NOT MY WORDS
I never thought this would happen to me, but I’m considering a divorce.
It’s been a long relationship and I have a lot invested in it. But I just can’t take it. I’m not happy. In fact, I can barely stand to be in the same room as the CFL anymore.
The league I used to love has changed so much I don’t recognize it. It started with the challenge flag. If a coach disagrees with certain types of rulings on the field, he can challenge them. Let’s say a pass is ruled incomplete but the coach thinks the ball was caught. He can challenge it. The play is examined by video review and a determination made if there’s enough evidence.
On paper, it’s a sensible thing to do. Referees are not perfect. A missed ruling can change the outcome of a game. Let’s build a safety net.
But at the same time, the league changed the rules to prevent low-scoring games. You can’t hit a quarterback low or high. You can’t touch a receiver beyond the first five yards of the line of scrimmage. This has led to the following absurdity which occurred in the last Roughriders game against Calgary: The Calgary receiver catches a 31-yard pass. The Rider coach thinks it’s incomplete. He challenges the call and wins; the pass wasn’t caught. Then the Stampeders coach throws his tantrum-challenge flag claiming that there was pass interference on the same play. Another review is launched while every beer in the stadium gets a little warmer and little more flat. The challenge is successful.
It’s become a league of time-outs, commercial breaks and TV close-ups of the head referee reporting the slowly-breaking news from the “Command Centre.?
The CFL’s challenge flag has done nothing to improve the officiating, which has to rank as the most incompetent of any professional sport. CFL refs are terrible. They’re not sure what a fumble is. They’re so flag-happy that a defender can be penalized for merely scaring a quarterback.
You’d think the ever-growing list of challengeable plays would eliminate human error and give CFL referees more time to, I don’t know, finally notice that three receivers are crossing the line of scrimmage five seconds before the ball is snapped ON EVERY PLAY.
But instead of CFL referee incompetence determining the game, you have coaches creating opportunities to draw penalties.
As noted by Roughriders coach Chris Jones this week, Calgary is really good at it. They set up plays where receivers do stop-and-go routes, colliding intentionally with the defender. This allows them to cry about pass interference, throw their stupid little challenge flags, stop the game in its tracks and gain a first down they didn’t earn the old fashioned way, which was through the means of athletic endeavour.
But the challenge thing and the wimpy, touch-football rules are really just the start of it. The turnover from year to year and even game to game is another deal breaker. I honestly can’t name a single player on Riders’ defence other than Willie (Offside) Jefferson. And forgive me but I will never, ever get over the numbskull exiling of Weston Dressler.
I guess I’ve fallen out of love with the CFL. As a kid, I used to listen to every blacked-out Rider game on the radio, visualizing The Little General throwing passes and the offensive line opening up gaping holes for George Reed. It’s been a lifelong commitment. But the thrill is gone and if the CFL doesn’t stop being so stupid, I’m going to throw myself into the arms of another league. Hello NFL, wanna go steady?