Editorial: Discrediting the “CFL is Bush League” Argument

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TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER, 28 The Toronto Argonauts football club celebrated their Grey Cup victory over the Calgary Stampeders at Nathan Phillips Square over the noon hour. A thousands came out to cheer on the victorious team after their win in Ottawa over the weekend. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The “CFL is Bush League Argument”

Editorial

We all have one or two people in our circle who like to offer up the inciting “CFL is bush league” quip upon arrival of the CFL season.

You know how the conversation goes. It usually begins with you proclaiming your passion and excitement for the CFL season to begin and next thing you know you are defending against some blowhard who claims it’s not a real league. Typical points of contention from these folks: there are not enough teams for a “real” league; the talent is sub-standard in comparison to the other league; the players aren’t well compensated for their work; why is there a point awarded for a missed field goal? And the list goes on…

I am not trying to defend the CFL against the NFL. There is no comparison. Not because of talent or dollars earned but because Canadian football is unique and beautiful on its own. It is a different game and should be celebrated as such. There is room to enjoy and appreciate both North American football leagues without having to disparage one or the other.

The Canadian Football League is something that I hold dear to my heart. I am not sure what it is about it exactly—maybe it’s the large field, the wide open end zones, the three more exciting downs, or maybe it’s the sense that the players are here for the love of the game and not necessarily the money they make. CFL players represent what a lot of fans like seeing in our athletes all across the major sports organizations. It’s not just about money but about the desire and the passion that we share for this beautiful game.

Love of the Game

A lot of these athletes that come from the US could probably make more money doing something else. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve enough to think that in most cases, if not all, playing in the NFL and collecting the big salary would be preferred. However, these extraordinary athletes come to Canada and risk their bodies, leave the comforts of home, and even separate from their family in order to come here to play the game they love. And it’s not even the same game that they grew up playing.

It’s about the Canadian kid who dreams of playing football for his hometown team or in his home province. They embrace this league and the opportunities that come with it. The motivation seems to be the same as their American counterparts—they just want to play football at a high level. It seems as though with each passing year, the calibre of Canadian talent in this league seems to get stronger and stronger. With so much ability at skilled positions on the football field, the Canadian player ratio has become less worrisome than it was in the past for coaches and G.M.’s.

The CFL is Unique

As for the amount of teams, yes, it is true that there are only nine teams in the CFL currently (hopefully more to come soon), but this should not be viewed as a weakness. As a matter of fact, with nine teams spread out across the majority of the country, this means that the talent pool for this league is never watered down. Only the best of the best will make it and only a few of those individuals will thrive. The fact that there are only a handful of teams speaks more to the geography and population of Canada than it does the CFL. Once viewed from this lens, I believe it becomes easier to fall in love with the uniqueness of the CFL. Then, once a team arrives in the Maritimes, we will have a true Canadian league that encompasses the entire width of our Country.

When it comes to the rules of the game, certainly they are different from the other league, but contrary to what some folks may believe, it does not make the CFL inferior. It is my belief that the rules of the CFL make this brand of football incredibly entertaining. One example of this would be the wider and longer field that allows more creativity in play calling and in the execution of plays. Combine this with the 20-second play clock and it is evident that these athletes must be in top physical condition to play this game. But perhaps the best example of a league dedicated to giving their fans an exciting product, is the institution of clock stoppage after each play with three minutes or less remaining in the first half and in the game. A comeback is still possible even if your team is down by a couple of touchdowns late.

The CFL has also shown great innovation in their rules, as well as the ability and willingness to make adjustments to rules if they are not working, even if this requires a rule change mid-season.

Again, don’t get me wrong, the CFL has its share of issues and problems like any other league. However, it is my belief that the positives far outweigh the negatives and is a thrilling and fun game to watch.

If you are a sports fan and haven’t watched Canadian football before, or haven’t watched it for a long time- I would certainly recommend and urge you to give it a try. However, before you do, I would suggest to please take off the four down, 45-second play clock blinders and enjoy this game for what it is. As most CFL fans would tell you, this game is uniquely entertaining, uniquely constructed, and maybe most importantly—uniquely Canadian.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Love the CFL and NFL. The funny thing is most people who call the CFL bush league are Canadian. Americans usually like to watch the CFL and recognize it’s unique and exciting.

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