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CFL v NFL: Trailer Park Boys


Kanada Kev
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http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2007-11-22/cover_story2.php

Trailer Park Boys : CFL vs NFL

Call us homers if you want, but here are eight reasons why we’d choose the CFL over the NFL game.

1 We try harder

It's more difficult to get a first down in Canadian football when you only have three downs to do it and not four. It also means the ball changes hands more often, and you can't predict the winner when there are still five minutes remaining in the game. The fact that the clock stops after each play inside the three-minute mark keeps the excitement up, too. Yes, those 180 seconds may feel long, but they allow miracles, in the form of comebacks, to happen.

2 Are we there yet?

CFL players have 20 seconds to begin play once the referee gives the signal. You could have a nap while you wait (45 seconds!) after the referee's signal for the Americans to snap the ball.

3 Wider, faster, better

With a larger field (110-by-65 yards vs 100-by-53.3 yards), speed makes a big difference in the CFL. Quarterbacks are smaller and more mobile and get to the outside faster, and CFL defenders are quicker and more agile than their American counterparts. That's why Doug Flutie likes us and we like him.

4 It's called football for a reason

How you kick the damn thing matters. There's nothing sweeter than a gorgeous long spiral punt that sends the receiver back into the end zone, from which he'd better escape or the kicking team gets a point. Forget the fair catch. That's for NFL wimps.

5 State of the unions

Get injured in the CFL and your contract is insured. Get injured in the NFL and you're out on the street.

6 Canadian content

Okay, it's true that Lenny Kravitz plays halftime this year. But the league continues to operate with the equivalent of TV's Canadian Content rules, requiring each team to include 17 Canadians so the country's best players – at least those not snapped up by the NFL – get a chance to play pro ball.

7 Jailbirds 'r' them

The NFL has way more convicted criminals than the CFL, and most of the time they get an easy ride back into the league. Then again, the CFL didn't let a pot conviction keep the Argos from hiring Ricky Williams.

8 Gloriously offensive

Compare the Grey Cup with the Super Bowl and notice how the Grey Cup is rarely a defensive bore. The Super Bowl, on the other hand, can easily deteriorate into a 9-6 snoozer. Plus, the Grey Cup's never had Up With People on the halftime show.

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Nice! Here's a good article from the Globe yesterday.. Even with an argos-suck.com reference!

http://www.globesports.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20071123.wspt-greycup-main-23/GSStory/GlobeSportsFootball/home

We stand on guard for three

DAVID NAYLOR

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

November 23, 2007 at 9:59 PM EST

TORONTO — Even in the CFL's rocky times, there has always been a sense that three-down football and the Grey Cup matter to Canadians.

Now we have proof.

On the eve of the 95th contesting of the oldest professional championship in Canada, Canadian sports fans have spoken loudly and clearly and have done so in the form of a wide-ranging survey, a comprehensive analysis of Canadian fans' views of professional football.

The survey results show that Canadians have a strong and deep identification with the CFL, which they do not want to part with, even though many of them would welcome an NFL franchise to Toronto.

An overwhelming 80 per cent of those surveyed think it's important for the CFL to survive, while a strong majority believe the league provides a great alternative to the NFL and has a bright future. Just 9 per cent of those surveyed say they would not care if the CFL shut down.

The Strategic Counsel conducted the 19-question survey this week for The Globe and Mail.

"It shows there is tremendous pride about the CFL, a tremendous attachment to the culture institution that the CFL represents," said Tim Woolstencroft, the managing partner of the Strategic Counsel. "Even Quebeckers have a strong sense of association with the CFL. In fact, it's one of the very few institutions on which English-Canadians and Quebeckers have a common view.

"So the old adage about the Grey Cup being the most unifying symbol in the country, that's still true."

The survey indicates the CFL is strongest in Western Canada, while the appeal of the NFL resonates most in Ontario and Quebec, where a majority of people say the arrival of an NFL franchise in Toronto would be positive, even though similar majorities understand it would have a negative impact on the CFL.

"It's clear that the NFL has made big inroads in Canada in the last 20 years, especially within Ontario and Quebec," Woolstencroft said. "With its marketing dollars and promotion, it has clearly penetrated this market as opposed to the West, where the CFL is dominant. [in Toronto] the CFL is facing very formidable competition from the NFL, and in Ontario and even Quebec, they want to see an NFL franchise in Toronto. But regardless, they want the CFL to exist."

Most compelling is the revelation that Canadians' attachment to the CFL as a distinct cultural institution outweighs their affinity for the CFL game itself. Canadians care deeply about the CFL, but don't necessarily consider it a more entertaining option than the NFL, with roughly one-third expressing a preference for NFL football, one-third for the CFL and one-third preferring both.

It has long been believed that what defined the CFL to most people was the distinctiveness of its rules when compared with the American four-down variety. Instead, the CFL's most compelling quality seems to be rooted in its identity and the notion that being a CFL fan or supporter is in some small way an expression of being Canadian.

Football is unique as the only sport defined so clearly as either Canadian or American by its rules and the history of two games that have evolved separately. That history, along with the CFL's rivalries and its regional representation, seems to resonate most with fans.

