Why I Absolutely Enjoy the Canadian Football League
A story about how this American sports fan branched out and became a CFL fan
I had known about the Canadian Football League for about 10-15 years at least; the first time I learned about that particular league was during Doug Flutie's time with the Buffalo Bills, as his past with the CFL had been told many times. I remember peeping in at a CFL game back in 2012, and afterwards, I promised myself that beginning with the following year, I would start watching those games, because the way Canada plays football is just amazing.
Sure enough, I fulfilled my promise once the 2013 CFL season began, and I have my reasons. First off, football is the shortest season out of the main four sports. Baseball is 162 games and lasts from April (or the end of March) to September, with a champion crowned in October. Basketball and hockey start at around October, end their regular seasons in April, and crown champions in June. The NFL season is a sprint; starts in September, regular season ends in the final weekend of the calendar year, or the first weekend of the New Year, and then there's the Super Bowl in February, followed by a very long offseason where the Draft serves as the only big mention of the NFL. So when I learned how the CFL's schedule operates, I just had to dive in.
The Canadian Football League, for the most part, is a summer league. That, alone, had me intrigued; watching regular season football during the summer. The regular season starts (usually) in June--mere days after the Stanley Cup is awarded in the NHL. It's an eighteen game season that takes up the entire summer and nearly all of the fall, with the league having special games during Labo(u)r Day and Canadian Thanksgiving (the latter taking place in October). Canadian Thanksgiving usually begins the final push for the playoffs (similar to American Thanksgiving in the NFL), and the Grey Cup Playoffs usually take place in November, with the Grey Cup Championship taking place on the final Sunday of that month.
As of now, nine teams exist in the league: the BC Lions, the Edmonton Elks (formerly Eskimos; name changed for the same reason that Washington, D.C.'s NFL team changed theirs), the Calgary Stampeders, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Toronto Argonauts, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Ottawa Redblacks, and the Montréal Alouettes. It has been said that a 10th team, the Atlantic Schooners, could debut in a few years, with the team playing in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I chose the Argonauts as my team because I'm fascinated by the city of Toronto, and I happen to follow a number of Maple Leafs fans on Twitter. I've also learned that Labo(u)r Day weekend games are usually rivalry games, with the actual holiday featuring the Battle of Ontario (Argonauts/Tiger-Cats) and the Battle of Alberta (Elks/Stampeders). The playoff format has six of the nine teams qualifying, with the two division winners getting byes straight to the Division Finals, while the other teams play Division Semifinal games. I also love the CFL's many quirks--the rouge being one of them.
A rouge (also known as a single) is a one-point safety; a single point is awarded if a kickoff lands in the end zone and isn't returned, or if a missed field goal reaches the end zone. Also, the field is 10 yards longer than an NFL field, and in Canada, it's three downs, not four. The CFL has a three-minute warning as opposed to the NFL's two-minute warning, and regarding field goals/extra points, the goalpost is located right behind the goal line in the CFL. Regarding overtime, the CFL uses the college-rules, though in regular season games, it's two rounds, with the ball at the opposing 35-yard line. And in Canada, it's a 12-man defense/defence. All of these quirks and rules make me absolutely love and enjoy the game.
CFL games have aired on American TV, usually ESPN's networks airing the games, though ESPN+ has them as a whole. I would try to lead a tutorial on the CFL and its rules, and I would lead a charge to get more Americans to watch the CFL. Though I am certain that I am not the only American who watches Canadian Football League games vigorously, I know that the number of us who do so isn't a really large one, so I would try my best to get more Americans to watch the CFL, because we Americans really love football, and I think that we can never have too much of it.