Sunday, November 29, 2009

This is our game, so let more of us play it..

The 97th Grey Cup will take place later today in Calgary, the wrap up to a week long party and festival of all things Canadian, one of the more unifying events on the Canadian calendar and a day that turns casual fans into fanatics for the East, the West or just for football.

The two top teams in the league will meet for Lord Grey's cup, as they should, both Saskatchewan and Montreal full value for their divisional championships and both teams that showed very well how they got to the championship game with their divisional wins last week.

The Grey Cup is much more than a celebration of football though, it's a game unique to Canada, played on a larger field than that American brand, with a number of quirky rules that can cause American coaches to stay up late at night trying to figure things out.

Clearly Marc Trestman in Montreal and Saskatchewan's Ken Miller have figured it out and for the most part it comes by using their Canadian players to the best possible outcome, Saskatchewan's receiving corps for the most part is made of players that honed their skills on Canadian university fields and have stepped into the pros without missing a beat. Montreal likewise has made wise choices when it comes to their Canadian roster positions, featuring exciting offensive threats and dominating defensive players, all of whom contributed to their remarkable season this year.

For the most part you can separate the successful CFL teams from the struggling ones (hello there Toronto), simply by the way their coaching staff understands the Canadian game and makes the wisest choices when it comes to playing their Canadian players.

With University and high school football on the rise again across the nation the depth of Canadian talent has never looked better, so it's surprising to learn this past week of the quiet intercession into pending labour negotiations of the CFL management and their wish to reduce the number of Canadians in starting positions, if not on the rosters as a whole. The plan which has been universally panned so far, would see the current number of Canadians as starters at 7 reduced to five or even four.

It's a short sighted thought, one which should be dismissed as quickly as it was thought up.

The CFL is all about marketing the national spirit of the game, of providing the next logical step for University players and high school players before them to continue on with their football career.

One has to wonder just how many Firearms Acquisition Certificates are filed away with the federal government containing the names of CFL executives, as they seem to come regularly prepared to shoot themselves in the foot and there never seems to be a shortage of ammunition to use either it seems.

To try and float this bizarre trial balloon in the weeks before Grey Cup just goes to show that when it comes to making public mis-steps (and they had to know that this was going to leak out), the CFL perhaps has no parallel.

Sunday's Grey Cup should be an entertaining match up Grey Cups usually are, one worthy of Canada's attention and as the television ratings will no doubt testify towards, one that will capture our interest for most of the day.

The CFL is closing in on its 100th anniversary in three short years, it's a great game with a great history, it has to be, that in order to survive some of the unusual leadership decisions over its many decades.

The game celebrates Canadian football, and highlights the exciting brand of ball that we play above the 49th, a game unique to the nation but one which brings in talent from many countries where football is perhaps an unknown, but learned at the high school or university level in Canada. Once hooked, those players become perhaps its most passionate advocates.
There will always be a large number of Americans on the roster, some of our greatest stars have come up here for what they thought would be a few years, and instead turned into a full career with a life here after football. But rather than reducing or limiting the role of Canadians in the game, the league should be expanding it and enhancing the possibilities for Canadian youth to find a future in the game.

You do that and the game will grow, and with it the revenues and resonance with the public will grow as well, sometimes it seems like the simplest concepts are the hardest ones to get across.

Toronto Star-- Keep Canadians in CFL
Toronto Star-- CFL boss takes hit on numbers game
Victoria Times-Colonist-- Keeping the CFL Canada's league
Edmonton Journal-- Cohon's Canadian content controversy
Toronto Sun-- Boss sure can scramble
Globe and Mail-- As Canadian as can be
National Post-- Getzlaf leads the way for Canadians
Regina Leader Post--It would be crazy to limit the number of Canadian starters in CFL: Fantuz

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