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First and 10, eh? Summer means Canadian Football

Dave Randall

Posted on June 24, 2018 22:40

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Don't knock it — the CFL fills your June-July need for pigskin.

Canada's on the mind of a lot of Americans as summer begins. The reasons vary from its legalization of pot to our envy of its dynamic leader (both subjective, of course). There's one other factor that makes a few of us look north for at least a couple of months — Canadian football. 

Why? There's a lull at the end of the NBA and NHL seasons that baseball filled quite well for a century, before the latter two winter leagues began encroaching on the summer months, and the NFL decided it's a year-long business. Even a dyed-in-the-wool baseball lover like me starts to anticipate the rush of gridiron action, after the Fourth of July.

In the days before the NFL was a billion-dollar enterprise, you had a chance to power-down until training camp opened and whet your appetite for the Sundays ahead. Now, as a result of huge media deals, the radio arms of CBS, Fox, ESPN and NBC sports give their talk-show hosts marching orders, as if they've been handed down from Roger Goodell's office, itself: talk NFL. And they do … ad nauseum.

The chatter, however, doesn't replace action. That's where our neighbors to the north have provided a product that's served as a pretty good place holder. As far back as the 1960s and '70s, before cable, satellite and streaming, CFL games would would turn up in July, tape-delayed, syndicated over independent TV stations across the country.

CTV would have an American analyst on the games, like the late Alex Karras, to both relate to and be aghast by CFL rules that make it different from the NFL or NCAA. Once, when appraised of a CFL punt rule that forbade all defending players except the kicker and the player behind the kicker to get within five yards of the receiver until the punt is caught, Karras moaned, "AWWW! That's no fun!"

The rules are different — 12 men on the a 110 yard field, 20 yard end zones, wide as a tarmac, with goal posts in front, not behind; three downs, not four, and backs and receivers are allowed to be in motion before the snap.

The stadiums are more like those on a college campus, not the inter-galactic palaces we now see in the NFL. The game, then and now, is wide open — a proving ground for the likes of Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and perhaps, this season, the mercurial Johnny Manziel.

The NFL knows the level of play in the CFL is really like that of a Triple-A League. Yet, in their quest for year-long dominance of sports news, they've tried to usurp the Canadians. There's been The World League of American Football, played in spring until 2007. Starting Feb. 9, 2019, the Alliance of American Football begins play. It's NFL sanctioned, with coaches like Steve Spurrier lined up and ready to go.

The CFL, however, with its early summer charm, is going nowhere. That's good. 

Dave Randall

Posted on June 24, 2018 22:40

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Source: USA TODAY
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