Why I love the CFL

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.



  1. It’s nice to see more CFL fans, but there are a few problems with your post.

    First: MSU and Detroit? Yuck! Do you also cheer for the Argos? Are you a Habs fan? What about the Red Sox? Maybe the Heat as well? You need to cheer for teams that aren’t loathsome.

    Second: you took two extreme examples and used it for comparison. Chad Henne threw for over 400 yards in Week 1 for the Dolphins and lost; Steven Jyles threw for 88 yards in Week 13 and won. That also pokes a hole in your idea that a Tebow-like game can’t lead to a victory in the CFL. Tebow’s victory as well as Jyles’ victory are outliers and should not be used for comparison’s sake. Same with Calvillo’s game yesterday and Henne’s back in September. All you are doing is baiting idiots into believing things that aren’t entirely accurate.

    Third: the play clock in the NFL is 40 seconds, not 45. You are not the first person I have heard say it is 45 seconds, and I don’t know why people keep insisting that it is. It is 40 seconds and has been for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been watching the NFL for a long time.

    Fourth: the play clock in the CFL runs just as slow. Once a play ends in the NFL, the play clock start. In the CFL, the play has to be blown in. It doesn’t make the game move that much faster. Also, the CFL runs the clock during extra points. That takes time off the clock that the NFL offenses get to use. This also leads to my next point.

    Fifth: can you provide proof that NFL games last 45 MINUTES longer? You say “on average” and I want to know where that average came from.

    Sixth: “Our Balls Are Bigger” is just a slogan. Or should I say it was a slogan. The size of the balls have been pretty much the same since that campaign. I know this from having been told personally by former CFL commissioner Jeff Giles.

    1. I grew up with those 2 teams being the closest. I was a Bills fan too but really prefer the Lions. (The Bills hurt me too many times in the 90s).

      I know i took 2 extremes but the no passing attempts in the half really bothered me and one of the people I was arguing with in person is a huge Broncos / Tebow supporter and used Tebow’s college career as an example of why the CFL was “worse than Division II”. So it was more to make a point to him.

      I meant to type 40 second play clock. I looked it up and everything because of something someone said yesterday. mea culpa there.

      I like the game clock running on extra points. They’re part of the game and the clock should be running. I find that the NFL players seem to spend more time getting to each play but maybe that’s just me.

      I adjusted the 45 minute average to say what i meant to type (and had typed in but obviously didn’t save – the post was written while I was doing something else so I occasionally lost my train of thought). I know that there is one extra ad in each break in an NFL game (compared to regular season CFL – Not sure about playoff games) which adds just over 6 minutes to the broadcast time. The average time of a CFL game this year was 2 hours and 48 minutes. NFL last season was 3 hours and 22 minutes. So not quite 45. I should have done the math properly. Sorry.

      And the balls feel bigger. I was talking to a few players and they say it’s the slightly fatter shape that makes the balls feel bigger. They are 1/4 of an inch bigger if inflated to the standard size. If you put the 2 balls side by side the CFL Ball does look bigger, apparently 1/4 of an inch makes a difference. I’m going to edit and add in my other favourite CFL Rule. – The Rouge.

  2. What do you do in the CFL between plays, do you yell at the TV telling them to hurry up?? It takes just as long between plays, in fact the NFL is quicker because you can run hurry up offense. This is impossible in the CFL because the play clock isn’t even run in.

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