A true David and Goliath story always warms the hearts of audiences. So why does the less popular Canadian Football League struggle to succeed against the American National Football League in its own country?
The 2016 Canadian Football League’s (CFL) championship game, the Grey Cup, attracted an average audience of 3.9 million viewers in Canada. Contrast that to the Super Bowl 50, last year’s National Football League (NFL) championship game, which had an average audience of 8.3 million.
Unfortunately, this is the common trend in Canada, as more football viewers are turning away from the CFL in favour of the NFL. A CBC study showed 52 per cent of Canadians would rather watch the Super Bowl than the Grey Cup if they had only one game to watch all year.
But we should treasure the uniqueness of the CFL, and how it strives to be different from its American counterpart. Instead of becoming a ‘development league’ for the NFL, wherein the NFL would send their unprepared players to Canada for improvement before returning to the NFL, the CFL has made its own rules and its own game, and has become a great league in and of itself.
Unlike the rules in American football, the rules of Canadian football require three downs or plays to get ten yards and a ‘first down.’ The field is larger than the NFL, and the goalposts are placed at the front of the end zones instead of the back.
Instead of an overpopulated 32-team league, the CFL comprises just nine teams. This increases the chances of winning the league championship, and creates a tight-knit community of players and fans.
At the beginning of the season, fans will be more invested knowing their team has only to beat out eight other teams to hoist the Grey Cup, instead of 31 other teams like the NFL. The lower number of teams also allows for more rivalries, as teams will play against each other more often. This increases the tension between fans and players in the league, making the whole experience more personal.
The tight knit community can be felt especially during the annual weeklong festivities in the host city of the Grey Cup, bringing together fans from all teams.
When the 102nd Grey Cup was hosted in Vancouver in 2014, it brought fans from across the country to march in a float parade, participate in street festivals, and take part in tailgate parties to get ready for the big game.
Football is by far the most popular sport in America, so it is no surprise that the NFL is at the top of the sport hierarchy. Nonetheless, we should be celebrating the fact that the CFL has attracted so many die-hard football fans in a hockey-mad country. After all, what could possibly be more Canadian than watching the Canadian Football League, at Tim Hortons Field, home of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, with an Iced Capp in hand on a humid summer day, eh?