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McKenna: 150 Reasons why the CFL is Badass

On the eve of Canada’s 150th Birthday, CFLonTSN personality Kate McKenna tireless put together a small list of 150 reasons why the Canadian Football League is not only ultra-Canadian but differentiates itself from many of the premier sports brands in North America.

So crack open your favourite Canadian-made beer or put maple syrup on those pancakes and let her take you through a list that is only 147 reasons longer than the game has downs.


By: Kate McKenna

1/ Let’s start with the basics: 3 downs + an extra player + longer/wider field = more passing. More passing = more risk. More risk = more reward.

2/ Waggling – where players on offense run in the backfield before the ball is snapped – is highly encouraged, unlike in the NFL. As SI’s Chris Burke put it, “The CFL is anarchy, by comparison.” …And as every American citizen can attest to, watching anarchy in action is riveting.

3/ In 1996, the league’s motto was, “Our Balls Are Bigger” which is super ballsy.

4/ Late actor John Candy was a massive CFL fan who owned the Argos for a period of time and after recruiting Rocket Ismail, reportedly tried to lure Joe Montana to Toronto.

5/ TD Celebrations are allowed and there have been some outstanding ones.

6/ The CFL is the only place where a volunteer gig includes, “pouring pints.”

7/ There’s a Grey Cup tradition involving a horse marching into a hotel lobby on championship weekend. Last year’s horse truly left his mark …

8/ The Riders once turned Parliament Hill into a practice field.

9/ …and the Prime Minister didn’t mind. He even swung by to say what’s up.

10/ He also shows up at pre-game parties looking like he actually wants to pre-game.

 

11/ The league put skill before skin colour, long before our neighbours did.

12/ A legendary CFLer got more love than the leader of the country.

13/ The league partnered with You Can Play, marched in the Toronto Pride Parade and hosted an official LGBTQ party at Grey Cup.

14/ The Argos have “the most photogenic player in football.”

15/ The league was too good for The Rock. That’s legit badass.

16/ A CFL QB wrote a solid piece for The Players’ Tribune.

17/ No one messes around with avant-garde team names. Case in point, the RedBlacks, whose players wear red and black.

18/ Beer is cheap – like $4, cheap…

19/ …and it’s served out of a Dickee-Dee cart.

20/ And this is a thing. (It’s a beer snake.)

21/ “O Canada” is the only anthem necessary.

22/ The league only employs players who can dance.

23/ My mistake. They only employ players whose kids can dance.

24/ Players aren’t divas. A 14-hour flight delay? No griping. Just dancing.

25/ During World War 2, three Grey Cup games were played by military teams.

26/ Lots of the guys you rooted for in college end up in the CFL like Troy Smith, Eric Crouch and Ricky Williams.

27/ Anthem mishaps are taken very seriously, like when this dude sang “Oh Canada” to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree” and Jean Chretien brought it to the attention of then VP Al Gore.

28/ There used to be 2 teams with basically the same name – the Roughriders and the Rough Riders – which is both absurd and hilarious.

29/ There are loads of diehards who roadtrip, some more intensely than others.

30/ The Grey Cup is so retro — It is one of the oldest championship trophy in North American professional sports.

31/ #NoLeadisSafe – 3 of the first 4 games this year were comeback wins and 65% of the games last year were comebacks too.

32/ Once the play is whistled in, players have 20 seconds to snap the ball, less time than in the NFL. Usually that means more plays per game.

33/ Players put in work.

34/ The league had the first black commissioner in North American pro sports.

35/ Some of the cheers don’t have words, just sounds… (See: Wee Wee, Oskee)

36/ …and are led by a guy named Pigskin.

37/ Fans are ruthless – back in the day, at a Grey Cup game, a random fan stuck his foot out and tripped a player who was en route to the end zone.

38/ But they’re classy, too – years later, the tripper sent the player a gold watch and also became a senior Ontario judge.

39/ The CFL draft made a Simpsons cameo.

