This year, the Canadian Football League celebrates its 100th Grey Cup season, marking the centennial of one of the world’s oldest sporting championships.
The trophy itself has survived a devastating fire, been stolen and held for ransom, and broken on four occasions by over-excited victors. It witnessed a player nearly drown during the 1950 Mud Bowl, and many championships played through snow, fog, wind, and ice.
Canada Post released a series of CFL stamps for the occasion, and perhaps you’ve found the Grey Cup loonie in your change. Even an official Grey Cup 100 Train is touring Canada coast-to-coast, commemorating the trophy in a journey akin to the Olympic torch relay.
The CFL’s motto is “This is Our Game”—but despite the league’s rich history and massive effort into the centennial event, many football fans in Canada remain thinking…so what?
The CFL does have a loyal support and rabid following among Canadians, yet many still prefer the National Football League from south of the border. In fairness, the NFL has much to offer: higher quality players, more strategic plays, and four times the number of franchises. The Canadian version simply lacks the revenue to sign marquee players and a populated country to expand into an additional 24 cities.
Rarely does the CFL have a player the calibre of the NFL—and when such a player is produced he usually tries out for an American team. That superstar-dome is a major driving factor for attracting fans, including VIU student Myles Vaillancourt, who became a Miami Dolphins fan when one of his favourite quarterbacks was traded there.
“[I became a Dolphins fan] because Daunte Culpepper went there. I started following them and stuck with them,” Vaillancourt says. Owner of two Culpepper jerseys, the first-year Criminology student also has Miami jerseys of superstars Cam Wake, Chad Henne, and the legendary Dan Marino.
The league does what it can to compete with its American rival by branding itself as an exciting game with more entertainment value. A larger field and one less down to work with force quarterbacks to take chances with the ball, rather than running a series of safe plays. And with rules modified to favour the offense, the CFL has become known as the “anything can happen” league.
Many football fans do not see this as a merit however, wondering what the point of playing an entire game is for it to usually be won in the final minutes. While the relaxed rules create higher scores and excitement, they also have some fans calling the CFL a “bush league.”
“There’s only eight teams— it’s not as competitive, and any team can make the playoffs,” commented Vaillancourt on the smaller CFL. Simply put, he prefers the NFL because “there are more teams, more excitement, and more action.”
As some Canadians will follow the Grey Cup Train coverage this fall, many more will be keeping track of the New York Jets’ quarterback controversy or the NFC West division championship.