Sunday, November 23, 2008

This is our league! And this is its day!

The CFL's 2008 campaign comes to an end today in Montreal, the truly Canadian grass roots experience, culminating in the annual party known as the Grey Cup.

The league has suffered its ups and its downs over the years, forever it seems in peril and yet as always it seems to endure. While many warn of the NFL wolf perpetually at the door, yet in most reaches of the nation the CFL is still the game that brings the fans to their feet and the viewers to the television sets.

As always at Grey Cup time, the ever present thought of expansion comes up, with Quebec City and the Maritimes once again considered a potential home for the Canadian game. Ottawa the orphaned city of the CFL is destined to get one more chance, perhaps in time for the 2011 season.

While it may not be as flashy or as all enveloping in marketing as the NFL, nor is it the financial monster that the NFL is, but when it comes to on field entertainment the CFL should take a back seat to no league.

The play this year has been particularly entertaining, the offence has been on the upswing, while the defence continues to play the hard nosed kind of football that Canadians have come to appreciate over the years.

The attendance has been up in most of the member cities, with the football hotbeds of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, BC and Alberta regularly playing to large crowds. The Renaissance in Quebec continues with Montreal regularly sold out in the comfy confines of McGill. While Southern Ontario has once again produced struggling teams when it comes to wins and losses, the ownership and management of both franchises there remains strong, if slightly confused about the way to best put a winner on the field.

The league has benefited immensely from its contract with TSN, who dedicated blocks of their schedule this season to the CFL brand and on Saturday alone delivered an entire daytime schedule of the preamble to Sunday's Grey Cup.

The game itself should be a highly anticipated match up, the best of the East against the class of the West, with any number of sub plots to keep us happy. The hometown Montreal crowd could possibly set a CFL record for the championship game as over 68,000 fans are anticipated to congregate in the Olympic Stadium for the season finale. Not a bad achievement for a league that is frequently considered in peril and on the verge of disaster.

The management of the league has taken it from the abyss and slowly rebuilt reputations and community affections. While the work is never done, the league on this Grey Cup Sunday seems in better shape than in many years, on solid financial footing and eager to improve on its foundation.

For decades one Sunday in November has united the country in celebration, many may know all the names of the players and coaches, while others will just be casual fans who drop in for the party.

By the time the final gun has sounded either the Calgary Stampeders or Montreal Alouettes will be holding the Grey Cup, if the game goes per the script of past championships Canadians will once again be talking football on Monday morning, reliving yet another thrilling finish to top all finishes.

It's the nature of the league, our league and today is it's day...

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