Notebook – November 17, 2006

Grey Cup coverage, ten CFL questions, instant replay and more in this special Grey Cup edition of the Notebook.

94th Grey Cup

CBC has sold all the commercial time available for the Grey Cup and will have unprecedented global coverage of Sunday’s game. With one game, the CFL/CBC cannot screw it up and schedule games three hours apart like the Semi-Finals and Finals. The CBC saying it is a CFL decision shows what kind of partnership they have. As a broadcaster, should they not be working with the CFL with explanations that this will provide more and proper coverage? If the CFL was offered eight hours of coverage by scheduling an hour between games would they turn it down?

Strong audience numbers are expected and the production values will be up to par with 32 cameras and a High Definition broadcast. The CableCam returns for the second year and promises a better look at the game from a higher vantage point in Canad Inns Stadium.

The week started slow with the arrival of the teams Tuesday. The coaches’ press conference brought little substance. Very disappointed that there has been very little coverage of the match ups besides the old fallback of Cavillo has to prove he can win big game. Winnipeg has yet to welcome the Grey Cup festivities, leaving some Argo fans to try to liven things up. Perhaps the CFL needs to go to smaller markets less frequently, or does hosting the first make any other just another Grey Cup?

With a partnership with web start-up geosmack, the CFL offers a lame 3D virtual tour of Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg prior to the Grey Cup. The geosmack EarthSkin software requires the Google Earth software. I am sure geosmack EarthSkins have many uses, but I wonder what anyone would get out of viewing a 3D model of the stadium.

Get a position-by-position break down of the Grey Cup finalists before you make your trades in the FSN Future Shop Pick 10 Playoff Edition contest.

The Grey Cup week brings with it lots of league talk and speculation, and the focus this year has been on Danny Barrett rumours and opinions, Eric Tillman, and racism and Roy Shivers. Saskatchewan is not even in the game, can you believe it?

Interesting fact: Montreal kicker Damon Duval married Alouette President Larry Smith’s daughter this spring.

State of the League Address

As expected, very little can be learned from the annual commissioner State of the League address by Tom Wright. Despite the still growing popularity of the game (increased attendance, increased Alouette numbers on RDS, increased sponsorships, outdrawing TV competition) the private owners seem bent on destroying the league in efforts to get a big windfall. Rumours that David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski are looking to sell the Argos after two and a half years of ownership may be directly related to the direction other owners have taken the league in voting out Wright, increasing a salary cap, blocking expansion, talking about US expansion and making a protection for market entry deal with the NFL.

Interestingly there was mention of a league wide code of conduct which could be approved tomorrow. No details as to what this means, it may have been questioned in the media Q & A session, but no additional info was available at the time of this post.

Update: Apparently this is just the rule preventing CFL clubs from signing NFL players under contract or suspension. Hardly news.

Ten Questions Facing the CFL

Stephen Brunt and David Naylor propose ten fundamental questions the CFL must address in determining the future of the league. It is likely the league is not even listening and if they cannot even acknowledge these questions then the future does not look bright. The most disturbing is question 10. “Is the threat of the National Football League real?” The fact that surprises and disturbs me is that there are CFL owners willing to make a deal with the NFL to save the league. Such a deal would obviously turn the CFL into a farm league. This has all kinds of ramifications, from whether a farm system can use very different rules to whether there will be any interest in such a CFL outside of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, assuming Toronto is interested with an NFL franchise. The NFL will not provide prop-up money without getting something in return, and if the franchises lose support, how long will the NFL be willing to write the CFL‘s ticket? The owners making such a move for protection seems to predict an NFL move to Canada since there would be no resistance.

With no league resistance challenging such a move, there would be no government intervention on anti-competitive behaviour, especially with the American-in-Canadian clothes Stephen Harper in office. If this does come to pass, and my childhood CFL is destroyed and the NHL a shell of its former self, I will be like Taylor in the Planet of the Apes “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

Memo to CFL: Kill Video Review

The calls are in for the CFL to abolish video replay reviews of plays, but will they listen? Overtime Central was opposed to the implementation from the start, but since it was likely the CFL would implement a system, we tried to influence the implementation (no luck there, but considering our readership that is not surprising). Still, the CFL implemented a flawed system that slowed down the game this season and led to un-reviewable calls being reviewed such as fumbles after the whistle had blown the play dead. The system must be severely scaled back for 2007 to one challenge per team per game. To prevent the abuse of retractions, they must not be allowed, or only allowed within a reasonable amount of time, such as 10 or 15 seconds. The set of challengeable plays must be more strictly defined as those that occur during the whistle. Challenging an unchallengeable play will cost the coach his challenge and timeout. Coaches will be required to know the rules or be penalized. To help accomplish this, the list of challengeable calls needs to be reduced and simplified. These things will improve the game, provide a challenge system for plays that the system was intended, and leave judgement calls such as whether a player’s knee was a half an inch above the turf before the ball came out to the officials.

CFL Notes

Not being officially implemented provides the first loophole for CFL salary cap. This is starting to look like how things were run in the early 80’s, with big spenders counting on a large TV payoff. When reality hits there may not be a CFL for us to watch. Some trust holders those franchise owners are.

