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Bring on The 6 Game Season

Published: Wednesday, Jul 8th 2020, 2:07pm

By Adam Ailsby (@ailsby)  

TSN’s Farhan Lalji recently reported the potential for a shortened 6 game season with an

expanded 8 team playoff. Before most CFL fans could rummage through their closets, dust off

their favorite jersey and run out into the neighbourhood shouting their excitement up to the

football gods, there were seemingly endless numbers of pundits criticizing, lambasting and

poking holes in the idea. It was for the most part seen as more laughable and head scratching

that a Kanye 2020 presidential run. Troubles with bubble logistics, government funding,

finance issues, playoff format, the dreaded covid championship asterisk, prorated salaries and a

preference to just cancel the season and focus on 2021 have been thrown out as reasons to

avoid this potential shortened format.

 

Well, on behalf of the vast silent majority of CFL fans, I would like to implore the league to

ignore those naysayer pundits and do what is needed to be done to get all of us some form of

CFL football in 2020!

 

As a starting point, let us all remember that for the next two or three years the fan experience

for professional sports will be less than ideal. We simply live in a new world. Deal with it.

While there will be kinks to work out, but something is better than nothing. Just try asking a

child if they want ice cream or no ice cream (duh, ice cream please!!) and then ask if his/her

decision changes based on potential issues with product transportation, bovine animal

husbandry practices and the economic cost benefit of that ice cream. See, something is better

than nothing regardless of the potential issues.

 

Yes, the bubble approach, government funding, unbalanced schedules, player safety, etc., etc.,

etc., will all need to be worked out. But this is not like trying to keep Trump from tweeting

while on the toilet, we actually have a chance of making this work. If we can sort all these

issues out and comes September there is a potential to order a pizza, throw on a jersey, crack a

beer and sit down to watch a CFL game, even the most casual fan will relish in the opportunity

to once again engage in that mental exercise of trying to figure out the phantom Proulx flag.

 

While some argue that it is best to play the long game, cancel the season and focus on 2021,

the grim reality is that this may not be an option. There is no guarantee that 2021 will allow

everything to go back to normal. In that scenario, are we also prepared to skip 2021 and focus

on trying again in 2022 if things are not perfect? In the midst of a new imperfect normal,

Saskatchewan Roughrider President and CEO, Craig Reynolds recently explained the sad reality

at the club’s AGM that it expects a loss in the neighbourhood of $10 million and something

slightly less if there was a shortened season. Let’s for the sake of argument say that most

teams are in the same boat and that while losses will occur regardless, they will be slightly less

with a shortened season. That “slightly less” might be the economic difference between the

continued viability of a league trudging through hard times come 2021 and one that simply

does not exist.

 

Marketing 101 tells us that getting your product in front of your audience/customer base is

essential. Even in pre-covid times, the CFL was struggling with attracting and maintaining an

aging fan base. In an environment where every other major sports league is finding ways to get

their product back in front of their audiences, I cannot even begin to imagine what that aging

and eventually disinterested fan base would look like after not having live CFL football for

almost 18 months. The moment the season is cancelled, there will be a sharp drop off in any

form of interest in every CFL football column, radio show, podcast, product line and web site.

Both the aging population and the younger demographic may simply move on with only a

fraction returning if the league is able to get back up and running.

 

As for the dreaded idea of potentially having a 0-6 or 1-5 team make the playoffs and win the

Grey Cup, I say bring it on! Imagine such an amazing underdog feel good story. In 2020 we

could all use something uplifting to root for to help us forget about covid19, political issues

with Chine and murder hornets. Besides, some of the most memorable teams started off slow.

No true Canadian football fan talks about their disgust for the 2019 Riders who started 1-3

before going on the win the west, the 2011 Lions who started 0-5 ahead of an epic home Grey

Cup win or even the average 9-9 Riders who in ’89 triumphed after having no chance of beating

the Edmonton juggernaut in the west final and moving on to the most exciting Grey Cup game

in history. People love underdogs, plain and simple.

 

Lastly, from a player perspective, while a pro-rated salary and operating from a bubble may not

appeal to all (certainly understandable and no hard feelings to any player who declines), the

idea of a short-term sacrifice on that end may be worth it knowing that they are furthering their

own careers and maybe, just maybe, doing their part to save the league that provides so much

for so many.

 

So, let’s put on our can do, positive attitude, Canadian big boy/girl pants and go out there, solve

those minor issues and concerns and get back to being excited about the potential for seeing

live Canadian football again.

 

 

 

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