Pros and cons of life in CFL

September 09, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

What's good and bad about the Canadian Football League as fans await tomorrow's Baltimore-Sacramento game here and, going quickly to the age-old question, will first impressions be lasting or subject to subsequent revision?

Good: Speed of the game and its wide-open concept.

Bad: That more Americans aren't conversant with it.

Good: Opposing linemen are restricted to lining up a yard off the ball, which makes line play more enjoyable instead of seeing two forces colliding in a knot of entangled bodies.

Bad: The term rouge should become passe. It's ambiguous. And this is no rub against what women sometime apply to color their cheeks.

Good: How the kicking game is so important, enabling a team to score points on punts or missed field goals.

Bad: Other than Baltimore, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Shreveport, the rest of the United States virtually ignores what is the highly enjoyable CFL experience.

Good: That the roster limit of 37 means almost every player has to be a well-rounded, more versatile performer than the over-specialized National Football League, which has 53 men per squad.

Bad: Putting expansion teams in Las Vegas and Shreveport, instead of in such places as Milwaukee, Oakland, St. Louis, Memphis and San Antonio (which is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States) creates a minor-league connotation.

Good: The larger field, in both length and width, invites long plays.

Bad: Lack of stable ownerships with some franchises.

Good: Reasonable ticket prices, in many instances half of what the NFL charges.

Bad: Too many commercial signs on the sidelines and scoreboard advertising, which makes for clutter even if it does help pay the bills.

jTC Good: Rollout quarterbacks offer a dimension for spectators that create excitement.

Bad: That so many NFL rejects at cutdown time are picked up by the CFL, which is telling the world their game is inferior. A strict signing deadline date would easily control this migrational aspect and give CFL players, who went through the training camp grind, a certain job protection they deserve.

Good: Realistic salaries, some around $30,000, make the players easy to identify with from the perspective of the working man rather than the inflated figures NFL teams are paying too many over-priced stiffs who draw robust checks and have no influence drawing crowds.

Bad: An import rule that means no more than 17 Americans can play for Canadian teams while U.S. clubs don't have to adhere to the same restrictions. Blatantly unfair.

Good: There's no such thing as a fair catch, but a 5-yard restraining zone must be observed by players covering on kicks, which maximizes the chance for long returns.

Bad: The pattern in the CFL is to play few Sunday dates because it's afraid to take on the NFL in the battle for television audiences.

Good: That the season is over, including the championship Grey Cup, at an appropriate time, Thanksgiving weekend, rather than prolonging the agony into January, which happens in the other league and is a hardship for fans in such frigid places as Chicago, New York, Foxboro, Mass., Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Washington, Kansas City, Denver and Green Bay.

Bad: Players lack name recognition, which is no fault of theirs but merely a fact of football life.

Good: A twice as deep end zone, which enables receivers to come free, instead of having to work within the tight 10-yard confinement the colleges and NFL employ.

Bad: Three downs instead of four. Minimizes the value of the run.

Good: Three downs instead of four. Emphasizes the excitement of playing pitch and catch.

Bad: Televising home games is asking for serious economic trouble. The old truism of "you can't sell it if you're giving it away" applies.

Good: Twenty seconds between plays, as opposed to 35 in the NFL, enhances the flow of the game, adds to point-making potential because defenses don't have time to rest. The CFL is always in a "hurry-up" offensive mode.

Bad: The use of a tee on field goals provides kickers with what seems an artificial advantage.

Good: Larry Smith. The most impressive commissioner in all of sports. He was nine years a CFL player, then a lawyer, holder of a business degree and a former divisional president with Labatt Ltd.

Bad: Fear in the hearts of some Canadians that the league is losing its birthright by awarding franchises to American cities.

Good: That every game is preceded by the national anthems of two great countries. A reciprocal expression of silent, yet neighborly respect, is demonstrated by the crowd when it stands in double tribute. All sports could use more of this.

Bad: Poor crowds in Toronto, one of the outstanding cities on the North American continent, and no longer is there a Montreal franchise.

Good: Such colorful team nicknames as Eskimos, Stampeders, Tiger-Cats, Argonauts, Blue Bombers, Rough Riders, Gold Miners, Posse and even a city that doesn't have one, Baltimore, provide distinctive identities.

Bad: Because it no longer fights the NFL for top draft choices, such as a Billy Vessels, Bob Gain, Johnny Bright and Joe Theismann, all first-rate players who went to Canada, the perception is it's content to deal in "leftovers."

Good: Allowing Baltimore, with its rich pro football tradition, to join the league.

Bad: That more American newspapers fail to enlighten their readers about the wonders of the CFL, which for too long has been a well-kept provincial secret.

Good and Bad: Why Baltimore had to be tramped on by the NFL for it to enjoy the pleasures of the CFL.

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