It's #CFLDraft Day! 🙌 🙌 . . . Coverage begins at 7pmET on @tsn_official

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40/ Ashton Kutcher appears to be a Redblacks fan.

41/ …And Family Guy did a CFL bit that had Argos players laughing, not hating.

42/ Americans may not understand the game, but nobody here really cares.

43/ Snoop Dog tunes in – even if he is a bit confused.

****Foul Language in this

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44/ Rider-turned-Bomber-turned-Ticat-turned-Stampeder-turned-Lion-turned-Rider-turned-Alouette-turned-Bomber-turned Rider Kevin Glenn might be the most positive nomad ever to exist. (He also made temporary stops in Ottawa and Toronto!)

45/ There are tons of post-CFL success stories. One player became an Olympian, another – a premier, and another, a Member of the Order of Canada.

46/ And one went on to become The Bachelor. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t find love.)

47/ There’s no shame about the rouge, an exotic sounding way to score a single point that can sometimes lead to ridiculous plays like this…

(1:56-2:24)

48/ A photographer was so inspired by the league, she spent a season travelling across the country, taking pics of each team and their fans. Her photos are unreal.

49/ Tickets to a game don’t cost a week’s worth of pay.

50/ The league is a launchpad for super stardom for players and personnel. Example – current Atlanta Falcons GM, Thomas Dimitroff, started as a scouting coordinator with the Riders.

51/ There’s a willingness and an ability to try stuff, like when TSN mic’d up QB’s and head coaches last season.

52/ The league had its own version of Bill Belichick.

53/ There are lots of CFL stories that you couldn’t make up – like when the Las Vegas Posse (whose name is significantly better than their record) drafted a defensive end in the dispersal draft only to find out he was no longer alive.

54/ Or when the Grey Cup (1912 edition) was delayed for an hour because there was no ball.

55/ Or when the Grey Cup (1962 edition) took place over two days because the fog was so bad.

56/ A player once released a rap track appropriately called, “Loonies and Toonies.” (And yes, you can still find it on Apple Music.)

57/ Your dog can get a Riders jersey.

58/ Your teenage neighbour can get a Riders fidget spinner.

59/ Your kid can doze off listening to a bedtime story about the Riders.

60/ You can get a subtle suit like THIS.

When #MarksCFLWeek is a week away 🏈🙌🏻💃🏼

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61/ Fans are so hardcore they stockpile player-inspired cereal.

62/ The league generously gives everyone an excuse to eat donuts.

63/  During a half-time interview, one of the league’s best QB’s told the TSN panel to “shove it!”

64/ SI’s Peter King, a well respected sports writer, dedicated a week of coverage to the Canadian game.

65/ In the 20’s/30’s, the Hamilton Tigers had 5 guys on their team with the last name Wright. I pity the people calling that game.

66/ From the mouth of an American, “I think your game is a great metaphor for how I see Canada as a whole… similar enough to feel familiar and comfortable, different enough to be interesting and exciting.”

67/ The Riders’ new stadium is ridiculous.

68/ CFL fans are easy to please. As this article notes, Rider fans are really looking forward to one thing in particular at the new stadium – hot water.

69/ There’s fantasy football so you can procrastinate.

70/ These hats are wicked.

71/ Ticat Goal Post Guy is a legend.

72/ The players contribute to their communities bigtime.

.@55soambitious and @justcallmekj helped coach up some kids from The Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary today! #CFLCommunity

A post shared by Calgary Stampeders (@calstampeders) on

73/ In Wk. 1, the CFL introduced 66 first year guys. That means over 10,052 players have put on CFL uniforms since 1936.

74/ The Riders’ mascot – Gainer the Gopher – apparently has a cousin named Goof. Into it.

75/ When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved to a new stadium, the stadium bar “The Rum Hut” was auctioned off to fans. (The $10,000 went to charity.)

76/ In honour of the 100th Grey Cup, the league sent a train across Canada for 70 days, carrying the Cup. It included a replica locker room and a digital museum.

