Monday, June 27, 2011


Canadian Football League-2011

The British Columbia Lions travel to Montreal to face the Alouettes in the opening game of the 2011 CFL season on Thursday night. For some of you, this may come as a bit of a surprise. You may still be celebrating the Bruins Stanley Cup victory. (I ran into a guy in Belleville who had just returned from the parade in Beantown-now, there’s a fan!) You may be in limbo about the NFL season: strike, lockout, whatever. There is not a lot of football action south of the border.

Or you may be like many sports observers who do not realize that the CFL usually gets under way around the July First weekend. On Canada Day, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers head to Hamilton to take on the Tiger Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Argonauts head to Calgary to play the Stampeders on Canada Day. Finally, on Sunday, the Edmonton Eskimos play the Rough Riders in Saskatchewan.

The 2011 season of the great Canadian game will be well underway by the following weekend. That does not necessarily mean that you should drop a bundle in Vegas on the winning teams from the first weekend. Many teams are notoriously slow starters. Don’t be hoodwinked by the results from the exhibition games. The Ticats trounced the Als in pre-season. The Lions mauled the Rough Riders. The Stamps outlasted the Eskimos 37-22.The Argos stole a win from the Bombers 30-23. None of that means anything now that the regular season is about to unfold.

As an added wrinkle to the television production of the Argos-Bombers game, the coaches and the quarterbacks were “Mic’ed Up” for the game. They wore microphones, and the fans were treated to most of their comments. Naturally, there were moments when some of the comments were reserved for individual players. For the most part, however, it was no holds barred in the dialogue.

For myself, the play calling was most intriguing. Now you must realize that a CFL Play Book for each team is as thick as your wrist, and you had better know what to do when a play is called. If not, you will be on the next bus to Brandon. Here are some examples of plays called by Winnipeg;

“66 Ghost. Backside. Ohio State.”
“Ace Right. Pistol. Two Bar Blue”
“Eagle Left. 351. Henry. Henry.”
“326.Ace Right. Ghost. Ohio State.”
“Ace Left. Personal 3. Bar Blue.”

As you can see, there were some patterns beginning to unfold. I did my best to read the plays, to no avail. Near the end of the game, one of the Blue Bombers was penalized for “objectionable conduct”. At that point, we overheard the coach advise the player: “You can’t say the “N” word on the field.” (The “N” word, of course, indicates a racial slur.) I am almost naïve enough to think that such things do not happen any more. But not quite. In the heat of the moment, anything can slip out. As is always the case, it is wise to choose an appropriate place and time.

The Bombers put 14 points on the board in the fourth quarter to make the game close. The Argos countered with a late touchdown to win the game.

But it was, after all, an exhibition game. A chance for coaches to evaluate personnel.

Following the game, teams pared down their rosters as required by the league. Really difficult choices for all of them. Because of the nature of the game, many of those cut on Saturday will be recalled for a variety of reasons: injury, discipline, poor play, or a combination thereof.

Find your way to a stadium near you. Get set for a great season. Grey Cup? November 27th. Mark it on your calendar now.

James Hurst
June 27, 2011.

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