"I have loved football as an almost mythic game since I was in the fourth grade. To me, the game wasn't even grounded in reality. The uniform turned you into a warrior. Being on a team, the mythology of physical combat, the struggle against the elements, the narrative of the game..." ~ Steve Sabol (NFL Films)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Multi-National Football? How & Why?

I remember waking up on Sunday, February 9, 2020 with a sense of a new chapter beginning that day. Pulling into MetLife Stadium seeing tailgate tents, cornhole, the smoke of grills, it all reminded me of my college Saturdays down south. Never being a real follower of the NFL, there was the feeling that this was truly something different, and it was. It. Was. The. XFL! ~ By James @ the Sports Throne

Saturday, March 20, 2021

How the CFL Welcomed Black Players

St. Louis Rams of the CFL?

"U.S. Football Fans Urge CFL to Play in St. Louis"

Heartbroken fans have turned to the CFL with the hope they could still have a team in St. Louis after the NFL Rams moved to Los Angeles.

CFL Films: Traditions- British Columbia

CFL Films: Traditions- Calgary

CFL Films: Traditions- Winnipeg

CFL Films: Traditions- Saskatchewan

CFL Films: Traditions- Ottawa

CFL Films: Traditions- Hamilton

Tracking the CFL’s Longest Yard

Sadly Steve Daniel was laid off by the CFL in September of 2020 due to the COVID-19 fallout. I sure hope he is doing well and has succeeded in obtaining that PhD he spoke of to the Toronto Sun. When I speak of the passion of the game of Canadian football to Americans it is because of people like Steve, for they, along with the players, are the true back bone of the CFL. Men like Steve and countless others behind the scenes are the modern day hidden figures who have made the league "go" for it's entire lifetime.  Without men with the passion of Steve and the others who have poured their heart and soul into the CFL, the league would have never made it into the 21st Century.  Hopefully soon the CFL will return and men like Steve can return to the game they love and continue doing the wonderful things they have done for Canadian football for many many years to come!

CFL in America History 1993-1995: A Retrospective

Following the demise of the United States Football League in 1985 and the World League of American Football's presence in the US in 1992, America was left without an outdoor alternative to the NFL. The financially-strapped Canadian Football League decided that they would step into the void. The league established outposts from Sacramento, California to Baltimore, Maryland and as far south as San Antonio, Texas. Several of the CFL's best players including David Archer, Mike Pringle, Matt Dunigan and Tracy Ham landed on American teams, giving the new teams plenty of talent. The Baltimore club battled in two Grey Cup championship games and is the only non-Canadian club to win the coveted prize.

CFL expansion into the country was the brainchild of former Commissioner Larry Smith. He envisioned a Canadian League with up to 24 teams, including 8 to 10 teams in American cities, and new teams for Montreal and the Maritimes as well by 1998. Unfortunately, America's CFL entries struggled financially, forcing the CFL to withdraw from the US as quickly as it had entered. Though Smith's idea ultimately proved to be unsuccessful, for three seasons these teams played the distinct game of Canadian football on American soil. This is their story.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Last Grey Cup

Yes, the title of the post is deceiving, but whether we are talking about American or Canadian football, the point is the same, for though sports are universally beloved, in the last year science fiction became science fact in the form of big league sports being played in empty stadiums. Well, except for the CFL.

Specifically, in the 1970s, the now legendary George R. R. Martin wrote a fantastical tale about the end odownfall of them all in “The Last Super Bowl,” a fantastically written short story in February 1975’s issue of Gallery Magazine, a men’s magazine.

The story is actually two tales, as he covers the last Super Bowl which takes place in January 2016 and interjects the depiction of that Super Bowl, between the Green Bay Packers and the Hoboken Jets, and the downfall of real sports. Real sports, in the 2016 of Martin’s fictional world, have been overtaken in popularity by simulated sports.

Simulated sports are controlled by a computer that can put any team, from any era, against any other for the enjoyment of the spectators. The technology he describes in the computers that control the simulated sports were science fiction in 1974, but in 2021, our computers are powerful enough to create those simulations. Just look at video games like Electronic Arts’ Madden Series and Canuck Play's Flutie Maximum Football.

The implications that computer simulated games would overtake the real thing isn’t so far fetched now in a world turned upside down by a pandemic, but back in 1970s, Martin was looking to a future where the complexities of computers and their power seemed infinitely abundant and highly unlikely....

Canadian Football in Milwaukee? It Almost Happened

Just a few weeks after Brett Favre made a frantic headfirst dive into the County Stadium end zone to beat the Atlanta Falcons and close the book on the Packers playing in Milwaukee, there was talk – serious talk – of a team relocating to Milwaukee to replace the departed Packers and keep the Cream City in the pro football business. Of course, no NFL team would be willing (or allowed) to encroach on Packerland, but the Canadian Football League (CFL) was more than willing – eager even – to plant their flag in Milwaukee. 

When the NFL and CFL Played

When it comes to football, the sport truly does not recognize borders, especially that one north of the
United States.  The teams of the Canadian Football League (CFL) are, in many instances, almost as old as those of the United States.  In fact, the CFL and the NFL have peacefully coexisted for nearly 100 years, and though it may now be a much smaller league with minor league status, it is a league steeped in tradition. In fact, I would say that the CFL is much more respectful of its past and former players than those in the NFL.

For the last week, the major story has been the XFL and CFL and the possibility the leagues may align, partner or even merge. One of the questions asked by many is how do you play a game with different competing rules.  Well, there has been experimentation and in the year prior to launching of the American Football League, and in the year in which Chicago said goodbye to its oldest NFL team, the CFL and NFL began a series of exhibition games (the AFL would later play a game in 1961) in which its two elder teams took the field at old CNE (Exhibition) Stadium in Toronto, the site of the 1959 Grey Cup, for North American bragging rights.

Monday, March 15, 2021

A Fascinating Look Inside the CFL’s Oddest Era

There are a lot of CFL history books out there (of which I think I have most), and this one, along with Ron Snyder's book on the Baltimore Stallions, is one of the few that talks solely about the league's ill-fated expansion into the United States.  As the league moves forward with talks with the XFL, I am hopeful that the CFL Commissioner and the owners of the franchises, along with the XFL leadership all read the history books and learn the lessons of the past. If they don't they will only have themselves to blame.  

The blueprints for how NOT to run a league are on the shelves of their local libraries.  The saga of CFL USA is one that was filled with a lot of misplaced hope and only one success story. Had the Browns not left Cleveland, perhaps the Stallions success would have led to success in Texas with San Antonio, and in other markets like Portland, El Paso, Salt Lake, St. Louis, to name just a few. I recommended every fan of the XFL and CFL to read this and the numerous other books out there on the history of professional football, for they all tell the story of how to avoid the pitfalls of failure.