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  • Writer's pictureMarshall Ferguson

Micallef on the CFL's Wake Up Call

On Thursday's edition of Tim and Friends, Tim Micallef used the opening monologue to weave a tapestry of thoughts that is bouncing around all of our heads over the past week with a special focus on you, the hardcore CFL fan who refuses to budge from the belief that everything Canadian must be protected at all costs, possibly even the ultimate sacrifice.

As always, Tim's thoughts were honest, educational, informative and well worth your time.


What is the CFL, if it's not Canadian? It's a question every football fan in this country should be asking themselves after Stephen Brunt came on this very show on Monday and told us that the CFL was much further down the road with the XFL than just, talkin' about talkin'.

Until then, most of the chatter entered around a collab between the two, and people pontificating on what it could be, well kids.. What's being talked about isn't just shared analytics or best practices, it's a merger.

It's a sustainable business model and potentially the loss of the three down game, the ratio, the 55-yard-line and twenty-yard end zones. Essentially everything that makes it Canadian football but please don't get this twisted, I'm Canadian I love football so yes I love the NFL and yes, even here at Rogers I love the CFL. I've covered the game on both sides of the border, multiple Super Bowls , multiple Grey Cups if you don't know now you know.

And I firmly believe that the Canadian game is better than the American game in fact I don't even think it's debatable. No fair catches, the motion, the one yard off the ball, hell even the rouge forces actual game play and most folks who study this thing for a living agree, but if you still need convincing just go back and watch the 2013 Iron Bowl and tell me how you know the rouge sucks.

And if you don't know what the Iron Bowl is or haven't watched the CFL, ignorance is not a defence. Yep, that Auburn Chris Davis play and all of its excitement, that's the CFL.

RPO, run pass option taking over the NFL, decades old in the CFL.

Short athletic Quarterbacks? CFL.

Attacking the edges? CFL.

Short high percentage passes? Bill Walsh, and the CFL.

Undersized slot receivers? The Pats, and the CFL.

Little burners on the edges? CFL.

What does this all mean? Well that all helped the evolution of I don't know, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Julian Edelman, Antonio Brown, hell twenty years ago Lamar Jackson was JUST a CFL Quarterback, but if I can't convince you of this, how the hell are we going to convince Americans to change the game they think they own?

It's a question you have to ask yourself. If the XFL and CFL is indeed a merger, do you really think they're going to play the Canadian game? And if you're still questioning the sanity behind it, I get it. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it and the CFL tried American expansion before, and the lasting memory was less Baltimore Stallions and more, the poor mans John Tesh, that's right ya boy Dennis Casey Parks.

Oh Canada.. Finished strong though!

Three years and a cloud of dust, a couple of Sacramento Gold Miner or Las Vegas Posse references later, most diehard CFL fans thought they were thankfully done with the American pipe dream. Just the memory of Lui Passaglia's game winning field goal with Canadian flags draped all over BC Place and the memory of just how we defended the true football North strong and free.

Highest rated game ever to that point, TSN came along, took Friday Night Football and built a great product. If you don't know the Grey Cup is now among the top ten most watched TV shows in this country almost every year, brand new buildings in Winnipeg, revamped in Ottawa, Regina it's proof we're good right?

Hold on just a second diehards. That saying I busted out for American expansion, 'those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, that just might reference to what happened after the failed US expansion.

Many of us who knew this league was worth having, worth keeping Canadian only came when it was threatened by the Posse, or the Pirates of Shreveport but a generation later there are many who have forgotten that.

Sure there are parts of this country where the game has thrived. I once stood out in front of Taylor Field with Ron Lancaster on game day. It was like standing with the Pope in front of the Vatican, one of the highlights of my career, but it's time that Saskatchewan and parts of Western Canada and all of the little pockets that LOVE the CFL get a look at the forest from the trees.

The game is dying in Toronto, in Vancouver and Montreal has hit the skids and those are the three biggest markets in Canada. The league needs to find a sustainable future and not an every five year bailout. Add a pandemic on top and what the hell did you think we were going to do?

When CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie went hat in hand to the federal government and asked for $150M he was nearly laughed out of the country. He came on this show and others to say maybe that was the wrong approach, or the wrong headline.

There was a media pile on, there was a sports fan pile on and perception was just as important as reality.

I get it, even though others got hefty handouts, the CFL left empty handed and to make matters worse, the ask looked bad, but the end result was even worse than that perception.

By some accounts the league lost $60M-$80M last year and stared down the pipe of whatever the heck this year is going to be, how much more can they lose? I'm here to tell you, not much more and I'm no rocket surgeon. So if you're forced to choose between the XFL/CFL or no football at all in Canada what do you choose? If we have to choose between the history of the Ticats, Roughriders and the Bombers playing four down football or nothing at all, what will you choose?

Listen, It's all well and good that there are people who are yelling and screaming about what the Canadian Football League means to them and how we need the ratio to ensure there are Canadians on the field, that we need the 55-yard-line, or that we need three downs.

What I'm telling you is, it might be too late.

The pandemic has expedited the demise of many things that we have grown up with, that we love and I'm afraid that we waited too long to express our love and support for something that means so much to so many Canadians and whether you like it or not, is something that is distinctly our own.

Even if you hated the CFL admit it, you turn on the Grey Cup and see the snow falling, you smile. I know I do. Look around, every day we see things that make us distinctly Canadian dying by the minute from radio and TV to mom & pop shops in the middle of town getting washed away by powerful American brands.

Given all that you have to wonder is the Canadian Football League next? You also have to wonder if we'll learn to regret it, or embrace it.


Marshall Ferguson is a former U SPORTS Quarterback, CFP Founder, Host & Director of Content. He is the voice of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, analyst and a fan of inside jokes, especially once he gets to be part of one.

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