"An institution like the CFL is unique," said Steve Bunn, a doctorate history student at York University and devout member of argos-suck.com, a website for Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans. "There is, of course, [NHL] hockey, but the Americanization of that is well known. In regard to finding anything comparable to the CFL in Canada as a Canadian cultural and historical institution, you have to go outside sport and look at something like the Hudson's Bay Co. Like the CFL, it's something that in its best years turned a meagre profit, but the value of it isn't measured in dollars."

The notion of the CFL as an outlet for Canadian expression isn't new. No one is going to mistake three-down football for the national game or the greatest show on Earth. But even those sports to which we lay claim, which are indisputably Canadian, such as hockey or curling, are played extensively beyond our borders. Three-down football, on the other hand, is ours and ours only, which is perhaps part of what makes the Grey Cup game among the most watched television events in Canada each season and why two-thirds of those surveyed said they plan to watch the game tomorrow.

Why are Canadians drawn to the national flavour of the CFL so much more so than the game itself? Partly, the NFL and CFL today are more distinct as cultural institutions than they are for their styles of play.

Thirty years ago, most NFL teams relied primarily on running the ball. The grinding style meant less finesse and more smash-mouth, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football. Some teams still play that way, but overall, the NFL has embraced the passing game. Beginning with Joe Montana's San Francisco 49ers and extending to today with such teams as the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts (with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning throwing the ball for their respective teams), the NFL has no shortage of teams that rely on their quarterbacks to win games through the air.

Author Michael Lewis notes in his bestselling book The Blind Side that in 1978, NFL teams threw the ball 42 per pent of the time and ran the ball 58 per cent. From then until the mid-1990s, teams began gradually to pass the ball more and more until those ratios were reversed. Not only are teams passing significantly more often, but the average gain for a pass has grown at the same time that completion percentages have soared, to nearly 60 per cent today from less than 50.

In essence, NFL teams found ways to throw the ball more often, for more yards and with a higher success rate, turning the passing game from a secondary option to the primary offensive weapon in the league.

For example, this season, 10 NFL quarterbacks are on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a 16-game schedule. This past regular season north of the border, the Calgary Stampeders' Henry Burris led all CFL quarterbacks with 34 touchdown passes. Just slightly past the midway point of the NFL schedule, New England's Brady already has 38, while the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo has 29. During the 2006 season, NFL games featured more offensive touchdowns a game than in the CFL.

With the NFL more focused on passing, and with more black quarterbacks who in the past had to ply their trade in Canada, the CFL can no longer claim to be more exciting by virtue of more passing and scoring.

Perhaps that's why the survey results show Canadians rating the NFL as a higher overall quality experience, with more than three times as many respondents saying that great quarterbacking applies more to the NFL than the CFL.

"Even Canadians recognize the NFL has a better cadre of quarterbacks, and my reaction is that 25 years ago, that was not the case," Woolstencroft said. "They would have said the CFL has great quarterbacks, too."

But while the game styles in the two leagues might be more similar than ever, culturally, the leagues have never been more distinct.

The CFL remains today a league in which profits are hard to come by, where players are paid modest wages in by comparison with other professional athletes and where fans can actually get close to players. That unique culture is on display every year during Grey Cup week, when players can be seen mingling among fans in a way they do not in other sports.

The NFL, conversely, is a multibillion-dollar business with individual team payrolls in excess of $100-million, where players are mostly out of reach or contact with the fans.

The atmosphere at the respective championship games says everything about the culture of the two leagues. While the Grey Cup is full of affordable entertainment and is populated by common fans, Super Bowl week is aimed squarely at America's corporate elite, with no real accommodation for the public.

That more humble culture has always endeared the CFL to its fans. It is no doubt part of the reason why a majority of respondents agree the CFL gives back more to its communities in comparison with the NFL.

Against this backdrop, the CFL is preparing to deal with perhaps the biggest challenge in its history in the potential arrival of an NFL franchise in Toronto. Yesterday, Mark Cohon became the first CFL commissioner to acknowledge the threat when, during his annual state-of-the-league address, he said the CFL could no longer comfort itself by denying the possibility is real.

"All of the tea leaves are indicating that it's shifting," Cohon said. "You have guys like Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum and Phil Lind, very powerful Canadians who are interested, you have an owner in Ralph Wilson in Buffalo who has said, 'When I die, my estate will sell the franchise,' you have the Bills interested in marking Toronto as part of their territory, which I believe is an indication that, 'Hey, this is our territory, we don't want another NFL team coming here.'

"So I think there's all these things lining up as an indication that it could happen," Cohon added. "So I'm not sticking my head in the sand, that would be the worst thing for the CFL commissioner to do. So I think there's a real potential."

Cohon's acknowledgement is enough to send shivers down the spines of the country's most fervent CFL loyalists, many of whom are in Toronto this week painted and decked out to celebrate their league. To them, the potential arrival of the NFL is nothing short of McCulture, another Wal-Mart about to cross the border that might obliterate something that is homegrown and real.

Canada has always been a country divided between those who want to hone and nourish what we already have and those who seek to be part of something bigger and grander beyond our borders. It's a battle that's played out many times in our history, one where passions tend to run high.

No higher, perhaps, than when a culturally significant institution like the CFL — with its Grey Cup traditions and humble appeal resonating across the land — may be forced to find its niche alongside an 800-pound gorilla.

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