John Steigerwald's Sports Column

CFL offers an exciting brand of football

Canadian league offers an exciting brand of football

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Football season started this weekend.


I’m not talking about futbol. I’m talking about the North American game. You know, the one in which humans are allowed to take advantage of their opposable thumbs. The Canadian Football League played a full schedule after opening the season Wednesday night.


ESPN signed a multiyear deal with the CFL and there will be 17 regular-season games and the Grey Cup tournament available to American viewers. Most NFL fans look down their noses at the CFL. It’s played at the wrong time of year and it’s played by guys who could never play in the NFL.


Doug Flutie disagrees with that.


He told MMQB.com that the NFL is only now catching up to what he was doing in Canada in 1990.


“The game in Canada was more exciting, more explosive, more wide open. It was what the NFL is now becoming. We were going no huddle, over the ball, from the time I got up there. No-back sets, six wide receivers, throwing the ball all over the field. There is a 20-second clock between plays rather than 40. It just creates a pace that the NFL is now realizing to be more exciting – and actually more effective.


“The NFL is turning into a no-huddle, up-tempo, fast-paced, throw-the-football type of game now. The CFL has been that for the last 30 years.”


What Flutie doesn’t mention is that, because the NFL has four downs to get 10 yards as opposed to the CFL’s three, there is a lot more dinking an dunking in the NFL.


I haven’t been sold on three downs instead of four yet, but I do know that three downs makes it a lot harder for teams to sit on a lead. Especially when the clock stops after every play in the last three minutes of each half and there are only 20 seconds between plays.


I’ll be watching the CFL this summer.


I know it’s not the NFL, but I also know that they’ll be using their hands.


• The Penguins might have succeeded in creating a better locker room when they traded James Neal to the Nashville Predators for Patrick Hornqvst and Nick Spalling Friday night, but they also traded one of the best pure goal scorers on the planet. New general manager Jim Rutherford immediately pointed out that he thought Hornqvst, who has a reputation for playing in the dirty areas, would make them a better playoff team.


He’s probably right, because Neal’s game, for whatever reason, didn’t translate very well to the playoffs. That might be more of an indictment of the league than of Neal, but the Penguins can’t wait for the idiots in the league office to be like every other major sport and allow its skilled, exciting star players to shine in the most important games, which also draw the most viewership.


Most fans, despite the fact they don’t get a share of the winnings or a day with the Stanley Cup, would rather have a boring Cup winner than a really entertaining contender.


The Neal trade might end up being exactly what the Penguins need to become a better playoff team, but they got a little less exciting to watch. That might not be a problem for the people who get in free, but that long sellout streak at the Consol Energy Center hasn’t been a result of mucking and grinding.


• If NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had a sense of humor, he would have worn a Santa Claus suit in Philadelphia this weekend.


• I’ve seen enough of Gregory Polanco to believe that the Pirates would have at least four or five more wins if he had been on the roster to start the season. Of course, that might have jeopardized 2018, and we can’t have that.


• Josh Harrison is the Pirates’ MVP right now. It took him a while to be given as many chances to fail as lots of other less talented players. The fact that he is 5-8 might have something to do with that. Joe Morgan is 5-7. He’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame.


• The Wall Street Journal was nice enough to publish a “Writhing Scorecard” for the World Cup. Geoff Foster counted 302 players who were seen rolling around in pain in the first 32 games.


I doubt that you could count 32 NFL or NHL players writhing around in an entire season. Most of the writhing was done by teams that were ahead because they have more interest in wasting time. Teams that were behind accounted for 40 “injuries” and 12:30 of writhing time. Teams with the lead faked 103 injuries and spent about 50 minutes writhing.


• The best analysis of the Penguins I heard last week came from NHL Network analyst and former NHL general manager Craig Button on my talk show: “The Penguins have depended on too few for too much for too long.”



John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.


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