Jim Popp got his CFL start as an assistant coach in Saskatchewan. Two seasons with Don Matthews (’93/’94) as Director of Player Personnel/Scout/Assistant Coach before he followed Matthews to Baltimore in 1995. Who remembers that?

The best commissioner of the CFL since G. Sydney Halter (yes, I am aware of Jake Gaudaur) and instead of a lifetime appointment they show Tom Wright the door. Yes, the CFL looks foolish replacing commissioners at the drop of a hat. Therefore, when you find someone that is the best you will ever find, you keep him. Yes, I am very bitter about this.

Shutting down CFL looks to be a possibility, if only for one week. At first, you think it is some dummy’s idea to provide an equal bye week to all teams, same time during the season with no long breaks or multiple games in a short span. They have actually thought it through though and are considering a skills competition week during the break. This is acceptable if they arrange for the skills competition with the Players Association and networks. If not, it takes the CFL off the radar for a week right prior to when it needs to carry momentum against its fall competition. The other option, a 20-week season with two bye weeks per team is worse however. In an even-team league, there is no need for byes. Sure, because of stadium schedule dates this year because of Ottawa folding it was necessary, but the CFL has never had bye weeks as an 8-team league. There is no proof bye weeks make the play any better, either during the season or in the playoffs. If there is no bye week for an All-Star Skills competition then an 18-week season with no byes and a late season start of around July 4th or 5th is necessary.

As predicted, promised and needed, the CFL implements a rule to honour NFL suspensions.

Tyrone Jones is in Winnipeg for the Grey Cup, dying of cancer. This has to be the worst news year for the CFL I can remember.

“Pinball” Clemons has confirmed he will coach the Argos in 2007. Keeping the Argo defence together and settling their quarterback controversy will be large off-season questions in a year when they host the Grey Cup.

Next Tuesday is decision day for area residents around Molson Stadium on McGill University campus in Montreal. If at least 191 residents sign a register of opposition to the proposed stadium upgrade, it will be forced to a referendum.

The growing number of nationalities represented by CFL reflects Canadian multi-culturism, especially the three large metropolitan areas. It is probably true that football is more attractive as a sport to immigrants compared to hockey due to the unique skills hockey requires that many Canadian kids pick up at a young age.

The Last Ricky Williams Notebook Entry

Will it be the last? Unless Ricky returns to the CFL, it probably is. Some called Ricky’s attitude to the end “nonchalant”. It appears Williams really enjoyed his stay and was a model teammate.

No Majority for NFL Team in Toronto

A survey conducted by the Toronto Star showed 50% of greater metropolitan Toronto area residents say they oppose to bringing an NFL franchise to Toronto. The survey also revealed 76% of residents have no interest in the NFL, the highest of any league in the survey (which the CFL appears to be excluded from), 50% against a franchise in the 18-34 age group, 42% against in men aged 18-34 and 40% against in men aged 18-34 who consider themselves NFL fans.

While it can be said a franchise could be successful with 60% of 18-34 male NFL fans in Toronto, the greater message in the survey is that the people of Toronto will not be ready to fund any public infrastructure to land an NFL team. People only have to look at the current San Francisco ’49ers situation, who have announced they are negotiating to move the club to a new stadium, perhaps in Santa Clara, California. Infrastructure costs for the City of San Francisco to incur with the building of a stadium at the current Candlestick location was expected to exceed the $600-800 million USD cost of the stadium. Los Angeles is proposing building a new stadium inside the walls of the Los Angeles Coliseum at a cost of $800 million USD. Dallas is constructing a new 75,000-seat retractable roof stadium in Arlington, Texas at a projected cost of $650 million USD, half of which is funded publicly by voter approved sales, hotel and car rental tax increases. These staggering figures should send any Torontonian running, for there will certainly be a call for an at least partially public funded stadium after a NFL franchise comes to Toronto. Anyone who believes a franchise could survive playing out of the SkyDome is not realistically looking at the other stadiums in the NFL, and the plans for new ones. The NFL likes (requires?) large, cash-sucking stadiums paid for with public money and Canada would be no different. Expecting seat licenses to pay for such a stadium seems a little steep for the Toronto market (can they sell 20,000 seats at $40,000 a license for an $800 million stadium). It is for certain Canadian investors could not afford a $1 billion dollar franchise cost and then finance a $1 billion stadium cost.

Suspiciously, the Toronto Argonaut stadium deal kyboshed last year after they agreed to stay at Rogers Centre may be related to a future Toronto NFL bid. Paul Godfrey, the point man for Toronto NFL interests, would know that a stadium being built for the Argos would hurt his chances of getting public money and approval to build a new stadium for a NFL franchise once one was landed. The Argo deal with the Rogers Centre was brokered by none other than Paul Godfrey, CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, owned by Rogers Media, which also owns the Rogers Centre. The deal promised the Argos something better than third-class citizen treatment, and once the deal was signed that has turned out to be largely vapourware.

Comments are closed.

OC Jottings

No jottings in the last 7 days. Here is a random jotting.