CFL not perfect, but its action surpasses NFL

October 14, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

What the Canadian Football League lacks is understanding and acceptability. From a positive standpoint, the most important thing it offers is a quality product at an affordable price. It also has family appeal. Few other sports are able to make the same claim since, by hook or crook, they have an unrelenting motivation to rob the public by escalating the cost of tickets.

This is not to suggest the CFL doesn't have problems. The CFL is major league north of the border, where it has played for 101 years, but unfortunately it is perceived as something less than that elsewhere.

America is a country overly conscious of labels, be it a logo on a jacket, the car parked out front or the college a son or daughter attends. Too bad. Names and reputations can be misleading, which is why the National Football League, perceived as some kind of an irresistible colossus, is vastly overrated.

Take a look at last week's games in the CFL:

Calgary 28, Ottawa 24; Edmonton 33, Hamilton 32; Winnipeg 38, Shreveport 22; Vancouver 23, Saskatchewan 22; Sacramento 34, Toronto 32; Baltimore 22, Las Vegas 16.

Now for a contrast with the NFL, which offered such bland, or one-sided, goings-on as:

New York Jets 16, Indianapolis 6; Chicago 17, New Orleans 7; Dallas 38, Arizona 3; Denver 16, Seattle 9; San Diego 20, Kansas City 6.

In some instances the fans should have petitioned for a refund.

Reiterating, the slogan, "Pro Football -- The Greatest Entertainment Buy In Sports Today," no longer applies to the NFL. Since this reporter conceived that line for the NFL, he hereby exercises right of ownership by transferring it to the CFL. But hold on. The NFL may attempt to claim it by the same sense of false testimony it used in attempting to assert control of the name Baltimore Colts.

Such an action, stealing Baltimore's good name, notifies the free world how low the NFL has regressed. Suddenly, instead of class and dignity, it's a disgrace to itself. Let's relay a cross-section of opinion as to how Baltimore views the CFL now that it has been with us for more than half a season.

From Don Kelly comes this reaction: "Every NFL game looks alike. The same formations, the same plays. What a bore. Turn on TV and too many games appear to be something you've seen before. The CFL has far more imagination."

Lenny Moore, Hall of Fame Baltimore Colt: "What you have in the CFL is a terrific show. My wife, Edith, and I have become tremendous fans. The wide-open offense keeps bringing us back to the stadium. What I've see I like."

John Unitas, Hall of Fame Baltimore Colt: "It's fun. The important thing to me is the fans enjoy it. That's the bottom line."

And from Gerry Sandusky, sports director of WBAL-TV, the son of a former NFL head coach, comes this appraisal: "I love the game and love the show. For a while there was something I couldn't put my finger on. Now I think I have it. For the CFL to become a tradition, I believe each team needs four or five players with household names the public can relate to when it watches games. I can't say enough about Jim Speros and the job that's been done bringing the CFL to Baltimore."

Scott Garceau, sports director of WMAR-TV, who grew up watching the Green Bay Packers when they were the best football had to offer, furnishes another interesting perspective: "I would have to say I'm almost overcome by the reception afforded the CFL. Imagine drawing crowds over 40,000 while we were televising the games [locally]. Had someone told me that a year ago I would have questioned their sanity.

"The enthusiasm in Baltimore underscores what a great football town this is. I think seeing games in the old stadium offers a certain charm. I've told people all along if they give the CFL a chance, they'll love it."

A similar reaction comes from Dan Tabler, retired editor of the Queen Anne County Record-Observer, who says, "I know what the Colts meant. They were great. But don't undersell the CFL. I drive over 50 miles each way to the stadium and the speed of the game keeps you interested. The NFL takes forever to start a play; the CFL does it in 20 seconds."

So, with better than half of Baltimore's first CFL season logged in the record book, there's reason to continue to be enthusiastic for a game that offers excitement -- not boredom -- as its primary ingredient.

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