I was glad to see how the front page of today's Globe and Mail had devoted an eye catching coverage on the CFL.
Basically dealing with the Top 10 kind, meaning there should be some positives as well as the much anticipated negatives, being the general past time and the usual whipping boy of Canadian media against the CFL.
Well, upon further review although some points are relevant and no doubt true, everyting is negative.
One look at the authors, Stephen Brunt and David Naylor and there is your answer. Brunt has been nothing short of abysmal in his negative slant on the league for the good little while. Meanwhile, Naylor has not been too far behind in a similar vain.
Here is the story, make up your own mind.
10 QUANDARIES FOR 3-DOWN FOOTBALL
DAVID NAYLOR AND STEPHEN BRUNT
By the wild and woolly standards of the Canadian Football League, this year's Grey Cup week will surely seem dead calm.
At times in the past as the grand old game prepared to award its championship mug, league commissioners were being hired and fired, ambitious expansion plans were being hatched or were collapsing, wacky club owners were plotting coups, cash calls were being made to pay the bills and tickets were being hustled in desperate attempts to fill an embarrassingly empty stadium.
On the surface, none of that will be taking place in Winnipeg. Though commissioner Tom Wright will be making his farewell address on Friday after being handed his walking papers last spring, there's no hint yet of who might replace him. Returning a team to Ottawa, which seemed like a front-burner issue immediately after the Renegades breathed their last, is no longer such a high priority. It appears that the eight-team league will remain so, at least for the time being. And the announcement of a new television deal, one that might reshape the economics of the sport, is imminent, but isn't expected before the Montreal Alouettes and B.C. Lions kickoff the 2006 title game on Sunday. Beyond that, no bankruptcies loom. No one is suggesting it's time to put a team in Halifax or Honolulu. No Gliebermans are being welcomed back into the fold.
But the truth is, the CFL faces a series of fundamental questions now that, in their own way, are as crucial as those that were being asked during more obvious times of crisis.
10 QUANDARIES FOR 3-DOWN FOOTBALL
Beneath the placid surface, behind Wright's winning smile, Canadian football is at a crossroads on several fronts, DAVID NAYLOR and STEPHEN BRUNT write.
The answers to these 10 questions will go a long way toward deciding its future:
- Who's the boss?
With Tom Wright's term about to end, there's no indication the league knows whom or what it wants in its next commissioner. Or, some would ask, whether it needs one at all? Some see it as a purely a ceremonial position, with no real decision-making power. Others believe there's no point hiring a commissioner without giving him the power to blow up the league's business model.
- What's the vision for the future?
Over the past 15 years, the CFL has been constantly striving to become something else. There was the U.S. expansion phase and the radically Canadian notion, followed by the goal of becoming a 10-team league stretching from coast to coast. That's now a pipe dream. Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall, for one, wants the league to expand into cities such as Rochester, N.Y., and Fargo, N.D. So what exactly does the CFL want to be?
- What's on the television horizon?
The CFL is in the midst of negotiating a new television deal that many throughout the league believe will bring significantly more revenue its way. The league has been a strong property during the regular season, with its playoffs and Grey Cup anchoring its value. But with ratings down this season, what's driving this notion that the league is about to hit the television jackpot? And could it mean selling all of its advertising properties to the networks in order to drive up the overall price?
- Whither Ottawa?
The CFL announced its intention to return to Ottawa even before the smoke had cleared from last spring's collapse of the Renegades' franchise. Not everyone in the league was on board, however, then or now. Many see no point riding back into a market where teams have twice collapsed within the past decade and few fans seem to miss the game. There's one group at the table still talking about 2008. But unless the league gets a sweetheart deal, it's not going back to Ottawa any time soon.
- Does a $4.05-million salary cap make good business sense?
The CFL will debut its new salary cap next season. But in a league where most clubs continue to lose money, some wonder how that's going to change with player payrolls of more than $4-million. Just four years ago, the CFL was trying to operate with a $2.5-million cap. How it managed to increase that figure by 60 per cent in an environment with no inflationary pressure has many shaking their heads.
- What happened to all the fun?
There's no overstating how drastically the CFL's entertainment value dipped this year. The number of touchdowns was down, the number of field goals and penalties was up and big kick returns became nearly extinct. Most regular-season games varied from dull to unwatchable. The league intends to revisit the changes it made to blocking rules on returns. But it's going to have serious issues if it can't find a way to make the restore the entertainment value of its product next season.
- What are the prospects for the 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto?
It's been 14 years since the CFL last dared to stage its big show in the Big Smoke. The 1992 Grey Cup week was a disaster, which is way the league cancelled plans to stage the '93 game in Toronto and moved it to Calgary. Now, it's back -- with a lot riding on its success for both the league and the Toronto Argonauts' owners, who also own rights to the 2012 Grey Cup, the 100th anniversary game. A good show would be a boon to the league's biggest market, but a flop would be a killer to a club trying to keep its off-field momentum going.
- What's the fan backlash going to be like in Hamilton?
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats created a lot of new fans when owner Bob Young took over three years ago and their attendance soared. But they've put fans through two of the most dreadful CFL campaigns in memory, 4-14 in 2006 and 5-13 in 2005. Fans were fed up this season and some were becoming cynical. How cynical will determine whether they come back next year.
- Where are all the quarterbacks?
Ten years ago, the CFL's quarterback stable looked something like this: Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Matt Dunigan, Damon Allen, Danny McManus, Kent Austin and David Archer. This season, just one quarterback -- Ricky Ray of the Edmonton Eskimos -- was nominated as his team's top player. The roster of up-and-comers doesn't get anyone excited. The CFL no longer can count on scooping up the athletic quarterbacks the National Football League used to shun. So who is going to make up the next generation of pivots?
- Is the threat of the National Football League real?
New NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has quickly proven he's not beholden to the views and ideas of his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue. Which is why the NFL might not be so opposed to one of its franchises relocating north of the border. There are those within the CFL who believe that day is coming and its best course is to make a deal with the NFL today that would protect the Canadian game's existence in the future.
Stephen Brunt, Allan Maki and David Naylor begin their Grey Cup blog today,
and will file from the streets of Winnipeg throughout the week at: GLOBESPORTS.COM