More like ‘Great Cup’!
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Winning the Grey Cup, Canada’s most prestigious trophy for football excellence, is a great achievement. To be the best at anything is certainly nothing to shake a fist at, and despite the CFL’s small size, the Grey Cup is no exception.
The most common shot taken at the difficulty (or lack thereof) of taking home the CFL’s top prize has to do with the number of teams competing. In an eight-team league where only two clubs don’t make the playoffs, how hard could it possibly be to repeat as champions? If statistics have anything to say about it: quite difficult. Only 15 teams have won championships in back-to-back seasons over the 99-year history of the league, and just three teams in the last 25 years. Interesting. In a world where seemingly every sports league strives for parity, the CFL appears to have just that. Any team has a shot at the title each and every year. Looking back at last season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers managed to get to the Grey Cup, but do you remember where they were the season before? They put up all of four wins. Good enough for last place in the entire league.
Closely related to the previous point, there is another championship with few competitive teams, but no one has ever called it out to not be such an accomplishment. Ever watched hockey at the Olympics? Or the World Championships? There are 12 and 16 teams in these tournaments respectively, but, in all honesty, only seven teams have a chance, unless you’re enough of an idealist to think that Italy or Latvia and the like genuinely could win. Since the only real difference I can see here is the number of teams competing, perhaps that is what the CFL needs in order to be considered legitimate. Just add some cannon fodder. They don’t need to actually play; just be there.
In an eight-team league where only two clubs don’t make the playoffs, how hard could it possibly be to repeat as champions? If statistics have anything to say about it: quite difficult.
The talent level is another issue often brought up. Another non-issue to anyone who takes a few moments to think about it. Excluding those players who come out of a junior football league (e.g. current Lion’s running back, Andrew Harris), each player has come out of a university/college football program, often on a scholarship. Scholarships aren’t given out willy nilly; these are top athletes. Generally the main reason players end up in the CFL instead of the NFL is because they’re considered too small for the American game. Size however, except in the cases of offensive and defensive linemen, is highly overrated. Take a look at Doug Flutie. He won the Heisman (best college player in the country) and then was virtually ignored due to his stature. After never being given a true chance, and bouncing from the Bears to the Patriots, Flutie took his talents up north to the CFL, dominated for several seasons, and then returned to the NFL and showed how irrelevant tape measures are in terms of calculating ability.
One final note on winning the Grey Cup is to remember that this is still football. Players are still going out there and putting their bodies on the line. Injuries are a part of the game, not merely possibilities. If you want to stand there and tell a fellow who just tore a vital ligament/muscle/tendon that the prize he’s vying for isn’t a great accomplishment, be my guest.
The Grey Cup; hardly an accomplishment
By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
I’ll never forget when I went to Montreal last year for the national conference for all of the post-seconday newspapers across Canada. There were lectures every day from all sorts of public speakers which ranged from all sections; news to arts to sports, etc. I decided to drop in on the sports seminar where a Montreal Gazette reporter was discussing how daily life is with his job. He was talking about how he wakes up early in the morning, goes out to the Montreal Canadiens practices, and then goes down to the dressing rooms and asks the players questions. He would do this on a routine basis with specific deadlines of when articles were due throughout the day. One deadline I can recall is after a hockey game would finish—around 9:15—9:30ish—the deadline for the article about the game would be due by midnight. Anyways, after discussing all of this and acknowledging the fact that Montreal is a hockey mad city, even more-so than Vancouver, and the pressure that is on the Canadiens to be successful is beyond ridiculous, he brought up the topic of the Grey Cup and how the Alouettes won it a few months ago.
I recall him saying, “We won the Grey Cup… but who really cares?” The room exploded with laughter, it seemed like everyone was on the same page, I couldn’t agree with him more.
Winning the Grey Cup is equivalent to a Saturday night where you’re hanging around with your friends with nothing to do and all of a sudden you get a text message from someone you know saying there’s a huge party and to bring everyone. You go to the party, walk in, and it’s bumpin’ with great music and what not. And then someone offers you free beer for the rest of the night.
Yes, it’s awesome at the time, but afterwards… who really cares? It’s no Stanley Cup. And that has to be expected in a city like Vancouver where we live eat and breathe hockey. It’s almost a religion.
Although when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t seem like such a big prize, does it?
It might have something to do with how the CFL is constructed. There are only eight teams in the league and out of those eight teams six go on to advance into the playoffs. Once in the playoffs the top-seeded teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences get a bye into the Conference Finals while the other teams play each other in the Semi-finals. The winner of the semi-finals plays the top seeded teams in the Conference finals, and then the winners of the conference finals meet up in the Grey Cup.
Each round is only one game. One game to win the semi’s, one game to win the conference finals, and one game to win the Grey Cup. And if you’re that team that finished as the top seed in your respected conference than all it takes is two wins to take it all home.
The big prize.
There’s only eight teams in the entire league and without the choice of adding teams into the CFL—which looks like it won’t be happening at any time soon—why not lengthen the playoffs and make each round a series? Now I’m not saying a best-of-seven games series but something even as minimal as best-of-three games. First team to win two games advances on to the next round. That would at least make the Grey Cup somewhat of a challenge, and would spark up rivalries between teams. It’s not the most dramatic change and at this point seems to be the most realistic which would bring a lot more respect towards the game, where there has to be a change, especially in cities where hockey is the favourite.