Thursday, September 28, 2006

Re: Ottawa Sports Fans

I thought I'd comment on this Ian Mendes post that raised some hackles a few weeks ago. The tone kinda reminded me of the attitude of some of the folks who used to come to Ottawa U. from Toronto and bitch about what an insignificant backwater the city was. e.g. : "OC Transpo sucks - in Toronto we have a REAL subway". "Ottawa is so small, in Toronto we have REALLY big buildings". "Ottawa's criminals are so lame, in Toronto we have REAL drive-by shootings and machete hackings".

Is Ottawa Canada's Worst Sports Town?

Disclaimer: I am not writing this from Toronto.

I live and work in Ottawa. I do my grocery shopping at Farm Boy, I listen to Lowell Green on the radio, I get frustrated that there is no exit for Bank St. off the Queensway and just like you, I'm wondering when the O-Train will arrive in Barrhaven.

Okay, now that I've firmly established myself as a true resident of Ottawa, I would like to pose a question to you.

Do we live in the worst sports city in the country?

Couple of obvious points have already been brought up in the comments there - the fact that it's a government town, the arena's in the middle of a cornfield, etc. I think the most substantative point Mendes brings up is the precarious nature of the "walkup" crowd versus a healthy season ticket base. I'll throw the following observations out for discussion:

-Pointing to the failure of the Riders/Renegades and Lynx franchises simply won't do. The CFL teams were notoriously badly managed, while the Lynx were the last of several triple A teams to bail out of Canadian cities. The Expos left Montreal, the Grizzlies left Vancouver. These strike me as Canadian issues, not an Ottawa-specific issue. Is it possible that Canadians just aren't culturally attuned to spending weekday evenings in the summertime watching minor league baseball? Lynx Stadium/Jetform Park was a swell venue and had great accessibility and freeway visibility but I just don't see it as enough to compete with hockey playoff overlap on one end and pre-season / football overlap on the other.

-The residual Habs / Leafs fans. Anecdotally, I know of many season ticket holders who renew simply for the novelty of local NHL hockey and the chance to see the team they've followed since childhold. The Senators are a secondary consideration, and as such (during the regular season in particular) you can get the feeling you're watching two visiting teams play an exhibition game. It takes time to rear the next generation of fans - the kids you see hopping around on the big screen are the die-hard homers of the future. There'll always be the 416 crowd in town for Leafs games, but as the older ticket holders die off and get replenished with a "re-educated" fan-base, I think you might see a change in attitude.

-I feel uncomfortable even bringing this up, but when you observe bejerseyed inter-fanbase couples in attendance, you'll often note that the patriarch is wearing blue and white, while the wife wears black/red/gold. I don't think this is a statement on the relative femininity of the Ottawa sports fanbase (as if that would be a bad thing!) but a sign of its irreconcilable loyalties.

-My scope for comparison is extremely limited, but do fans in the lower bowl leave the game with five minutes to go in other cities? If not, then Ottawa fans deserve every ounce of scorn heaped on them. This is just an unconscionably lame habit.

-Please for the love of God stop complaining about the traffic. Yes, it is murder to drain a parking lot of 16,000+ vehicles in the span of an hour (that's the directional equivalent of 8 freeway lanes, which do not exist), but for what it's worth I think the Ottawa traffic and transit system is quite superb (relatively speaking) and should be no excuse poor sports attendance (any more than bad weather should be).

UPDATE: Mendes' response. He notes the Edmonton Trappers received an attractive offer to leave and didn't suffer from poor attendance. This might be useful in making the case that Edmonton is Canada's best sports town, not that Ottawa's the worst.

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