Hey, uncle Milty just wrote about the very same thing…
No, the Tiger-Cats do not deserve to still have a chance at winning the Grey Cup. And neither, frankly, do the Eskimos.
But isn’t it great that they do?
Aren’t the very traits which the pooh-pooh-razzi mock about the CFL — its compactness and its forgiving playoff structure — the very things which other professional sports leagues are all suddenly seeking in one form another? The opportunity for more late-season hope in more cities, and a better opportunity for fans to identify with the players?
Hockey and baseball have both introduced heavily unbalanced schedules to foster rivalries and develop more familiarity with players. The CFL already has both, and has had them since the modern era began in the 1950s. Maybe the turnover of players is too high, and it is, but because there are so few teams, it’s far simpler for the just-beyond-casual fan to keep track of the CFL players who matter than the players in the 30-plus-team mega-leagues. And every single CFL team has something historically significant with or against every other team in the league. In the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL, some teams have hardly ever played each other.
And down to the wire? The Cats will be 24 hours past the wire, if they win Thursday, before they find out if their season continues, because Edmonton and Calgary play Friday.
• The Argos and Stampeders both play 18th games which are essentially meaningless to them, but are mitigated by the specific opponent: their rival in, respectively, the Battle of Ontario and the Battle of Alberta. Labour Day, and its stand-alone importance, can rarely be recreated but this year it’s happening in both provinces, on the final day of the regular season.
• The Tiger-Cats determined that Kevin Glenn couldn’t help them to a Grey Cup, but now they’re counting upon him (and Drew Tate) to help them onto the road there by beating the Eskimos.
• The Argos got Ricky Ray in the off-season from Edmonton in what, for now, looks like a steal, but may not atone for the theft by starting Ray against the team the Eskimos need them to beat. In football, it’s always been far more about taking care of your own needs than babysitting the competitive integrity of the league.
• While teams in the league to the south, barely past the midway point of their schedule, are pigheadedly sticking with starting quarterbacks who shouldn’t be allowed another snap (hello, Jets), the second-place Stampeders will use their final game as an audition for their playoff starter.
• George Cortez was recalling yesterday that when he was with the 2001 Stampeders, they won the Cup despite going 8-10 during the season. There were bitter howls that they didn’t deserve to be there. But he argues that they finished second in the west and got hot at the right time. The previous year the third place B.C. Lions also had eight wins and won the Cup. And 1981, Ottawa won just five games and reached the Grey Cup game and nearly beat the dynastic Eskimos. So if the Cats survive Thursday and Friday, there’s precedent for them to have a fruitful post season.
• In the interest of fairness, we will mention that the previous point is mostly neutered by this more staggering one: no East division team has finished third and gone on to even qualify for the Grey Cup since the 1970 Alouettes.
By objective measurement, the Tiger-Cats shouldn’t be still alive. But objective measurement is a business or science concept, not an entertainment one. If pro sport was about objectivity, as so many serious analysts would seem to prefer, there would be no fans.
And the fans, the ones who in one form or another pay every single bill in pro sport, are the ones who benefit from three-quarters of the membership making the CFL playoffs. Think anyone wearing green-and-gold or black-and-yellow face paint is criticizing how easy it is to make the playoffs this week?
“It certainly,? Cortez said definitively Monday afternoon, “keeps the interest up.?
[url=http://www.thespec.com/sports/ticats/article/826985--in-the-fan-friendly-cfl-even-mediocrity-can-gain-momentum]http://www.thespec.com/sports/ticats/ar ... n-momentum[/url]