Great season, this one. We have six legitimate contenders for the Grey Cup, and at least four coaches vying for Coach of the Year. This year’s championship is going to be hard-earned, well deserved, and some worthy clubs are going home empty.
Whoever said life was fair, had to work for the CFL. The crossover playoff format makes it possible for a deserving team in one division to cross over to the other division come playoff time if it has achieved a better record during the regular season. That’s only just. However, what is equal is sometimes inequitable, and even, perhaps, unwise.
Once more this year, two eastern clubs will be playing out the string - a number of meaningless games - from about mid-September until the regular season’s end in November. The final weekends of the season, when the best, regional clashes are set to occur, will be moot. Hamilton and Montreal are going to the dance; Toronto and Ottawa are going home. In those two markets, NFL and NHL are going to eclipse CFL interest: not a good thing.
It’s hard for me to argue a point that I feel in my heart but can’t put adequately into words. The Ottawa Renegades finished third in the East in 2003 and 2005 but lost out to a crossover team. The Renegades club folded after 2005. What might a playoff encounter, and possibly even a playoff win, have done for that team’s survival?
If the CFL and its fans truly want the entire league to survive, it is going to take a review of the crossover playoff format. Yes, it’s fair, but it is costing bums in seats in key demographics.
Divisional, regional rivalries are good business. A pair of Ottawa at Toronto games in October ought to be important, even if “merely” a battle for third place. Meaningful games draw crowds. And listen to the coaches who say, “We’re not overly concerned with the record.” Right they are. The crossover blows, and kills interest in the East. Abandon it, and return to regionally focused rivalries, like this weekend’s Labour Day matches.