Watching them switch divisions is like being at centre court
watching a tennis ball travel back and forth over the net.
Maybe we should stop until the league expands to 10 teams.
Does anybody have any strong opinions on this?
Here is some food for thought from a player's perspective.
If Ottawa's In Again, Are We West Again?
Winnipeg Free Press Tue 30 Jan 2007
Section: Sports Byline: Doug Brown
THE news late last week from the Ottawa Citizen that Bill Palmer's group is seemingly only a board of governors' vote away from having the Ottawa Renegades reinstated for the 2008 season leaves five of us who have been with the Bombers since 2001 or earlier (Milt Stegall, Troy Westwood, Jamie Stoddard, Charles Roberts and myself) at the precipice of a unique accomplishment in the world of professional sport.
If the deal for the reinstatement of the Renegades goes down as expected and the CFL follows form, you can expect the head office to ask the Blue Bombers
to return to the Western Conference in 2008, just
like the last time Ottawa entered the league in 2002.
That would make the five of us the first players in the history of sport to have journeyed back and forth between two divisions four times in only eight seasons while on the same team.
Of course, it's not the greatest or most notable of records, but you take what you can get in the doldrums of the off-season.
It's easy to remember the last time we were in the Eastern division because it was 2001 and we compiled a 14-4 record en route to a Grey Cup appearance in Montreal. In 2002, we switched to the West, where we
spent the 2002, '03, '04 and '05 seasons before once again reverting to the East with the suspension of the Renegades in 2006.
In a league that would once again end up with nine teams in 2008, the reasons for the Blue Bombers to switch back to the West are not necessarily clear to me. Until a tenth team is added from either Atlantic Canada or somewhere in Quebec to balance the league, one division is sure to always be unbalanced and have five teams.
Where does it say that this always has to be the West?
The decision should be left up to the franchise and the players who signed with a team they thought was in the Eastern division, at least until a tenth team is added and the logic of geography takes precedence over any competitive advantage.
That competitive advantage has been considerable of late, as the Western division has been a dominant force in the CFL when it comes both to championships and competitions between the divisions. Is it a
coincidence that in the last two seasons in the East (2001 and 2006), the Bombers have a combined record of 23-13, but in our last two seasons in the West (2004 and 2005) we were 12-24?
Admittedly, these statistics are being spun as I see fit and the two Eastern years and teams are five seasons apart. Yet as a player, I can wholeheartedly attest to the fact that the East is measurably softer than the West.
It's not that the Blue Bombers couldn't dominate the West like they have at times in the East, but why should we -- if we don't have to -- go out of our way to make things harder for ourselves?
It seems almost a league requirement that the worst team in the CFL reside in the East and hand out wins like candy at Halloween every eason. This may not seem like a big deal in an environment with only eight (or nine) teams, but when you play one or two extra games a year against a team like Ottawa or Hamilton, those one or two wins can be the difference between a playoff game at home or on the road.
There are those in CFL circles and the fan base who are convinced that we are, in essence and positioning, a western province. Yet every time I look at a map of Manitoba, and specifically Winnipeg, it appears to me that we are about as central to North America and Canada as you can get, and there is no central division in the CFL.
Furthermore, jumping back and forth from division to division is something of a pain, not only to a franchise but to its roster. It wreaks havoc on sales, marketing, rivalry formulations, and possibly even the player composition of a team, as teams can be designed to predominantly exploit matchups within a conference.
Lyle Bauer, president and CEO of the football club, remarked that while "it is a bit premature to have that discussion, history has shown that the Bombers support the CFL, and have on many occasions. If the situation manifests itself, then I'm sure a conversation will be held. However, everyone needs to recognize that there are costs to a franchise bouncing from division to division."
Costs which the last time around amounted to some $700,000 from the other teams in the CFL to cover these inconveniences and strategic disadvantages.
Which is one more reason why, should the Renegades re-enter the fray in 2008, the CFL should consider letting the Blue Bombers and its players decide where we want to play the majority of our games.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.