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  • In the wake of the Raptors’ success in the NBA Finals, we can’t help but imagine how the fanbase would react to an NFL team.
By Conor Orr
June 11, 2019

Maybe it was the anthem that sealed it for me.

A beautiful, crowd-carried version of Oh, Canada, before the start of Monday night’s Raptors-Warriors NBA Finals Game 5 capped off Toronto’s time in the spotlight for the lay American football fan—the kind of person who only casually checks in on other sports only at significant moments (OK, again, me).

Championship runs from underdog teams often float the fan base with the rising tide. There’s been some brilliant writing about the Raptors’ multiculturalism. The vibe surrounding Toronto’s Jurassic Park is reminiscent of downtown Cleveland during their title run in 2016. Aside from a few dolts cheering Kevin Durant’s injury, it’s the kind of place that could make any prospective sports team owner salivate. Especially, say, if you’re in the business of buying and moving an NFL franchise anytime soon.

Toronto has flirted with the NFL consciousness for years now. And while the league’s old-boy network is probably more likely to reward someone looking to build a new stadium in a football hotbed with a proven desire to support professional American football (like San Antonio), or return it to a city that was gutted by another network member (like St. Louis or San Diego), some of the more progressive owners with an eye on new revenue streams and a wider array of potential fans shouldn’t ignore how the city and its surrounding fan ecosystem has performed in recent weeks.

This isn’t a direct shot at Buffalo, which I am on record as supporting. There are certain fanbases who are essential links to the game’s organic roots, and the Bills mean more to the NFL than they’re probably aware. But at some point, the NFL is going to have to branch outward, or at least eye a slightly more global future with a more realistic partner city than London which, logistically, would be next to impossible for a prospective franchise.

During our MMQB roundtable last week, many of us had fun arguing where the next NFL team should land. Idealists and homers like, we touted Portland, the Dakotas, the quad cities. Maybe Toronto wasn’t discussed there because, as we were all watching the Finals unfold, it felt too obvious. Toronto is big-time in the eyes of the world already. They may soon have the same kind of presence to more football-centric ignoramuses like myself.

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