhof unburying a dead issue, though that is part of it. My main problem is that his article is filled with ridiculous statements, as well as multiple inaccuracies, and I just didn't feel right letting it sit out there without being criticized.

So I decided to break down his column and offer up my take on what he wrote.

You ready? Because here we go.

This is the week the Canadian Football League commits a grievous sin.

We start off with one of the most hyperbolic statements in the piece. I'd hardly call the rescheduling of a game a "grievous sin." It's not the end of world that the Cats and Argos will play on August 13th as opposed to September 5th. Yes, it's not ideal, but it's also not a big deal.

This is the week it shoots itself in the foot. Again. Everyone knows the CFL lives in a parallel universe foreign to the rest of humanity north of the 49th Parallel. But it beggars belief why they so often have to go and prove it.

By playing a game three weeks early, the league is far from shooting itself in the foot. Again, it's not a big deal.

I also don't understand what he means by saying "everyone knows the CFL lives in a parallel universe." I certainly do not think or feel that way. I think the CFL made the best of a bad situation. I was angry about it initially, but time has healed that.

Like this Saturday. CFL decision makers have the Argonauts playing Hamilton in what comes as close as it gets this year to the traditional Labour Day Classic. I know, it’s August.

In fairness to the CFL, their hand was forced. While I didn't like their reasoning, it's not a big deal. (I feel like I'll be saying that a lot in this post.) Lankhof needs to check his facts before he makes statements such as the one above. It was problems with the Rogers Centre SkyDome that forced this to happen, not the people at the CFL offices.

But this is the CFL. They can’t count to September, without a scoreboard. Or, so it sometimes appears.

I could go into needless Sun Media bashing similar to how Lankhof needlessly bashed the CFL, but I'll refrain.

Failing to schedule the Argonauts in Hamilton has to be one of the biggest bonehead marketing moves since the invention of the San Antonio Texans.

And here we have the most hyperbolic sentence in the piece. This is just a flat-out ridiculous statement. I can't even begin to fathom how he views these two things in the same way.

Sports fans are enamoured of tradition.

I couldn't agree more... except that the "tradition" such as it is, only stretches back, uninterrupted, to 1995. Also, there is a tradition of Hamilton playing Montreal on Labour Day as well. The Cats and Als have played on Labour Day eight times, with Hamilton holding a 7-0-1 record. So while it is a small tradition, beating the Als on Labour Day is also part of Tiger-Cat lore.

Tradition beckons fans thousands of miles to experience Fenway Park or to sit on an ice flow more commonly known as Lambeau Field.

Would pointing out the fact that it's ice floe, not ice flow, be petty?

Tradition keeps the Indianapolis 500 alive while open-wheel racing was dying. Tradition is watching the Grey Cup on TV, even when you haven’t seen another game all year and can’t tell the players without a lineup printed off the internet. Not that I would specifically know about that ... but, I’m just saying.

This was probably the paragraph that made me angriest, the last sentence in particular. Nice to know a guy who gets paid to cover the CFL can crack jokes about not knowing who the players are. Since Lankhof writes about the CFL, is he saying that no one reads his work? Does that mean he thinks his job is unnecessary?

Tradition is buying a hot dog at a ball game, even though everyone already knows they hold the culinary delight of rolled up sawdust on a bed of ketchup.

Lankhof says more than once in this article that "everyone knows" what he believes. He's positioning his opinion as fact, and that simply should not be done. Everyone is a lot of people, and I don't know of any issue where you get 100% support, especially when it comes to the CFL.

And, tradition is sitting on a butt-worn wooden bench at Ivor Wynne at the dawn of September, watching the Ticats ring the Argos’ bells as a warm-up for when school bells ring. Since 1995, the Ticats have an 8-6-1 edge in games and it is probably more a tradition for Hamilton, than Toronto, fans. But this is the one game on the calendar that still draws provincial-wide media attention. It is special for the players, too, most of those who have experienced the atmosphere say it is the biggest game of the year this side of the Grey Cup.

