It’s January, and yet I find myself thinking — and concerned — about the CFL. Since I started covering the little league in 1979, I’ve closely watched it survive crisis after crisis — owners going broke, players forced to take pay cuts, in-fighting, commissioners disgracing themselves and getting fired, expansion ventures failing embarrassingly, clubs folding like torn tents and the league itself flirting with death.
Despite all the downers, I developed a respect and a passion for the league as it treaded through seas of red ink to keep afloat.
I was always confident that it would live, mainly because the CFL product — the game itself, the rules, the high scores, the dynamic kick returns and the wide-open offence — negated the nitwits in charge of it. You could always count on the CFL to be entertaining, and that alone was enough to prefer it over those dull, low-scoring games that were the norm in the NFL.
This, however, is no longer the case. The NFL has become a higher-scoring league than the CFL. Much higher.
While scoring has been on a downward spiral in the CFL in recent years, NFL offences are displaying far more imagination and creativity than in the past, and there’s been plenty of entertainment as a result. The offensive machines operated by the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Green Bay Packers’ Brett Favre are truly things of beauty. And they’re not alone in the NFL. The NFL playoffs this season have been mostly dandy spectacles.
CFL games, on the other hand, have been generally dull since 2005. That has even been the case the past couple years in the league’s showcase event, the Grey Cup game.
And so I’m concerned. If CFL executives are, I’m not aware of it. When I sniffed around during and shortly after last season, I was told by league sources that there wasn’t much they could do to generate more offence, short of instituting drastic rule changes, such as prohibiting zone defences — highly unlikely. Defences have become dominant in the CFL, they said.
While that’s nice for the defences and their co-ordinators, it doesn’t do much for the fans, most of whom need offensive surges to feel as though they’re being entertained.
My question for decades has been this: Who needs the NFL in Canada when you have the more entertaining CFL?
But I can’t make that argument any longer and so, for the first time, I’ll say this: Bring the NFL to Canada. It would only be fair and proper. Fans in this country deserve nothing but the best possible form of entertainment.
In three-plus decades as a columnist and broadcaster, Marty York has built a network of solid contacts and a renowned reputation for his hard-hitting, groundbreaking style. The tradition continues in Metro Sports.