On Canada Day (July 1), the Canadian Football League (CFL) kicks off its’ 53rd season and that in and of itself is a cause for celebration. The CFL, after all, is the only national, grassroots professional sports league Canada has.
True, Canadians love ice hockey and the NHL, but there’s something magical and unmistakably unique about the CFL. And admittedly, I’m not even a big football fan.
But the CFL strikes a chord. There are only eight teams currently. That makes it easy to follow the entire league. Ottawa is rumoured to be getting its franchise back by 2012 and if it does, that begs the question, ‘will there be a 10th team to keep the league’s two divisions balanced?’ (Both Halifax and Quebec City are frequently mentioned whenever talk of expansion emerges.) Only time will tell.
Most football fans in Canada that I know tend to follow the U.S.-based National Football League and they do so passionately. Fine, but I don’t get it; never have. I’ve got nothing against our American neighbours but I find the NFL’s brand of pro football to be, well, dull.
Now, before you dive tackle me for admitting to my anti-NFL bias, yes, I’m well aware the CFL is largely comprised of American-born players. Call that fact a measure of revenge given the NHL features mostly Canadian-born players.
The CFL even tried to expand stateside during a three-year stint during the early to mid-1990s but the experiment failed. That too is a part of the CFL’s charm methinks. Management of the league hasn’t always been stable though it is today.
Ask yourself: what other professional sports league would allow two teams to share the same nickname (the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Rough Riders)? Or, how likely is it one man is allowed to own two clubs? David Braley owns both the B.C. Lions and the Toronto Argonauts.
How distinctly Canadian.
The CFL also always seems as though it’s on the edge of some form of financial calamity or even collapse, and yet, it never does. It’s resilient. Tough. Gridiron tough.
As the league’s motto states, “This is our league. Notre ligue. Notre football.” Indeed it is. And now you know how I’m celebrating this Canada Day.
Do you follow the CFL? If so, what is it about this league that keeps you engaged?