I hear this "excitement" argument a lot. I went to a few Labour Day Classics Edm v Cal as a kid and in the 1970s they were exciting, but for the atmosphere not necessarily the game.
As an adult I have given the CFL a few tries, read through an Argos v Hamilton Labour Day "Classic" in the late 80s and watched a couple of Stamps games against the Bombers and Riders. Nothing really excites me.
For me the basic problem is the crowds, they are like hockey crowds during the regular season, not excited or able to pick things up a notch. In the Esks Stamps games I went to there was a lot to be said for the atmosphere. I have not been to a game recently but watching them on TV I get the sense atmosphere is not exactly tons better.
The Oilers realized this when the EIG came in and under Laforge they refocused the presentation to be something interesting even in a 7-2 horse whipping by the Avs. In Calgary I found their announcing system at McMahon to be the second worst I have ever been to. Cardiff Devils EHL in Britain was officially the worst btw.
The NFL, even the NCAA has better atmosphere than your CFL games. Combined with that is my loathing of the three downs which eliminates one tool off of most games (rushing in the CFL is pathetic). And then add the STUPID Rouge rule and well you have lost me already.
The CFL is a great niche sport for this country, on the level of cricket in the UK in my opinion, and the fact that the league has never been stable enough since the advent of cable tv to actually expand successfully says they still have a long way to go.
Sorry slight rant there at the end but my point is atmosphere in games, Als did a smart thing getting out of the big O and going tiny size, the MLS Toronto FC has done the same, personally I think if the CFL wants to improve it needs to return to 20,000+ stadiums and try and bring the fans back into being a great part of the game instead of occasional noise makers.
sj, your points are fair with regard to the CFL and it certainly is a niche sport. I don't think they try to be anything more than they are.
I would also say that if the Eskimos can bring in 37,000 to a preseason game on a marginal weather evening you would be hard pressed to find an owner that would agree with you on your stadium points. While you may not sell out a vast majority of regular season games and have the seats available for those lucrative deciding and playoff games makes it a no-brainer. Every city is different in that regard, so I only speak to Edmonton. The Eskimos franchise would have to take a pretty hard blow to the head before moving from their current venue.