Sunday, November 18, 2007

CFL Football, For Those Who Care

Now here's an oddity that probably fits as a working metaphor for Canada. The Canadian Football League has been suffering for years, experimenting with just about any exotic substance that crossed its path, including the invitation of a few American football teams. When I was a kid, the CFL ruled because it was Canadian, goddammit: as Canadian as I or the kid next door.

In other words, it wasn't American. We invited American talent across the border, but the game was resolutely (and, some would say, comically) Canadian. Three downs, wider field and all that.

So here we were today, watching a playoff game between Toronto and Winnipeg. The latter city is as Canadian as one could hope for, and has the sharpened teeth to prove it. They made mincemeat out of the Toronto Argonauts. So far as sporting competitions are concerned, this was as it should be.

Unfortunately, insofar as the league is concerned, this win amounted to a small suicide. Had Toronto won, the league may have been granted a few more years' existence. As it stands, Toronto the Beautiful seems intent on getting an NFL franchise and waltzing away entirely from the CFL. I haven't yet posted my complete and unexpurgated thoughts on Toronto sports fans, and frankly am not likely to. These chuckleheads have more money than they know what to do with, and so invite all sorts of sporting trouble to their city and the country they live in. Witness their NBA team, the Raptors. Or take another gander (if you dare) at the Leafs. Then step on the other side of the fence and take a close look at the Blue Jays -- a much better team than this city deserves. Of course the city's sports fans, as if to prove the maxim, stay away from Jays' games in droves even when the team plays better than any fan has a right to expect.

I first lived in Toronto in the fall of 1983, when the Argonauts won the Grey Cup. Cars were overturned, store windows smashed. It's now 24 years later, and if the Argonauts won they'd receive a modest parade in front of Castle Loma. Toronto deserves the Leafs, and any other franchise it wants to pit against George W. Bush's USA, instead of Canada. This crazy city can't compete within its own nation, yet it wants to go up against the world?

Take my city. Please.


dan h. said...

Sounds like they need a soccer team.

Whisky Prajer said...

GAH! They have a soccer team! But because the Toronto FC serves as an invitational platform for visiting teams from other countries, they basically don't have ANY fans -- people show up to cheer for Jamaica, or Cuba, or Bulgaria ... you name it, so long as it's not Toronto.

DarkoV said...

I really got into the CFL when I was up in college in Montreal. It was the pass-happy type of football that the US version finally caught on to when the infamous West Coast offense began its innovative (I always called it copy-catting) ways.

When I'd go back home to the States and try to prosletize the CFL ways, my friends were actually starting to get interested. They especially liked that the end zone was like 50 yards long and 170 yards wide, or something like that.
"So, what are the names of the teams", they'd ask.
"Well, there are the Edmonton Eskimos.."
Slight giggling ensued.
"Blue bombers?", my friends' hands immediately went into that male defensive pose where the hands cover the groin area.

"?????? Hold on", a chorus chimed up,"there are 2 teams in one league with the same name? Is there like a limitation on nouns in Canada?"

Teed off, I'd reply,"NO! NO! It's not the same spelling. The Ottawas are the Rough SPACE Riders. The Saskatchewans are one word, Roughriders." I beamed, knowing they'd understand.
One gem then inquired,"So, Ottawa's team is pronounced differently, like Rough......(long pause)......Riders?"
"Oh, don't be an idiot!", I said, being an idiot,"They're pronounced the same way but they're spelled differently."

My friends were stumped. Spelling and football were not two words they usually associated and they were two words they did not want to associate in the near future. That was it for their acceptance of the CFL and I felt the same about trying to persuade them as such.

The Rough Riders are now called the Ottawa Renegades, which, IMHO, is a shame. I LOVED the fact that there were two similarly pronounced but differently spelled teams. It made the CFL different than the NFL. I mean, look at some of the NFL names. The Dolphins? A water-based mammal spending all of its time on land? The Browns? A whole team named after one guy? I'll give you the Raiders and the Packers, both great names, but Patriots? That's like a scooer team named the Moscow Comrades.

So, WP, if the NFL does open up their major megaplexus up in Toronto, I suggest Ruff-Riders as their nom-de-guerre. What about you?

Whisky Prajer said...

God knows any Toronto-based NFL team is in for a VERY rough ride, so your choice is perfect on many levels. However, given Toronto's penchant for picking fruity names for their sports franchises ("Blue Jays"? "Raptors"?! "Maple Leafs"?!?) I'm bracing myself for something truly awful. "The Toronto Transformers," perhaps, as inspired by Michael Bay's washed-out movie of the same name.

Peter said...

Toronto's probably not going to get an NFL team anytime soon, unless the Bills leave Buffalo. And even then, there's still the issue of Los Angeles.

Whisky Prajer said...

Man, Los Angeles will *always* be an issue for the NFL.

If we momentarily ignore the criminal inclinations of the league's athletes, I would say the NFL commissioners come across as a surprisingly sane bunch of guys. On the issue of team parity alone, they're (forgive me) leagues ahead of Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL. They've also proven themselves keen to preserve the CFL: in 1996 they ponied up $4 mil to keep our foundering league afloat. Their attitude has so far been, when football is healthy, the NFL is healthy.

Toronto's would-be sports tycoons have a heap to learn from these guys.

Trent Reimer said...

If the CFL dies I vote we take up Australian football on a national scale. It's what rugby should have been.