FROM THE CHEAP SEATS: Canada, Tom sucks!

I guess I’m unpatriotic. Though, born and raised in Canada-and a lifelong fan of the gridiron game-I have never made a secret of my disdain for this country’s knock-off brand of football or its ramshackle convening body, the Canadian Football League. What mystifies me most about the CFL isn’t its poor management, weak talent pool, inferiority complex or laughable quality of play. These things I understand. I am confounded by the fact that, in spite of all these problems, people actually enjoy this stuff. Believe it or not, the CFL has many fans. Though watching this tripe in minus-28 degree weather doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities, I know people who squirm with excitement just at the thought. May the Lord have mercy on their souls.After my attempts at letting sanity prevail, invariably the intransigent lover of single points and cumbersomely large pigskins will ask me whether I’ve ever actually watched a full game-surreptitiously assuming that I’ll instantly fall in love with this Canuck junk once I do. Mostly out of protest, but partially because of my short attention span, I’ve always responded sheepishly that, despite my best efforts, I had never seen an entire match. I have now rendered that argument null and void. I viewed every last excruciating moment of Friday night’s snowy mid-September match-up between the Calgary Stampeders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Some things I noticed: 1. There is actually a CFL player named Tom Canada. It’s not too good to be true. He plays defensive end for the Blue Bombers. I like to think that his parents uncovered a World War II-era propaganda comic at the exact moment of their son’s naming.  Except for the fact that was born in Iowa!2. You know that curious play where the kicking team can get a single point even if it screws up? Apparently, they don’t call them “rouges” anymore. What a shame; it truly incorporated the unique bilingualism of Canada. Sadly, Francophones can no longer fête their favourite team scoring a “red”.  3. Bluebomber’s cornerback Robert Bean picked off a pass in the end zone and was pushed out of bounds. How come that’s not worth a point? Consistency people, please. 4. Announcers Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor were acting like a couple of codgers over last week’s touchdown celebration by the Stampeders. TSN replayed the clip and it was quite possibly the most amusing thing a CFL broadcast has ever known. Receiver Elijah Thurman teamed up with the other wideouts and used the track that surrounds Commonwealth Stadium’s football field to run a mock 4 x 100 relay, with the football as the baton. It was brilliant. Personalities are what keep us watching: Everybody knows Warren Sapp despite the fact most NFL teams have a better defensive tackle. Market the entertainment, folks. 5. The CFL promises scoring and wide-open play. On a night when one team scored 43 points, the pace was lethargic-I can only imagine what a low-scoring contest must be like! All that punting seems to be the culprit; the three-down format requires frequent changes of possession- it’s not the teams’ faults.6. Wait, maybe it is their fault! I noted three times in the first half where Winnipeg ran the ball on first and second down, then punted. Infuriating!7. The quality of play is remarkably lousy. Passes routinely sailed yards away from their targets and there were several big gains that were only permitted by shoddy tackling, including one where Bombers defenders missed Stamps RB Joffrey Reynolds six times before bringing him down.8. Though the score was 43-9 after two late scores by the Stamps, some 30,000 hardy fans were still sitting in the stadium, despite the blustery winds and sub-zero temperatures. This was oddly reassuring; Instead of concluding that the sport must be worth braving these conditions, I was more convinced than ever that there was something wrong with them and not me.  Either way, I did it. I actually made it through all four harrowing quarters. Should someone engage in the CFL versus NFL debate again, I can now defend my contempt for the CFL with a little more credibility. More than ever, I have little doubt in my ability to settle the dispute once and for all. Unless, of course, my opponent pulls out the ultimate trump card: What else is there to do in Calgary, Winnipeg or Regina on a Friday night?

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