The Billings Bridge BLACKREDS, Ottawa football’s farm team, enjoys an occasional rugby match to break up the monotony of constant football practice.
Photo: Bill Harrison (flickr)
OTTAWA—The professional football team hailing from the nation’s capital has been called many things: Ottawa Football Club, Rough Riders, Senators, Renegades and REDBLACKS. Currently, they are referred to simply as losers, with the worst record in the CFL and a paltry single win this season.
“The Ottawa whatever-their-name-is-now have an identity crisis,” said Trevor Norway, local bar fly and self-identified football historian. “And they’re also quitters. People stop coming to the games, revenue dries up and they just throw in the towel? What’s with that?”
Ottawa has a problem with commitment, bouncing in and out of the CFL since the league’s inception in 1958. The team won five Grey Cups between 1960 and 1976, an era known as Rider High. The club continued to do respectably until a winning drought between 1983 and 1996, known as the Rough Ride. And that’s when they folded like Ray Rice’s girlfriend in an elevator.
“We were awful and the club wasn’t making any money,” said former lineman Raymond Genner. “During my last year in the league, our warm-up was cutting the grass on the practice field because we couldn’t afford a maintenance crew. Some of the Americans playing in the league went down to the Las Vegas expansion team for one season in 1994. Most of the Canadians just latched onto cushy government jobs here in Ottawa when the team went under.”
After six years on the sidelines, the team returned to the gridiron as the Ottawa Renegades in 2002. It was a short-lived resurrection, and they were out again by 2006. Following yet another hiatus, the team debuted its latest attempt at a full-fledged existence when they emerged this season as the REDBLACKS.
“We wanted the name to really pop,” said REDBLACKS head of public relations, Jim German. “If you use all caps, it’s like people are shouting the team name from the rooftops in a giant cheer!” German admits the name is only printed correctly about 60 percent of the time, but he feels confident the press will catch on.
With attendance down throughout the CFL, Ottawa isn’t the only team struggling to survive. Redblacks Chief Operating Officer and CFO, Mark Goudie, is staying positive. “We feel this is a rebuilding year for the team. You have to give people a chance to return to the sport. We need to earn their trust. Anyway, we can always just bow out if we’re not making money by next season.”