I feel like a voice in the wilderness when it comes to the CFL as it battles an identity crisis in the midst of a hockey obsession that borders on a Jonestown style of mindless fanaticism.
The CFL rarely captures the sports headlines despite its storied history which began around Confederation when colonists created football from a basic rugby game. There is plenty of blame to throw around in this fiasco and that is the basis for my first column of the new season.
A couple of weeks ago I attempted to get beyond the electronic fortress that is TSN, Canada’s southern Ontario sports network that masquerades as a national network. I wanted to voice my concern that TSN had little or no coverage of CFL training camp activity despite its 24/7 need for stories.
What TSN really wants is a steady diet of hockey stories with side orders of golf, tennis, poker, baseball, and anything else that plays on an international stage. What TSN doesn’t want is a strong bond with a quaint oddball sports league with no curb appeal beyond a diehard Western Canadian prairie base.
The thrill is clearly gone for the CFL as an important sports entity in eastern Canada with the exception of Quebec where the current success of the Montreal Alouettes has revived interest for sports fans in desperate need of a new dynasty.
The football flirtation will likely end very quickly if the Als turn in a few recent Hamilton Tiger-Cat style seasons.
TSN has devoted most of their post-mortem on the NHL season to major issues like whether hockey players shook hands and somehow believe that this incredibly dull story is a front pager. They have ignored the start of the CFL camps for something as ridiculous as a superficial ritual.
I managed to get an e-mail through to TSN talk show host Mike Landsberg that expressed my irritation with their lack of coverage and he aired my concern as well as my follow-up e-mail to thank him for the acknowledgement. Then he and his hockey network headed right back to the only sport that actually matters to these people.
The eastern media has imposed their will on this country so now we live and breathe hockey until the Jays make another championship run and we get to wave our flag as another group of obscenely over-paid mercenaries make us swell with national pride. Maybe we can run down every major street in this country, sing O Canada, and make it bigger than VE Day when Toronto wins any championship that isn’t the Grey Cup.
The CFL used to have a much higher national profile in the past when hockey ended in April and was forgotten until October.
Now hockey stories never end because hockey never seems to end and they love this concept in the East.
Those of us who still love the CFL face an uphill battle for any league attention when a powerful eastern media deems the league to be a second rate entity and then makes it the object of unbridled condescension and thinly veiled scorn. Give the CFL a little pat on the head and then go back to real sports stories like a hockey player with a hang nail as a lead story in July.
Guys like Landsberg and that sports host on Men TV who looks like a Barenaked Ladies wannabe barely understand the CFL and its importance to its real fans.
Unfortunately they are in a position to preside over its ultimate burial and they are not alone-that is the real tragedy in this situation.
Jim Sutherland can be reached at mystarcollectorcar.com