Why I Love The CFL
Published: Friday, Jan 26th 2018, 9:01am
I love This League
By: Stephen Safinuk (@Safimod)
Anyone who knows me, knows I am an avid sports fan. I don’t care what sport it is, I will grab a beer from the fridge and give it a shot. I’ve often found myself watching cricket, darts or Aussie Football on occasion, just because it’s on. I am very vocal about the teams that I support, as I am one of those who believes if you want to follow a sport, its best to have a team to root for. With most sports, that is where it stops for me. I am not usually active in the twittersphere for the other leagues that I follow, but with the CFL it is most certainly different. Why? It’s simple – With other sports, I love my team. With the CFL – I love the league.
Last week, we saw a new fan from south of the border (Joseph Lozito) get his first taste of CFL twitter, just by putting up a poll asking what team to follow. He was soon brought up to speed on all the important CFL debates like brunch (buffet only), butter tarts (raisins are mandatory) and many other discussions. The one thing that was consistent for the most part was the love that everyone had for the league, and it got me thinking – why do we love this league so much?
The CFL family is as welcoming a group as you could ever see from a sports fan base. I was lucky enough to take in 3 games in 3 days last year, in 3 different cities, and the one thing that caught my attention above all others is how quick each group of fans was to welcome me in. I think back to the entire weekend, and I’m not entirely sure I ever bought a beer of my own on game day. Not only that, but I had fans in each of the cities where I landed pick me up from the airport (Thanks Cliffy and Rob) and one even welcomed me into their home for the night. These are people I had met only briefly in the past. If mine were the only story like that, I would consider it a one off, but everywhere you look you see CFL fans welcome other team’s fans into their homes, and into their tailgates as if they were one of their own.
Like most families, we argue and fight, but in the end the one thing that remains constant is our respect for one another and our love of the CFL.
As I begin to write this, the New England Patriots just came back from down 10 in the fourth quarter, to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on route to their 8th Super Bowl appearance in Tom Brady’s career. As we watched, many talked as if it was a forgone conclusion that the Patriots would come back to win, and low and behold it happened. In the CFL, you never know what to expect (except that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won’t win the Grey Cup). Look at 2017 as an example. The Toronto Argonauts didn’t have a General Manager or Head Coach when free agency opened. They were written off by almost everyone as the season began and yet we watched as Bo Levi Mitchell was picked off by Matt Black (who was released and then re-signed by the Argos earlier in the season) to give the Toronto Argonauts their 17th Grey Cup title. Considering there are 9 teams in the CFL, one would think that we would have more regular dynasties but in the past 8 years, there have been 7 different Grey Cup winners. Only Winnipeg and Hamilton are still awaiting their turn to raise the cup over their heads.
This is just one example of the many, many things that make our league so unpredictable on a season by season basis. Don’t even get me started on a game by game basis. Gambling on the CFL regular season, outside of taking the Stampeders to win 10+ games, is a good way to lose money.
There are many different rules in CFL compared to the NFL version of football, and for the most part that’s exactly the way we like it. Fair Catch? No thanks! 4 Downs? That’s too many! 100 yards? Not long enough! Miss a field goal? Here’s a point for trying! The CFL rules are distinctly ours. A lot of the variations add to what makes the CFL game so much more exciting (in my opinion) than the NFL. The field is wider and longer, and you have less downs to march down the field. It opens everything up. Add in the changes in clock management, and you realize the game isn’t over with 2 minutes left. In the CFL, no lead is safe.
I quote tweeted a tweet from someone suggesting that the CFL should look at adopting 4-down football and become an AHL style system for the NFL. The responses I got suggested to me, in no uncertain terms, that this is a terrible idea.
Not only is the CFL a family, but the players are a huge part of that family. They are as approachable as any professional athletes you will ever find. You rarely run into a player who won’t stop to talk, or sign an autograph, or participate in some form of charity event. Players in the CFL come across as regular guys who just happen to be really, really good at professional football. At Piffles Podcast, we’ve been lucky enough to talk to many players over the past two years, from across the CFL, and the one thing I’ve learned is just how down-to-earth most of these players are. When asked by a random fan podcast to do an interview, I can only think of a couple of times where a player has declined.
In the 2nd picture below, you will notice two members of the Rider organization (Dariusz Bladek and Bakari Grant) who gave up some of there time, no questions asked, to participate in the first annual Piffles Bowl last year. This event helped raise over $1500 for Hope's Home in Regina, and their involvement was certainly a large part in that.
The League Office:
One of the things I love about the CFL is the people who work for it. From the Commissioner, to their Social Media team, and everyone else that helps to make our league inclusive, fun, and fan-friendly. When Piffles Podcast started, one of the first guests we tried to get on was then Comissioner Jeffrey Orridge. His staff did a great job working with us to get a time that fit his schedule, to have him on the show. Add in the access we were given at CFL week in Regina and Grey Cup in 2017, and it shows just how approachable and easy to deal with these folks are. I can’t imagine a random fan podcast being given time to interview Gary Bettman or Roger Goodell, but with the CFL, it’s all about the fans.
The league office also does great things like their Diversity is Strength initiative, as well as their work with You Can Play and many other positive programs in communities around the CFL. Without great people running the league, there wouldn’t be a league to love.
I asked a few people from the CFL Twitter family why they love the CFL in 2 sentences or less. I know, not fair when I get an entire article, but such is life. I wanted to share their responses with you.
Max Rosenberg (@Maxmillien): Can it be two words? The people.
Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD): 1. The game itself, the uniqueness and excitement and all its quirks. 2. The fans across the country are second to none and are just amazing people that make all the games that much more fun.
Deb Strickland (@DebStrickland65): It's a league that embraces the fans and includes everyone. Players and fans have a true passion of the game.
Greg McCulloch (@GregOnSports): The league is one giant family. Players and fans alike, it doesn’t matter what colours you wear at the end of the day we are all family.
Darren Foord (@DarrenF88): Player to Fan Relationships. Plus, start 0-2 in the NFL and only a ridiculously small number of teams make the playoffs. Start 0-2 om CFL, you can recover, keeping games more meaningful for longer into the season.
Joe Pritchard (@USFLTecmo): I love the unique rule set, as well as the passion and friendliness of the fan base.
Brodie Lawson (@BrodieLawson): Our world is full of narcissim, opulence and selfishness but the CFL, to me, has always felt like a rejection of those traits. Our league is built on diversity, grit, inclusivity and steadfast determination – to be better, to do better and to make the world better.
Marsha Jackson (@M_Jackson72): The Community feeling with our players and all fan bases. And the pace of the game being faster and how it can come down to the very last play of the game!
Clare Hutchinson (@Aux_Clare): There’s such a genuine, personal joy and connection between the fans and the game, and among the fans themselves – I’m always reminded what I love about it in heartfelt moments like the Standing O for the Grey Cup at the Fan State of the League or Durant’s impromptu farewell to fans at Mark’s CFL Week. I’ll steal Bo (Levi Mitchell)’s words for my second sentence: “It’s family and it’s people, and it’s a good thing to be around”
In the end, the responses from most people fell in to two categories. The people (players and fans) or the rules, and it is certainly hard to argue with that reason. The people are friendly, down to earth and welcoming, and the rules make for an exciting brand of football that you can only find North of the border.