I know that most people around here are VERY possessive of the CFL and all its quirks, and I’ve been a devoted fan for roughly 40 years and across three CFL cities. But, there isn’t much going on in the league right now, and as I watch NFL/NCAA football instead, I find myself often thinking of the best and worst parts of each variant as a fan.
So, looking at the major differences, here is my ideal combination. If anyone else thinks about this stuff too, I’d be curious to see what you all think. If you choose to respond, no fence straddling! You have to pick one or the other.
Field size – American. The smaller field seems to make things happen faster, and allows less room for error. If nothing else, I prefer the smaller American endzones. Touchdowns are supposed to be difficult.
Play clock – Canadian. Although it was fun to watch Peyton Manning change the entire world before the play started, the American play clock seems to take forever, especially toward the game’s end.
Kicking rules – American*. Fair catches are lazy and dull, but no-yards penalties are far too common and too reliant on random bounces that leave a defender in a “bad luck” position that’s impossible for him to resolve in time. A rule that has a luck component is goofy, and it’s also impossible to accurately police in real time. To pick just one, I’d pick American, but it’s a tough decision.
The rouge – American*. Why are kickers rewarded with a point for missing field goals in Canada? You miss, you get nothing. I do like the single point for punts and kickoffs, though, because it can add a significant strategic component. If I had to pick just one, I’d pick American, because there should be no way to win a game by missing a kick.
Downs – Canadian. Four downs allow for lazy first and even second down play calling. There’s rarely any sense of urgency on American first downs, which makes the Canadian version much more fun to play and watch.
One yard neutral zone – American. I’m tired of seeing goal-line stands ruined because a defensive player was two inches less than a yard away. The same thing can happen under American rules, but I’m not a fan of anything that requires the player to perform measurements in the heat of battle (see: no yards). Plus, I suspect that linemen suffer from a higher concussion risk under Canadian rules, because there is more momentum involved.
Catch rules – Canadian. I like the idea of one receiver’s toe winning the Grey Cup. Two feet down requires more skill and body control, but it’s less entertaining as a fan.
Game timing – Canadian. Nothing worse than 1:00 left and the game is practically over. Canadian rules in a landslide.
Timeouts – Canadian. Timeouts are for emergencies in Canadian ball and for strategy in American. Three time outs per half are too many, but one is too few. So, I guess I’d like to see two per half so that there’s some strategy involved. To pick just one, I choose Canadian because anything that keeps the game rolling is good.
Video reviews – American. Reviews should cover obvious, objective things. Was he in bounds? Yes or no. Was his knee down before the fumble? Yes or no. There are callable penalties on every play, and I don’t like the fact that a game (or season) can change because a defender’s hand brushed the quarterback’s helmet to an extent that was only visible in super slow mo.
Goal post location – American. The posts get in the way of Canadian football too often, and not in an exciting way. And, I have a constant feeling that someone is going to get really hurt one of these days with an immovable object right in the middle of the play area. Plus, it makes field goals harder. I suspect that the CFL will eventually move them to the back, perhaps after something goes really wrong.
Offensive motion – Canadian*. I like the unlimited vertical motion, but with an asterisk. I’d like to see the rule changed to call offside if any part of the player passes the scrimmage plane before the snap. Too often, receivers are running at full speed and are at least a yard offside in the air, but aren’t called because there’s no foot down. But, no fence straddling! So, I pick Canadian.