I’ll get this out of the way early — I was wrong about the Calgary Stampeders. The Stamps won the 106th Grey Cup on Nov. 24, beating the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16 to win the championship. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very good game. Ottawa was terrible, and the field was slippery and in horrible condition.
However, I feel it’s pressing to defend the CFL and the loveable, quirky tradition that is the Grey Cup. It seems to me that the CFL has lost some ire in the eyes of sports fans the last couple years, although that could be because I haven’t lived in a CFL-crazed town in a while. Still, these things happen and I’m not worried about the longevity of the league or its popularity.
But for some reason, when my friends heard that I was going to watch the Grey Cup this weekend, they all felt the need to say things like, “Nobody watches the Grey Cup anymore,” or, “Who cares, I didn’t even know the Grey Cup was happening today.” I could chalk that up to ignorance, but I’ll add some nuance for the sake of this column.
First, non-sports fans or people who don’t watch football don’t have anything bad to say about the CFL that they wouldn’t also say about the NFL. But many NFL fans in Canada feel the need to always remind me that the CFL sucks, is a sub-par league, and that its players aren’t good enough to play in the NFL.
These aren’t exactly keen observations. While there are plenty of diehard CFL fans who think the league is better than the NFL, more entertaining, and a better product, I think they’re extremely wrong. But that’s fine, I’m all for people enjoying whatever sports they like.
I have never said the CFL is better than the NFL, that the players are really good, or that the TV broadcasts are better, because it’s not true. But the CFL is still great. It’s small time, it’s more of an independent thing, and it’s distinctly Canadian. The league gives the same amount of exposure to the winner of the Most Valuable Canadian award following the game as it does to the MVP, for crying out loud. That’s enough to earn it a special place in my heart.
Watching a CFL game on its own is fun. It’s OK if people don’t like it, but I don’t need it to be the same as NFL. Diversity and variety are good things, even when it comes to football. I know that nobody has ever used diversity to refer to the different rules of the NFL and CFL but please cut me some slack.
What bothers me most is that liking the CFL is supposed to be an insult. As if it’s not cool or acceptable to like something less popular, and you should be ashamed of going against the grain.
I’m a proud defender of the CFL. I’ll admit my CFL fandom has been pretty stagnant as of late, and that any CFL game not named the Grey Cup loses priority to regular season NFL games, but that’s OK. It doesn’t take away from the countless memories I have of singing the Edmonton Eskimos fight song at the end of every third quarter.
“We’ll tell the world we’re proud of Edmonton, and the Edmonton Eskimos!” the song goes. Well, I’m proud of the Esks and the CFL, and I wont stop telling that to the world.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.