cflfield

I didn’t play football as a kid. It wasn’t available to us in the town I grew up in and even if it was, would I had given it a try back then? I can’t say for sure to be honest. Despite that, football has become my favourite sport to watch and talk about by far, and nothing else is even close.

I haven’t missed a single snap of a Cleveland Browns game since 2006 and can honestly say I’ve caught 99% of those snaps live.  PVR and NFL GamePass had me covered for the few I missed, and also aided me in watching on average 5 to 6 non-Browns games every week in their entirety.  I am an NFL fanatic, and I can talk, debate, and argue with anyone about this sport until one side passes out.

Until recently I thought the CFL was a joke… Yes, I was one of those guys. “They get a point just for kicking it far, what the hell is this?!?”  I just didn’t understand the game and wasn’t interested enough to give it a chance because all the real talent was in the NFL as far as I was concerned. Instead of trying to figure it out, I just made fun of it.  Guilty as charged…

I lived in downtown Toronto for 6 years and every year I told myself I would follow the Argos. When they won the Grey Cup on their home field, I lived a 5 minute walk away and just couldn’t bring myself to care. Turns out, very few people in Toronto cared either but that’s a sad story for another day…

Then the First Down Sports Podcast came into my life and suddenly I found myself forced to understand the Canadian game. We were covering local football and I was asking questions left and right trying to understand what the hell was happening out there.  I mean, it’s just football so for the most part it was easy to follow but once in a while something I just couldn’t grasp would happen and I’d pepper Wray (Dunn… founder of the FDS Podcast, my co-host, and a Canadian Football Official) with questions.

Before long, not only did I understand what was happening out there but I understood why it happened… The strategy of the CFL game started to become clear, and I was hooked.  Hooked enough to dive head first into the CFL as a fan who both promotes and defends it, instead of being a snob watching and snickering at it from the outside. I am officially in season 2 of this journey and here are some things that I like and dislike about the Canadian league, and being a fan of it.

I Like…

3 Down Football! I’m shocked but I really do. I love how fast paced the game is as a result of the 3 downs, and how often possession changes hands. They throw the ball a lot in this league, run the ball when it’s sometimes unexpected, and don’t have nearly as much fear of handing the ball over to the opponent as in the NFL. They know that even against a great team, they have a good chance to get it back.

I Dislike…

… how the attitude of some of the long-time CFL faithful fans can be as irritating and snobbish as mine once was as a fan of the NFL only. These people turn their nose up at the idea that high profile NFL players coming up here like Johnny Manziel can be good for the league by increasing exposure down south. manzielkneeI’ve heard two different slants on this take.  First, that the CFL doesn’t need that attention and they can all just go on watching the SEC and piss off, and second, that the interest in the league created by these players will only be short term and none of those viewers will stick around. Any exposure is good exposure and if your game is fun, competitive, and compelling enough, some of those people will stick around.  I did…

I Like…

the CFL kicking game. Wray likes to say that in the Canadian rules, the kicking game is never about field position it is all about scoring, for both sides of the play! That statement is a bit hyperbolic in my opinion but not by much. The Rouge is a really interesting source of points that can really alter a game plan. Seeing games end with one is really fun, and only in the CFL will you see the punt returner turn around and boot the ball right back in the other direction!  Every punt and kick-off is getting returned which can result in plenty of excitement for obvious reasons.  Also, with the uprights right on the goal line, the teams are in field goal range much sooner which results in more points. More points is always fun…

I Dislike…

…the lack of quality Quarterbacks in the league. There are 2 QBs in Alberta that are elite (whatever that means) and the rest of this league is an uncertain mess if you ask me. Nichols, Harris, and Masoli seem to have it figured out 1 minute and look like hot garbage the next. Travis Lulay was a joy to watch in person, I hope that guy can stay healthy.  I won’t even get into what is going on with the rest. I hear over and over that CFL QBs need time, that the defences are so much more complex… At the risk of reverting to my former snobbish self, I just don’t buy that. I have only been a fan for 2 years so if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but the most talented passers in the world are down south and for the most part they choose not to come up here.  You can’t rush a QB? I think you absolutely can if he is good enough. Wish we could attract more of the ones that are…

I Like…

the size of the field. The wider field creates so much space and space is exciting. The end zone is the size of PEI! Only in the CFL do you see Go routes from the 12-yard line, and to be honest I wish I saw it even more!

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I Dislike…

… the fact that there isn’t a 10th team in the league.  Sure, part of this is fuelled by the fact that I want the CFL here in the Maritimes but even a 10th team in Quebec City would make me happy.  schooners.pngWeek 1 byes are really a terrible thing, no fan base should have to wait an extra week when the season kicks off!  I hear plenty of arguments about how the divisions mean very little right now, and how a 10th team could lead to the divisions being abolished all together. I strongly disagree with this, I think divisions should be even more important than they already are!  If the league adds a 5th eastern team what I would like to see is teams play their whole division three times each (12 games), the other division teams once each (5 games), and then they play one extra game against the team in the opposing division that finished in the same position the year before. The crossover would be eliminated in this case, and division rivals would become even stronger.  This would also reduce some travel costs for the teams as well, as the CFL isn’t exactly swimming in money. This is a bit of an unrefined idea, so the home and away aspects of the schedule would have to be decided somehow. I’m sure I could come up with something, and if I could, so could they.

I Like…

… that this is the Canadian league and I love my country. I always felt guilty about the way I acted towards the CFL, so I’m really glad I’ve taken the time to figure it out, and how to love it.

I’ve only been a fan of the CFL for going on 2 years now, and these are just my opinions based on my experiences so far… What do I know? Feel free to tell me.