So, after yet another Super Bowl has failed to really knock my socks off, and yet another Super Bowl halftime show has been more entertaining than the game itself, I’m ready to start exploring other options. I’m sorry, but if the ‘Raisin Parade,” as my sister calls it, of old rockers wailing at halftime gets me more pumped than the game, something is very, very wrong. The problem is, I still like football. In fact, I’d say I love it. It’s a fun game to play. Maybe this is adult onset cynicism talking, but I’m just having trouble getting into the NFL these days. It’s a bloated, greedy, Akira-like mass of freakish supermen making more money than most world leaders to grunt and sweat over a slab of leather.
Therefore, I’m making an effort to find other outlets to whet my football appetite. There are a couple of semi-pro teams in the area which I’d like to take a look at once autumn comes around, but that’s still a little difficult to find and get to. I just saw a few days ago that a thirteen year old kid just committed to playing football at the University of Southern California…five years from now…because he’s thirteen… so it seems like even the NCAA football is getting just a little too ridiculous as well. I’ve begun looking beyond America’s borders, to see how different countries do this very American sport, and it’s quite interesting: Germany has a small but loyal following, as do the corporate teams in Japan’s X-League, but the biggest international love of football I can find (outside of the real “football,” being soccer) is found in America’s Neighbor to the North, Canada, and the CFL, or Canadian Football League. In some cases these teams are older than the NFL itself, and it has the second oldest trophy in North American sport, with Earl Grey’s Cup (yes, Earl Grey… although to be nerdy, the tea was named after the 2nd Earl, the cup the 4th) ranking right behind Lord Stanley’s. Now THAT’S a pedigree. So, when July the First rolls around, I’ll be checking out the CFL in the hopes that it can satisfy me in a way that the NFL has not been able to do for years… even though I still love my Bears.
Let me begin my traitorous descent into football adultery with a little something I like to call:
Eric’s Top Ten Reasons why the CFL is cooler than the NFL!
-Number Ten: No Purple Teams
Eight teams. None of them wear purple. No one in History has ever been afraid of the color purple. Purple has been regal, granted, and worn by kings and queens… but kings and queens are often overthrown by groups of pissed-off peasants wearing variations on Poop Brown. Take that as you will. Purple is not a fearsome color, and you can’t take a purple team seriously…even if they stab people in nightclubs.
OH NO HE DI’INT!
(looks better in orange, anyway, tee hee…)
-Number Eight: No Extraneous Teams
Just eight. Maybe nine later. The CFL has tried expanding, even to the US in the 90s… but it just didn’t work. The CFL is meant to be small and intimate, with a rabid fanbase that appears to care more about the game than the bottom line. It’s not meant to have thirty odd teams for each half-decent media market in the country. In fact, it’d be impossible to do such a thing like that in Canada, which brings me neatly to…
-Number Seven: It’s Number Two
Football is not Canada’s number one sport. It might not even be number two. To me, that seems to keep the operation honest: it’s not about ticket sales or merchandise, or at least not as much as the massive conglomerate its American cousin has become. When you’re not the number one sport in the country, you’ve kinda got to work for the small, but loving fanbase you have, which means putting out a quality product that actually is about the product, and not half-assed human interest stories. However…
-Number Six: These Guys Have Other Jobs
There’s an Edmonton Eskimo player who goes back south to his home in America and teaches in the off-season. One of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is on the Canadian Bobsled (or, as the Canucks say, bobsleigh) team for the Vancouver games. This isn’t one of those things where you can’t even play a pickup game because it will violate your contract, and it isn’t one of those deals where we need to pull Katie Couric’s lame ass onto TV to whimper and sob about some multi-millionare giving a few bucks to charity. These guys just do what they do, and they play the game because they love the game.
Yes, that’s an actual watermelon on their heads.
Makes the “Cheesehead” seem plebeian, no?
-Number Five: A Kickass Trophy
As I stated earlier, the Grey Cup is the second oldest trophy in North American sport (and possibly the world) being awarded since 1909. Also, the thing is FRIGGIN HUGE! What is it with these Canadians and gigantic trophies, anyway? As an interesting side note, after his early death, one of the CFL teams got then-owner John Candy’s name posthumously added to the cup’s engraved championship nameplates,. Wayne Gretzky also has his name on the Grey Cup. Awesome. If you don’t know who Wayne Gretzky is, I suggest you go pick up season one of ProStars on DVD…or don’t, because it completely sucks. What was I writing about again?
–Number Four: History
You know this would score high with me. Some of these teams date back to the Little Bighorn, or before. If I remember correctly, the Ti-Cats were first formed as a football club in 1869. That’s four years after the American Civil War ended. I may have to bring in a black man to yell dayumn at that one. Somehow, the Decatur Staleys don’t match up quite as well anymore… but I still love my Bears. Hey, McCaskeys, any chance of moving the Monsters of the Midway into the CFL? How bout the whole NFC North? That would most surely rock.
–Number Three: A Mutant Form of Football
As far as we Yanks are concerned, anyway. In truth, Canadian football is closer to the original ideas of the game, which mutated off of rugby in the 19th Century or so. Only three downs, no tight ends, goal posts in the front of the endzones, quick kicks, drop kicks, twelve men on the field, a bigger field, larger line of scrimmage, smaller, quicker players…this stuff sounds like fun!
You guys are totally late.
-Number Three: Fantastic Team Names
So the NFL has Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons, Ravens, Eagles… how about the Montreal Alouettes? Jaguars, Panthers, Lions… how about the Hamilton Tiger-Cats? Broncos? Pshaw! Gimme the Saskatchewan Roughriders or the Calgary Stampeders! You can keep your Patriots or your Giants, I’ll go and take a look at the Toronto Argonauts. And before you think these are new, hip names trying to sound cool, the Argos have been around since at least 1900, and the newest team is the Alouettes, who actually borrowed the name from an old Montreal team that dates back to the 1800s. Whoever’s thinking up team names in Canada deserves a medal. If nothing else, it makes me want to watch.
–Number One: Doug Flutie, BITCHES
BOW TO YOUR KING, FOOLS!
So Doug Flutie wins the Heisman trophy. No big. He’s a hell of a field general who can heave the ball just as well as he can run with it. But he’s only five foot nine, so most of the NFL gives him the broom as one of those “only good in college” types. He then goes on to the CFL and becomes one of the most prolific quarterbacks in history. OWNED. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, he comes back to the NFL in his late thirties and takes the Buffalo Bills all the way to the playoffs when the tall, dark and handsome USC quarterback fails. To me, this says everything about the NFL these days: it’s all a machine. It’s a business. You can’t play, because of some ridiculous rule. It doesn’t matter if you’re talented enough, we can’t gamble that much money on you. Suddenly, I’m seeing pampered and produced people getting paid millions of dollars… HUNDREDS of millions of dollars… to play a damn game… and it’s all become so pathetically scientific and overwrought with strategy than it’s barely watchable as a game anymore. The NFL reminds me of the singer who has been trained in opera and nothing else for years, and can sing every note perfectly… but he’s so worried about the singing that he forgets to give it soul. The NFL is slowly losing its soul, and I can only hope that the CFL still has a bit of that Bob Dylan/Shane MacGowan essence. Also, that’s probably the first and only time you’re going to see someone use an opera metaphor for the NFL. I’m going over to the CFL, I hope things are a little more fun there…or I at least hope it resembles a game as opposed to an investment. If not… there’s always the semi-pro leagues.
Somewhere, someone’s got to be playing football and having fun… right?
This is a seventh grader. He’s going to have a guaranteed deal with USC.
I may start drinking.