Recently I’ve had a number of conversations on twitter and out in the real world about the CFL and how it’s seen to be bush league or second tier. First off, if you were one of the people with whom i had those conversations, I’m sorry. I must have seemed like a zealot. The fact is I love 3 down football. Always have. Maybe because i was exposed to it years before the 4 down version. I know I that I live and breathe Canadian Football. I’m sure the nice people at Toshiba were sick of me by the end of the She’s Connected conference. While most of the other women there were worried about which apps were available for their kids, I kept asking about football apps. (In case you’re wondering, I want an app that lets me create and run plays against multiple defensive schemes and – most important of all – allows the right number of players on the field).
Yep. I’m addicted to football. I enjoy NCAA and NFL football too (Michigan State Spartans and Detroit Lions!) but given my druthers, I’d much rather watch 3 down football. It’s not just the speed of the game (though on average it takes 45 minutes less to play a CFL game than an NFL game – and I’d argue that only about 20 minutes of this is commercial and the slightly (2 mins) longer halftime (again due to commercial breaks)) it’s the character. I like the 20 second play clock because it keeps the game moving. 40 seconds feels like an eternity to me and i find myself yelling at the TV during NFL games for the Quarterbacks to “Hurry up”.
I take issue with people who call the CFL second rate. It’s not a second rate league in anything except the TV revenue. In fact, until the late 1970s NFL players came up to the CFL because they could make more money! People such as Cam Wake who have played in both leagues have said that the NFL isn’t a tougher league, just different. In fact, in an interview with ESPN 760, Cam Wake said that the rules made the CFL tougher to play in as an outside linebacker.
He’s right – and the changes don’t just make it harder for the Defence either. The wider field has been known to give NCAA Quarterbacks, even those who have won a Heisman Trophy fits. Wide receivers can have problems adjusting their routes to the wider field. The extra 10 yards in field length makes running a kickoff back for a touchdown that much harder.
Then there’s my favourite difference between the CFL and the NFL – the 3 downs. Having 3 downs means that you actually have 2 real attempts to get the ball 10 yards. This means that running (which typically averages 3-4 yards a carry) won’t get you a first down. So there are more pass attempts in the CFL. Take Sunday’s Eastern Semi-Final as an example and compare it to one of the NFL games on at the same time. The LOSING Quarterback in the Eastern Semi-Final completed 30 of 42 pass attempts for 513 yards. AND HE LOST THE GAME. In contrast, Tim Tebow, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, DID NOT MAKE A PASS ATTEMPT IN THE FIRST HALF. At the end of the game he was 2 for 8 for 69 yards. You just can’t do that in the CFL. You have to have a good passing game as well as a running game to mix things up or you’ll be eaten alive. (Note the troubles that both the Argos and the Riders had this year as an example – though you *can* win in the CFL without a solid passing game, it’s much harder and usually at least partly dependent on special teams).
The Rouge. Oh the Rouge. I love the Rouge (and not just because I’m on RougeRadio.com). I have had to explain the Rouge until I’m literally red in the face. It’s not a reward for missing a Field goal. It’s a reward for preventing the other team from running it out. If it was simply a reward for failure, it wouldn’t be awarded on a punt.
No Lead is Safe – this is the CFL’s most recent ad campaign. It’s very true. Very few games are complete blowouts with no chance for redemption. In the final week of the regular season, I stayed up really late to watch Montreal at BC. Even though BC had a decent lead at the half, I didn’t want to go to bed because I have witnessed Anthony Calvillo put up insane numbers in one half, so I couldn’t trust that it wouldn’t happen. It didn’t but overall, it seems that the last 4-5 minutes of a CFL game end up having more weird and wacky endings than the NFL ones. (the one thing that drives me nuts with the NFL play clock is that with 1:30 on the clock, and a fresh set of downs, the QB can take a knee and the game’s done. You’d have to get at least a 1st down in the CFL.
Finally, I love the CFL because Our Balls are Bigger. It’s not just a slogan. It’s true. I even have the T-Shirt.