It's becoming something of a tradition at the start of recent seasons, for the Tigercats to end up losing hard fought contests and commence struggling for the rest of the season. I've routinely read the analysis in the past in the sport pages, which trundled a succession of headlines, such as:
" Crisis looming! /Can the Cats save the season? / Cats in desperate crisis!!/ Why did the Cats fail and how can they become successful?"
(Prior to the arrival of Bob Young, it was more a matter of: Can the Hamilton Tigercats survive?)
Even after two defeats this season, I heard a TV commentator talk of a possible crisis looming in Hamilton. Now, after three defeats, I'd like to address this problem of teams facing ever mounting pressure so early in the season, if they start with a losing streak. ( bearing in mind that if the Cats were winning, then some other team may be in a losing streak.)
Firstly, this is a CFL problem, which at this time is also, potentially, an ongoing problem for the Tigercats. Secondly, success is crucial for the CFL and all its teams. At this time Ottawa is steeped in crisis and the return of football to Ottawa is possible, but not certain. Also, it's not so long ago that the Argos and the Cats were struggling to survive after disappointing seasons.
In the CFL, as with the NFL, teams play for play off positions, then compete in knockout games to reach the Grey Cup/ Superbowl. Both leagues use variations of this structure. The overwhelming difference between the two leagues is financial. I imagine that one team in the NFL has a bigger budget the all CFL teams combined. Why is affluence important? The NFL is a hugely successful sports business operation. Therefore, if a team gets in trouble, the whole of the NFL is healthy/wealthy enough to take corrective measures.
The CFL could not rescue and sustain the Ottawa team this year. The league is simply not affluent enough to do that. So, instead of concentrating on expansion, the League has lost a team and seeks stable ownership.
Stable ownership is clearly vital to the success of all CFL teams. (Where would the Cats be now, without a patient and enterprising owner in Hamilton?) However,I believe the CFL could do much more allieviate the stress and potential for disaster of a team having a awful losing streak.
THE CFL HAS ALL OF ITS EGGS IN ONE BASKET. Everything is played for the Grey Cup. However, lose 17, like Hamilton did a couple of years ago and EVERYTHING"S GREY and the team, and its fans are utterly dejected. Crisis is upon us!
I believe that THE CFL COULD FOSTER GREATER STABILITY AND SUCCESS, IF IT CHANGED ITS FORMAT. I'm advocating elongating the season somewhat. I think the CFL should consider having an early season cup. I propose that Canada day would be an excellent date to showcase and celebrate Canadian football.
There's nothing wrong with celebrating it twice a year!
There are a number of possible formats which could be uesed for this new cup competition. I favour a home and away round robin series within each conference ( because there would be less travelling, games could be scheduled closer together). Thereafter, there could be a final game between the top East team and the top West team. Alternatively, there could be a Eastern Cup and a Western Cup, giving two finals on Canada Day.
I'm not an expert scheduler, but I imagine that the season would commence around the middle of May to get those eight round robin games in (in a ten team league). As I mentioned, travel and time change would be much less with intra conference play).
There is potential for more sponsorship revenue for the CLF and further TV contracts, as well as more club revenue. May has crowd friendly weather and great football playing conditions. THe clubs could also probably enjoy the opportunity to start the first six weeks with a longer roster, allowing them to try out new players more effectively.
How would this proposed new format help a team which started with a losing streak? Firstly, after Canada Day, all the teams would start with a clean sheet. In a five team conference (For example), Hamilton would play eight games in this "Canada Day" Cup competition. This new early season format would allow the coaching staff to try different personnel or tactics, or fine tune and persevere. They could do so without the intense pressure which they contend with under the present format. Also, if they don't make the final or one of the finals on Canada Day, they would probably have a week to ten days to prepare for the Grey Cup campaign.
So: an early season cup competition! Conference rivalries would be sharp. The fans would be excited and entertained. Interest in the early season would be raised considerably. There would have to be some scheduling changes to get the games in for the Grey Cup. Perhaps there's room to lengthen the season by having the Grey Cup a little later. The Grey Cup would still be THE PRIZE, to sustain it's long and distinguished history. However, that could be upheld, but positive changes could also take place.
All in all,, I believe that changes along these lines would benefit the CFL by improving revenues and team prospects for football success and stability.