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Football's sickly state of decay in Toronto

So the International Bowl is dead.

For those of you who may have missed it, the International Bowl was the annual U.S. college clash between representatives of the Big East and Mid-American conferences, played each year in early January at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

During it's four year existence, the International Bowl showcased a couple of future NFL running backs (Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens and Donald Brown of the Indianapolis Colts) and set the all-time attendance record for a collegiate sporting event on Canadian soil (or turf) when Buffalo played Connecticut before more than 40,000 in January of 2009.

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May it rest in peace.

But the death of the International Bowl speaks to a much larger issue: The complete financial failure of every football venture in Canada's largest market.

The International Bowl? Dead.

The Vanier Cup? Moved from the Big Smoke because of lack of interest.

The Buffalo Bills playing once a season? No Thanks.

The CFL's Toronto Argonauts? They haven't turned a profit since this year's class of college seniors were in diapers.

Meanwhile, the football programs at York University and the University of Toronto are traditionally at the very bottom in terms of on-field success and support in the stands.

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So what gives?

The first thing that comes to mind is that maybe Torontonians don't like football that much. But that is complete hogwash.

First of all, since we know football is popular across the United States, Western Canada and Quebec - and apparently Atlantic Canada based on this week's two-day sellout of the game between the Argos and Eskimos in September - if people in Toronto don't like football that would make this one very unique spot on the North American map.

But of course they do.

The CFL boomed in Toronto until the mid-1980s when the league began a series of self-inflicted wounds from which it has never really recovered in this part of the country.

A stroll through the parking lot at Orchard Park, New York, on a Sunday afternoon in the fall will tell you there is still lots of interest in football, just not all of it is directed at the CFL.

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High school football in Toronto is right now making a strong comeback. And as for anyone who might suggest Toronto's multicultural nature is responsible for a football malaise, well forget it.

Immigrants now make up the biggest area of growth in football at the grass roots, a trend that is apparent at the high school, collegiate and professional levels in Canada.

So why is Toronto such a lousy football town? How come no one can make a nickel on football in a market of five million people?

It's a fascinating puzzle just waiting for someone who can solve it.

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