CFL Forgets Where It Is Playing

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIINovember 9, 2009

The CFL has just done another Toronto Raptor impersonation—the basketball team that has tried and failed to commit suicide so many times.

The CFL's latest attempt at suicide is the announcement that they want to negotiate the reduction of Canadian players on each team from seven to four when it negotiates a new agreement with its players union.

After writing so many articles, especially the stimulus to expansion series, which emphasize the need to put down more roots in Canada, the CFL tells me that it wants to do the exact opposite.

This is like ex-Commissioner Tom Wright telling everyone that he wants to get a 10th team in Canada by 2010 and then watch Ottawa disappear for the second time.

If anything, the CFL needs more Canadian players, particularly quarterbacks, to stimulate Canadian interest and investment in its league.  Reducing the number of Canadian players will do the exact opposite.

If the CFL goes through with the proposition, it might as well drop the word "Canadian" from its title and get out of the country.  Play your brand of football elsewhere, but don't call it Canadian because it sure isn't.

Proposals like this only justify those critics who blame a too-conservative Board of Governors and commissioners like Mark Cohon for the CFL's stagnation, lack of vision, and narrow base.

To begin with, this is a slap at the CIS, which will have a harder time attracting boys into its football programs if there is no place for them to play when they graduate.

The CFL does little to promote CIS football other than maintain a link between the two web sites.  It hires few coaches from its ranks, limits the positions Canadians can play, and does nothing improve the calibre of the players to make them able to play at a CFL level.

Or at least it subscribes to the myth that almost all Canadian university football players are inferior to their American counterparts.  That's a great way to win over a new generation of Canadian fans.

The proposal is also offensive to retired CFL Canadian stars, many of which have already denounced it.

In several articles, I've stressed the need to get as many Canadians as possible involved with the league.  When I read a proposal like this, I want to shrug my shoulders, quit as a CFL feature writer, and go on to something else that doesn't slap me in the face and act like a walking death wish. 

So much for backing an underdog league that needs all the friends it can get.

What we have is a league that plays its games in Canada, takes its money, but doesn't believe in it.

This proposal reminds me of the way the NFL treats Toronto through its Buffalo Bills incursion; like MLB, which allowed the Expos to rot away; like the NBA, with its hasty withdrawal from Vancouver: Canada is a colony to be exploited.

Send in a bunch of Americans to entertain Canadians briefly, emphasize how much better they are at playing sports than Canadians are, sell some league merchandise, take Canadian money, but don't admit to any equality.  Create myths like the inferiority of the CIS.

If I'm going to suffer that, it's better to have the CFL disappear and have a full-fledged NFL team in Toronto.  Then at least when it's done, it's the top dog doing it.

That attitude was certainly present during the World Baseball Classic.  I expected to see some of that thinking for that event; I didn't expect to see it from an organization calling itself the Canadian Football League.