COVID-19 has scored another victory over a sport. The Canadian Football League canceled its 2020 season earlier this week; the Grey Cup was supposed to be awarded on November 21st this year; that will not happen. Most NFL fans do not realize that the CFL has existed longer than the NFL. The Grey Cup trophy was commissioned in 1909; it has been awarded to the CFL champion every year since then save for the years of World War I; it will be on hiatus in 2020.
I enjoy CFL games; they are exciting and different from American football in subtle ways. Back in 1994 when the CFL tried to expand into the US, I took a journey from Northern Virginia to Baltimore with #2 son to take in a Baltimore Stallions CFL game played in Baltimore’s old Municipal Stadium. I do not save ticket stubs, but my memory is that we had great seats for $20. The expansion into the US was short-lived; that was the only time I have seen a CFL game live.
[Aside: There is a great book about that ill-fated “southern expansion” of the CFL written by Ed Willes. The title is “End Zones and Border Wars”. For anyone who thinks that greedy and egotistical team owners are limited to the US, this is a must-read. Anyone who is a sports fan will enjoy the book.]
The CFL had a plan for conducting a season; it was going to “bubble” the teams in the Winnipeg area and play all the games there. That would have required financial assistance from the Canadian government and/or the governments in Manitoba and Winnipeg. I have read reports saying that the league asked for $150M in relief from the government; other reports say the league asked for a $30M interest-free loan to be paid back at a glacial pace. I do not know what the CFL needed or asked for; I do know they got nothing in terms of relief and they have hit the pause button on the 2020 season that would normally be almost halfway toward the Grey Cup Game.
From what I read, the CFL has a national TV contract and it has a salary cap. Usually, the coexistence of those two things indicates financial stability; obviously, that is not the case there. Moreover, there also seem to be limitations on what teams can spend on “football operations”; so, I cannot explain how all of this leads to a league in a precarious financial situation. However, that is reality.
Perhaps part of the reason the CFL finds itself where it is today lies in the league management and the amalgam of team owners. The book I recommended above, End Zones and Border Wars presents a picture of the CFL in the 1990s that makes the league administration and many of the owners appear as a clown show. If that situation continues to obtain – and I have no idea if that is the case – then I guess I understand how the CFL can find itself in the situation it is in.
Switching gears – but staying with football – there is a story out there that might just indicate that we are returning to normalcy in college football. No, I do not mean that schools have reconsidered their season cancellations and are planning to play what was on the books as of last Spring. No, I mean there is a story out there that rings a memory bell; it is the sort of story that one would read in times that predate the arrival of the coronavirus into our consciousness – and our bloodstreams.
Forget stories about teams in a bubble; forget stories about testing and tracing; forget about anything related to COVID-19. The NY Post had a story earlier this week that harkens back to days when college football players made the news for more typical anti-social behaviors. Here is the headline from that report in the NY Post:
- Penn State football players charged after cops find pot, LSD in apartment.
That headline gives me a warm feeling of nostalgia; we may indeed find our way out of the confusion of 2020; perhaps we can indeed “go home again”…
Another football story from earlier this week blends “old-style news” with “new news”. A undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks was living in the “team bubble” (new news) but was caught trying to sneak woman into his hotel room inside that bubble by dressing her in a Seahawks jersey (old-style news). Fortunately, the Seahawks simply released Kemah Severind without any sort of extensive investigation into what happened and how it happened and why it happened. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume with no evidence whatsoever that “social distancing” was not an integral part of the plan for those two individuals for that evening.
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times took this incident in a different direction:
“Seattle cut Kemah Siverand after the rookie cornerback was caught on video trying to sneak a woman — dressed in Seahawk players’ gear — into the NFL team’s hotel.
“That’s what you call disguising your coverage.”
I read a report that said the NBA is paying $140 per coronavirus test inside the “Orlando Bubble” and that it is testing every player, coach and “others” inside the bubble daily. The good news is that the NBA seems to have put a functioning firewall between its teams and the coronavirus outside the bubble. Kudos to the NBA…
However, if you extrapolate the financial outlay that the league is experiencing by testing everyone every day at $140 per test, I think you can do just a little math and realize why such a rigorous testing plan is not in place for just about any college football team.
Finally, as the Summer of 2020 turns to the Fall of 2020, the prognosis for this Fall as contained in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm is not uplifting:
“Fall: A magical time of year, during which the leaves provide a splash of brilliant color before falling to the ground dead, in an ominous foreshadowing of the frigid, metaphorical death that awaits us all from now until Daylight Saving Time.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………