Are there still wooden benches? I sit in the same seat for every game, and mine is metal. Does anyone still have a wooden bench? I'm genuinely curious.

The Labour Day Classic does draw media attention, but so has this one because Lankhof is writing about it. Any game between the Argos and Cats should draw media attention, not just because it is played on Labour Day. To say that the media should only pay attention because the game is on Labour Day doesn't sit well with me.

The atmosphere is great, but Saturday's atmosphere will be as well. So was the atmosphere on July 29th... and July 16th... and... you get the point. In my opinion, the fact that the Ti-Cats are competitive makes the atmosphere better, not the opponent. Labour Day used to be the only game that mattered to fans because the Cats were 1-8 or so entering the game. I stress used to. In the last couple of years, the Cats have become a competitive team, and that makes the atmosphere better, not a specific opponent on a specific day. Labour Day is still a big deal, but for me, it's not the be-all and end-all anymore.

Tradition is, perhaps, the reason this league still lives in the hearts of oft-absent fans. And, now the league has killed a part of that last vestige that can still bring fans back to the park. At least for this year, it’s not happening.

Really? Killed? That's a strong word, no? And he ends with, "[a]t least for this year," which is the important part. It's only one year! But even if it's not, and the Als become the new Labour Day rival, is that such a big deal?

If you follow college football, you'll know that BYU-Utah (known as the Holy War) is one of the most anticipated games for those two schools every year. Due to Utah's move to the Pac-12, the game will be played in Week 3 in 2011, instead of the final week of the season, as was tradition. Does that mean that that game will hold any less meaning to the fans of either school? Of course not! It's no different with the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats. The rivalry means something; the date is secondary.

With less than 15,000 fans showing up for Argonauts’ games, the CFL is already irrelevant for far too many sports fans in the GTA. In Toronto only big-league sells. It’s why the Marlies are an afterthought and it’s why junior hockey has spent the past 30 years playing to family and girl friends. It is why a half dozen soccer leagues have failed and the CFL, to be honest, simply isn’t viewed by many as major league.

This is all well and good... but it has nothing to do with Labour Day. Just because people in Toronto have delusions of grandeur and think they are better than the rest of this great country, that doesn't mean that the rest of the country feels the same way. Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal all have "big-league" teams, yet their CFL franchises still attract fans. Blaming the CFL for not being big-league enough is a weak excuse that seems to only come from those in Toronto.

And, now, the league has just handed them another reason to feel that way.

No, they didn't, because Labour Day has nothing to do with games in Toronto. This is a Hamilton event, not a Toronto one.


Depending on what we're talking about, I agree. No Argos on Labour Day: not dumb. My commenting on this silly article: 50% dumb. Lankhof for writing this piece: "big-league" dumb.

Leave it up to the CFL to believe it is the only earthly institution which can actually change the Gregorian calendar and move the hype surrounding the Argos/Ticats on Labour Day.

Why doesn't the hype follow? Does a Bears-Packers game suffer from less hype if it's in October instead of December? Does it matter when the Leafs-Canadiens game is on the calendar for the hype to be there? Why does it matter when the Battle of Ontario is staged if the rivalry is supposed to matter?

The Alouettes and Ticats may be in a battle for first place, and the Argos may be losing face at 1-5, but come Labour Day, Hamilton fans only get worked up when Stevie Baggs hits someone and they bleed Double Blue.

Well, as a Hamilton fan, I can say that this is categorically false. I'll be just as happy to see Stevie Baggs (or any Ti-Cat defender) hit an Alouette player. I'm sure there are many fans that feel the same way.

It’s tradition.

If we're talking about Stevie Baggs hitting Argos on Labour Day, that's not a tradition. Baggs has never played for the Tiger-Cats in a Labour Day Classic.

