The stars appear to be aligning themselves for the CFL to the most exposure it has in years, could 2018 be the biggest CFL season yet? Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has the CFL trending in the right direction and even bigger things are in store for 2018. A perfect mix of controversy and the right teams contending could mean great things for the CFL in terms of viewership and excitement.
While some roll their eyes at the sight of a Johnny Manziel headline, it is important to understand the ramifications of having Manziel in Canada. Manziel tweeted to his 2.24 million followers Saturday that he made the decision to play in the CFL. This was retweeted over 18,000 times and liked over 100,000 times. Beyond that, it was then discussed and tweeted by various North American sports and news outlets, including but not limited to Bleacher Report, Barstool Sports, Fox Sports, the NFL, Deadspin, TMZ and of course LastWordOnSports.
The amount of exposure the CFL received that day has been unrivalled by any other storyline in recent memory. It will be some time before anyone sees Manziel under centre for the Tiger-Cats however, look for him to draw headlines, views and clicks throughout the 2018 CFL season.
The National Football League announced Wednesday a new policy that requires players and personnel to stand for the national anthem. This was met with serious backlash on social media and there is no end in sight to this saga. In the past 18-months, the NFL has managed to alienate those on either side of the debate. Shortly after the whirlwind of controversy, the CFL coincidently released its American broadcast schedule in conjunction with ESPN.
A myriad of responses from NFL fans quickly ensued stating that they will be tuning into the CFL this season. It is unrealistic to expect a mass of NFL fans to all abandon the American game for its Canadian counterpart. However, as a direct result of the controversies down south, this could be the biggest CFL season yet.
Wally’s Last Hurrah
Shifting back to the CFL, a story that has not gotten the attention it deserves is Wally Buono’s last season. As The Province mentions, Buono’s last season has been buried under various headlines, from new GM Ed Hervey to Quarterback Jonathon Jennings. Lions and CFL fans alike should be taking note, Buono plans to be a more aggressive coach than in years past. The Lions now have a rejuvenated roster of 18 free-agent signings, an electrifying young quarterback and a fearless coach. Fans could be in for the most exciting brand of Lions football seen in years. This will only tighten the race in what appears to be another heavyweight West Division.
Not long after suffering a heartbreaking defeat in the 2017 Playoffs, the Riders set their sights on the Grey Cup. While this brings a collective groan from everyone else, the CFL is simply more fun when the Riders are contenders. Behind centre, they’ll have either the young Canadian Brandon Bridge. Or a quarterback entering his prime looking to redeem his career in Zach Collaros. Duron Carter will see action on both sides of the ball which will draw interest from opposing QB’s (Except Bo). The Calgary-Saskatchewan rivalry will be at its peak for the first time in years with Charleston Hughes and Jerome Messam now dawning the green & white.
It has been a steady climb back to prominence from a dismal 2015 season to a 2017 East Final appearance. While the West Division remains loaded, look for the Riders to be in the mix. Which of course, will contribute to the biggest CFL season yet.
What to Expect
Last season it was announced that the 105th Grey Cup drew a 10% increase over the previous season and the most watched Grey Cup since 2013. Taking into account the above factors, expect another jump come November. The CFL and Commissioner Randy Ambrosie have done a tremendous job in making the game more accessible to younger fans. If any of the aforementioned factors draw new eyes to the game, the product on the field will do its job in ensuring they stick around. All of which means, 2018 could be the biggest CFL season yet.
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