77/ Labour Day games are taken very seriously, so much so that this dude tweeted the Ticats, explaining why he was missing it. (Legit reason.)

78/ The week after Labour Day, the Riders and Bombers face-off in a re-match universally referred to as “The Banjo Bowl.” 2 Bombers fans even made a music video about it.

79/ It’s called the Banjo Bowl because in 2003 a Bombers’ kicker referred to people in Saskatchewan as, “a bunch of banjo-picking inbreds.” He went on to “apologize” saying, “The vast majority of the people in Saskatchewan have no idea how to play the banjo.”

80/ Grey Cup half-time performers are legit – Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, The Hip, Lenny Kravitz… and yes, the Biebs. (Is it too late now to say sorry?)

81/ In 1988, the Ottawa Rough Riders had a female GM, Jo-Anne Polak, who was 29 years old  and the first female GM of any pro sports franchise in North America. WHAT A BOSS.

82/ Dart Guy is a fan.

83/ Tailgating.

84/ The players are so competitive they go after each other with canes 40 years after retirement…

85/ …and then go on Dr. Phil to break it down.

86/ As part of a program that has been “highlighted in a global session at the UN,” The BC Lions talk to students about violence against women and healthy relationships. This inspired a league-wide policy on violence against women.

87/ The league also inspired the @JayOnrait & @tsnotoole classic, “Why Not Eh?”

88/ Like an underdog story? Toronto QB Ricky Ray was delivering potato chips before getting the call to play football. He’s won 3 Grey Cups and is a 3-time all-star.

89/ Catches like this.

90/ Or this.

91/ Fans aren’t intimidated by prints.

Oskee Wee Wee! #GreyCup #CFL #TITANRallyEast

A post shared by Kate McKenna (@kmckenna77) on

92/ Every time the Redblacks score a TD @ home, a local Loggersports team (who knew that was a thing?!) busts out their chainsaws and saw a log. (Literally.)

93/ Stadiums double as wedding venues. Als safety Kyries Hebert tied the knot at McGill this off-season.

94/ Games are basically patios with built-in entertainment.

GO Ottawa Redblacks! . Drinking Mills Street 100th Meridian, 5% ABV Organic Amber Lager . #TheBeerPassport

A post shared by The Beer Passport (@thebeerpassport) on

95/ Hot tubs in the end zone. Yes please.

96/ Your Mom will think the players are cute.

Who's ready for cfl football? Obviously me … and Mike Reilley! #cfl #EdmontonEskimos #fan #Canadian

A post shared by Laurel H (@hilaurel) on

97/ There are lots of quirky, random CFL facts like this: 6 John Williams have played in the CFL.

98/ Evening lighting in the summer means so. many. quality. selfies.

@b_randles – #ticats#hamilton#hamont#cfl – #HamiltonIsHome #beproudofyourcity #truehamiltonian

A post shared by True Hamiltonian (@truehamiltonian) on

 

99/ The NFL looked to the CFL for advice on replay review.

100/ This league is a religion for some people. Literally.

101/ The CFL’s campaign this year features a girl playing football, not just watching it or tending to the tailgate BBQ. Imagine that.

102/ Both the vets and the rookies are ridiculously honest.

103/ The CFL was tempted by bright lights but quickly figured out, home is where it’s at. #NoShame

104/ The CFL adopted the Arkells way before the NHL did.

105/ You have an excuse to wear this…

106/ You can go to a game and kick back with bacon wrapped pork and a beer.

107/ Or a 20-napkin burger. #meatsweats

108/ Every year the league runs a campaign where fans donate food in exchange for a pic with the Grey Cup and foodbank donations increase every time a QB is sacked. The program has helped deliver “the equivalent of more than 10.5 million pounds of food to food banks across Canada.”

109/ The rookies are all in. #ShapeofYou

110/ Players give 5 yards before crushing the dude they’re up against. They’re polite like that.

111/ Anyone who can put back this much chili is a badass.