No team can engender animosity in a Hamilton fan like the Argonauts. Or vice-versa.

I can't comment on how Argo fans feel, but I do agree completely that no team engenders more hate, at least from me, than the Argos. In fact, I hate them more than any other team in all of sports. Not the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Heat, USC Trojans, Michigan Wolverines or any team from Boston (Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins) takes more of the brunt of my hatred than the Toronto Argonauts.

The Labour Day Classic was, in a league desperate for headlines and publicity, the one CFL event that might yet make urban cottage-lovers consider giving up a weekend kissing up to a bass.

Who says the league is "desperate for headlines and publicity"? Well, since Lankhof is writing about it, that tells me they are getting both headlines and publicity.

And if the game is going to stop cottagers from going north, wouldn't it be easier to convince them to stay in mid-August than on the last long weekend of the summer?

Instead, for the first time since 1995, the closest fans of the Argonauts and Ticats will have to getting on a good hate is this weekend. It just isn’t the same.

Again, this is incorrect. The Cats and Argos play twice more, both in Toronto, during the last six weeks of the season. So there are at least two more chances to get a good hate on for one another. As for it being the same? When I go to Toronto, my hate doesn't dissipate, and neither does that of the people I attend the games with.

When the 2011 schedule was first released fans reacted angrily, lighting up Twitter and chat room bulletin boards.

He's right, there was a lot of anger, six months ago when the schedule was released. But you know what happened? We all got over it. Perhaps he should too.

You know the feeling; like when you’re a kid and someone steals your lollipop, or your Triple Scoop has just been down-sized to a single scoop courtesy of the family pooch. Gut-punched.

Upon first reaction, the news sucked. I, like a lot of people, was very angry. But again, six months have passed, and most of us have moved on.

No Labour Day Classic?

Yes, no Labour Day Classic. But we do get a great game between the Als and Ti-Cats to look forward to, which doesn't sound so bad to me.

Next thing you know they’ll be telling us there’s no Easter Bunny.

Um, I think Bill's mother needed to have a talk with him about 50 years ago.

There is an official explanation. And, isn’t there always with this stuff. When the CFL released the 2011 schedule, it reasoned that a competitive imbalance would occur if the Argos played in Hamilton on Labour Day, as it would’ve been the Argos’ sixth road game in nine games.

I can't disagree with Bill on this one. The reason given was bunk, as I pointed out way back in February. That said, I gave the league a break when it was discovered they made the best of a bad situation. The Rogers Centre SkyDome wouldn't play ball, so my anger went towards them and shifted off the league a bit. I still think the excuse is garbage, but what's done is done.

In retrospect, considering the way the Argos have been playing, letting them get out of town would’ve been doing them a favour. But, I digress.

How exactly was the league to know how good or bad the Argos would be when they unveiled the schedule? Far be it for me to stick up for the Argos, but this line was completely unnecessary.

Bottom line is that the league’s failure to get the Argos into Hamilton on Labour Day is like telling a kid that this year there’s no Christmas.

No, it's like telling a kid that instead of celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, it's going to have to be done on the 4th, and that it's not Mommy and Daddy's fault, but their work will only let them have the 4th off. The game is still happening, just not on the same day it has in the past.

It just shouldn’t happen. Period.

Well, it did happen, and like a vast majority of the fans in both Hamilton and Toronto, Lankhof should get over it. Period.


  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but has it not only been in the last few years that the Labour Day games have been marketed with the term "Classic"?

  2. I've been following the Ticats since '93 and it's been called the Labour Day Classic for as long as I can remember.

    While I don't agree it's not a big deal, I do agree this Bill Lankhof dude made some pretty stupid comments.

  3. To answer your query Josh, there are still "wooden" benches at the Bastion on Balsam. I know this because my perch in (lower) Section 22 happens to be one of them.

  4. I sit on the other side, and we have metal benches. Thanks for providing an answer. I haven't sat in the south stands in years.