Well, it’s official. I am now flat-out offended by Canadians who look down their noses on the CFL…and think the NFL is the be all and end all (the only Shakespeare quote you will ever read from me…essentially because I don’t know any others).
I was talking to some guys at work last Saturday about the next day’s football games and, after a moment or two, realized they were jacked about some mid-season, ho-hum NFL contests, while I was talking about the CFL’s Grey Cup Division Finals.
Forever, I’ve heard all the loud, overly passionate, bombastic arguments. The NFL is bigger. The players are bigger. They hit harder. The receivers and quarterbacks are more skilled. All true. But it does not make better football. It’s charming to watch our national youth be brainwashed.
One of Canada’s challenges is learning to be proud of our accomplishments (sporting or otherwise), rather than apologizing for them. Canadians are not great at celebrating and preserving our history and not being afraid to crow about it. But Americans excel at it. And it’s that type of promotion that bamboozles young NFL-loving tykes into thinking the American game is so much better than ours. Oh, an NFL telecast has shinier graphics. More virtual lines. Many more cameras. More replay sources. Longer lenses. But that’s just lipstick on the pig. Nothing to do with the on-field product.
Football purists watch football to see a good game. That’s it. Nothing more complicated. And I like to think I’m a purist. I don’t watch to see players whose career accomplishments have been miles overblown by a bunch of self-important, greasily groomed broadcasters. That’s all the NFL is. I can count on two hands the number of NFL games I’ve ever seen that I would put into the “remarkable” category. And I could count the Super Bowls in that category on one hand. Those games occur in the CFL all the time.
There have been Grey Cup blowouts, for sure. 1990 comes to mind…Blue Bombers 50 v. Eskimos 11. And 1977 wasn’t great. Especially if you were living in Edmonton. Alouettes (and their staples) 41 v. Eskimos 6. Dave Cutler held up his end.
But the best football game I have ever seen was a Grey Cup game. Of course, I’m remembering 1989. Dave Ridgway’s last-minute field goal made the final Roughriders 43 v. Tiger-Cats 40. The CFL even let an American team win the Grey Cup (1995, Baltimore Stallions). But that’ll never happen again…thank gawd.
Think about it. How many Super Bowls do you remember as great games, from opening kick to final whistle?
The CFL’s Division Finals were just one never-ending example of much better games in this country. But make no mistake. The CFL is far from perfect. The Toronto Argos are an embarrassment. Not the club on the field. I’m talking about the off-field marketing, promotion and their utter lack of understanding of the Argos’ fan.
I love that, next year at BMO Field, the Argos will introduce tail-gaiting and other fan-friendly activities outside the stadium. That alone will make me consider going to a game much harder than I have in recent years. And I love that fans in Hamilton and Ottawa (maybe the two most rabid, passionate CFL cities – not provinces, Saskatchewan – cities) got to see great teams this year.
It’s great that the CFL gives players chances. Doug Flutie threw one pass at Boston College that everyone remembers. Then was a back-to-back Grey Cup MVP in 1996 and ’97 for the Argonauts. Rocket Ismail played pro football because of the CFL. Ditto Mike Clemons. And Tracy Ham. And hundreds of other guys who just weren’t quite big enough or bad enough (or unlawful enough) to play in the NFL. And yet, shockingly, they were damned good football players.
Now, I’ll give you this. If you like way too much defence and watching one or two plays run every five minutes-or-so of real time, the NFL is definitely for you. Today, the Detroit Lions played the first of a Thanksgiving tripleheader. It was a blow-out. And so boring. And, as I write this, Cam Newton’s Panthers are clobbering Tony Romo’s Cowboys.
What it boils down to is the number of big plays. Every CFL game has a bunch of them. If you’re lucky, in an NFL slugfest, you get a couple. How is that better football? That’s right. It isn’t.