112/ There’s no imposed barrier between players and fans. See Exhibit A/B/C/D

Look who my mom met at the game!!! #letsgoredblacks #redblacks #ottawaredblacks #lookwhoimet #ottawafootball #cfl #henryburris #greycupchamps

A post shared by Lindsay Maahs Photography (@lindsaymaahsphotography) on

113/ …and E.

114/ This is badass. No description necessary.

115/ Lebron has held the Grey Cup.

116/ Players often hold down other jobs in the off-season while training, which isn’t embarrassing, it’s impressive.

117/ In a delightfully CDN way, fan groups are super polite to each other.

118/ Championship parade turnout isn’t temperature dependent.

119/ Football in the snow is highly entertaining.

120/ The equipment guys get love.

 

121/ Team love is so real that when a retiring QB leads his team to a championship, his name is engraved on every single ring.

122/ At every Grey Cup, a committee of Stamps fans serves free pancakes to anyone who’s hungry.

123/ Games never happen simultaneously so you can watch every single one.

124/ In 2001, the Riders had brothers on the team named Rock and Roell Preston. You can’t make this stuff up.

125/ Next level devotion. Juicy hair, don’t care.

126/ Ego not allowed. At a Grey Cup Tweet-up, where attendees were asked to wear nametags, one of the league’s top receivers dropped by and didn’t think twice about wearing one himself.

127/ This sort of face paint isn’t just acceptable, it’s encouraged.

128/ Fair weather fans don’t exist in this league. They battle -17C weather and 90km/h winds to be at a Grey Cup.

129/ Certified badasses Tom Hanks and Martin Short are fans.

130/ #FitnessGoals

131/ It is highly patriotic. Exhibit A.

132/ The Grey Cup has been broken 4 times but it’s still goin’ strong.

133/ CFL time = family time.

#LetsGoREDBLACKS #Mom #Son #goodtimes #cfl #biggerfield #ottawa #greycupchamps #football #chops

A post shared by Jim McDowell (@jim_mcdowell) on

Father daughter football time #cfl #alouettes

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134/ The reigning Grey Cup MVP is also a duckface MVP.

135/ Branded beer.

136/ At every Grey Cup media press conference, the coaches are asked, “What is your position on your players having sex the night before the Grey Cup game?”

137/ The Calgary Stampeders have an ageless wonder.

138/ The bling is impressive.

139/ The Grey Cup has survived Taliban rocket attacks and has been held for ransom.

140/ When Leo Cahill moved from Memphis to Toronto to coach the Argos, he had his kids stay at home where they were watched by good friend Elvis Presley who often acted as babysitter (they worked together when Elvis owned Memphis’ United Football League franchise).

141/ The players are funny. And their kids are funnier.

142/ The league has been home to greats like Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Warren Moon and Rocket Ismail.

143/ Players don’t take themselves too seriously.

144/ Grey Cup week is basically a week of pre-gaming and party-hopping and true to form, everyone is SO. NICE.

145/ CFL Week is an off-season excuse to party, talk football and hang with players. And it’s free.

146/ Hardcore Atlantic Schooners fans party their asses off at Grey Cup… even though the Atlantic Schooners don’t exist. Their tagline is “Still Undefeated.”

147/ A veteran O-lineman in Saskatchewan is also Canada’s Smartest Person.

148/ Players play because they love it. Period.

149/ The Montreal Alouettes have a corporate-lawyer-turned-Coordinator of-Football-Admin-turned-assistant-GM… who happens to be a woman.

150/ If the NBA is the fashionable friend who’s ahead of every trend, the NFL is the popular jock who revels in how popular they are. MLB is the chill one who’s always down to day drink and the NHL is old faithful – reliable, though at times, a bit boring. The CFL is the understated one – constantly misunderstood but not clamouring for validation, who’s never had the latest or greatest of anything, but who has achieved without. Who doesn’t really care about trying to be someone they’re not; who makes mistakes, acknowledges them and move on; who has a genuine spirit and a quiet confidence about them; who wants to have a beer and a laugh anywhere, at any time and who extends the invite to anyone who cares to come.