The Diary of a New CFL Fan – Likes and Dislikes

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.

14 comments

  1. Great read!
    I’m on side with statement about the QB situation, it’s the worst it’s been in a long time. BLM and Reilly are the best with the rest replaceable. The issue is the salary cap, far too low to attract good QB’s and agree that the game does not take years to figure out. Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Several things to say as I have been a part of CFL as a fan for 57 years and for a brief few months, worked for the old Rough Riders under Bruce Firestone. But, like you said, that’s another story. I also, as a former journalist, covered the Renegades for OttawaFootball. Com in 2005.

    On the CFL game and NFL ex-players and college stars coming up here, I have seen many, from Tobin Rote to Johnny Rodgers to Terry Metcalfe, Vince Ferragamo and Doug Flutie. The key issue is that the CFL is a different game and players who are successful have respect and understanding of that fact. I’ve seen many guys come up here who have bombed because of that. Also, the CFL requires a different set of skills than the NFL. Strangely though the NFL has adopted a lot of things the CFL introduced such as no huddle, quick short passing game, slot receivers and smaller, quicker defensive ends…things the CFL has had since late 70’s. In addition, years ago, CFL teams started using slower defensive backs at linebacker and slowly NFL teams are doing the same (Rams have moved former safety Mark Barron to linebacker).

    The thing that really makes the CFL look bad continues to be the officiating. Yes, the NFL has issues also but the CFL refs are notoriously bad. I was at the Calgary game in Ottawa and the ref called unsportsmanlike penalty against Calgary or so was his announcement. But they marched the penalty against Ottawa. There was no announcement to correct the call and so you are left wondering! Later, Ottawa was at Calgary’s 5 yard line…Powell ran for a yard…ball should have been on 4 but refs placed it on 8. There was no penalty and no correction by officials. Campbell couldn’t challenge as he had used it already. This type of thing goes on every game and has for as long as I have watched the league.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad to hear you are now a fan. I’ve been a season ticket holder in Ottawa since 1966. I love the CFL and the NFL too. Glad you are sticking with us in a year where the football has been below average, especially the offenses. Think it will get better.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful read and informative. I am a long long time CFL fan and I do take your comment about having a snobbish attitude of NFL players coming to this league to heart. Yes – at times we can be snobbish when we should not. Maybe it is the attitude of some of the past NFL players making comments like the CFL is a “second class” league and an easier game. But then there are others like Doug Flutie who told it as it is – different game. from this fan’s perspective – happy to see some new QBs in the league (as an Albertan and a Stamps fan been spoiled with great QBs for many many many years) but truthfully I am tired of ALL the media coverage of Jonny Football. I am holding out judgement until I see him play a regular season game and what he can do for the Als as a team.

    If I could be so bold and make a suggestion – do a little research on the history of the league. There are many great books out there. It might help is understand where we are at now and maybe some insight where we might be heading. I would also recommend if you have a chance to get to Alberta to see a Stamps vs Esks game in person. Labour Classic and the Return match the following Sat typically has been some of the best football and the fan experience is second to none. Have fun at the games and I look forward to your next post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment Janice. My remarks were certainly not meant for ALL long time CFL fans, just many of those I have interacted with in person or via our podcast. I totally understand being sick of hearing about Johnny. In my opinion, the lack of off season CFL coverage aside from the Johnny saga helped build that up in a lot of fan’s minds.

      I’ve been to games in all the East cities except Montreal now and definitely plan to get out west. I hope to have another Eastern stadium to visit in the near future as well!

      Thanks again

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  5. Solid article – Only part I would disagree on would be the scheduling. I’m not a fame an unbalanced schedule, and with 18 games, 10 teams, each team can play each twice and guarantee a balanced home/away schedule for everyone. Best 6 teams make the playoffs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair enough. My stance is if you have divisions they should matter a lot, not just a little like they do now. Your idea would be to eliminate them entirely which is better than the current set up. Most people side with you on this.

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    2. I would like to see 10 teams with a balanced schedule, but saying top 6 period wouldn’t work. Like it or not, the CFL is a regional league pitting East vs West. Saying “top 6 make the playoffs” would be the death knell for Eastern teams. Playoffs would all but be determined by Labour Day, (and right now, the standings would indicate all 5 Western teams make it and only 1 eastern team would be in) and attendance would drop off significantly. Since the CFL is still largely a gate driven league (The TV contract doesn’t even cover the salary cap) a couple of years of that would be the end of the majority of Eastern teams.
      10 teams is a must, but leave the playoffs alone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree with your comments. The biggest travesty is the TSN contract and the paltry monies the league receives for one of their best TV properties. Ambrosie needs to start negotiating now with TSN or another sports network. Additionally the10th team is a must which would drive TV audiences and a better TV deal. I’m in the US as I text and last nights Argo comeback was all over ESPN and guys in bars talking about how they plan on watching Manziel play today.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Because the CFL field is longer by 10 yards getting into field range is the same in both the CFL and NFL. If you start on your own 20 and you move the ball 50 yards, in both leagues you will be attempting a 47 yard field goal (the kicker tradionally 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage). I always thought having the goal post on the goal line made the most sense.

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