I took this photo this morning when Geroy Simon and Paul McCallum stopped by the TEAM 1040 morning show with the Grey Cup that they helped win this past Sunday. It made me think about this professional sport and how I’ve come to appreciate what it is.
Being the American that I am, I have to remember what my parents, as well as many folks south of the border, would say when it comes to this piece of timely sports news.
Most likely, it would be something to the tune of, “Oh, that’s nice.”
When I was back visiting my family in Iowa this past September, I took the opportunity of showing some of them what a CFL football game was like, taking advantage of the NFL Network’s agreement to rebroadcast TSN’s coverage of select Friday and Saturday games. I often send them emails or put out tweets about working these games, so it was nice to finally give them some insight about the technical work I do behind the TEAM 1410 radio broadcasts.
Within a brief minute of turning on a game, one of my nephews had the same reactions that I did when watching my first CFL games.
“How do you score one point? And why are they punting on third down?!”
Those things still trip me up from time to time, but that’s just apart of the game that is played in Canada compared to what I grew up with all my life. The field is bigger, there’s one more player on each team, and multiple players can be in motion towards the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped rather than only one player being allowed to run parallel as the play starts.
And I really only point that out because Geroy is one of the first guys I picked up on during my early days of working BC Lions games. There’s just something a bit captivating when number 81 is in nearly full sprint as he approaches the line, timing it just perfectly with the snap of the ball as to not be offside, and then wondering if Simon is on a deep route for the end zone to hopefully strike his patented Superman pose when he snags the touchdown.
Not bad for a guy in his mid-thirties and at the top of his game, not to mention sitting in the upper class of several CFL records.
And if you really want to find out all of the differences between the two, there’s a great Wikipedia entry for that.
But what really stands out to me is that this is the 99th time that the Grey Cup has been played for.
The league that plays for the Grey Cup has changed, reshaped, expanded, retracted, gone up, and gone down over that time, but the cup has remained the same as well as the basic premise that every year, a group of teams battle for the right to get their name engraved for future challengers to see. And that has happened for almost 100 years.
Completely ignoring an all out which league is better debate, that’s a fact the NFL can’t touch.
They also don’t do it for fortune. The highest paid players make six figured salaries with only modest endorsements. The fact that many players have off season jobs to supplement their off-season training speaks to the passion they have to keep playing this brand of football, and it’s something that I have a lot of respect for.
This isn’t a league that you can simply call a “minor league” to the NFL. It’s a league of its own brand of football that has stayed truer, not by much, to football’s divergence from rugby. It’s played and followed by people who have dedication to any other professional sport like golf, tennis, soccer, or baseball.
It’s reality television at its best because I can experience all of the drama at the stadium or on TV, but then I can go to Ricky’s in Surrey for breakfast and catch the players doing the same thing.
My proximity to it all draws me in, and it’s hard to not get into the story lines. Listening into the post-game show after a game one night, a man from Seattle called and said it best.
“You can’t say the NFL is better than the CFL, or that the CFL is better than the NFL and all that. I love my Seahawks, and I love the Lions. It’s like chicken and fish. You just have to love them both.”
So true, but if I were forced to choose over watching either or, I’d choose the CFL for the simple fact that 20 second play clocks keeps the action on the field moving and dramatically cuts down on the lull between plays. Even this American boy can get bored with football games spliced with three replay perspectives followed by five minutes of commercials.