Monday, March 18, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Ratio

While the CFL fan base is notorious for being friendly, welcoming and camaraderie spanning team alliances, they are still prone to some pretty intense disagreements (often about super trivial things). Moving the season up? Divisive. CFL 2.0? Divisive. Is Kavis Reed an idiot or just incompetent? Divisive. Even the beloved Rouge can be a divisive issue. As such, few issues can unite them almost unanimously. This past weekend we found one of those issues... the ratio.

It was reported that there was agreement in principle at the bargaining table to reduce the number of Canadian starters from 7 to 5. Now before I get into my thoughts on the issue, let me just say that some have rightly surmised that this is nothing more than a deliberate tactic meant to divide and weaken the CFLPA at a key time. Who would benefit from such division and thus be willing to "leak" this information? Well I'll let you fill in the blanks.

But tactic or not, it has opened up a big conversation on the importance and merits of the ratio. Your first question might be "are you wearing pants while typing this?" I'll leave that one to your imagination. Your second question might be "Why would the CFLPA (who represents Canadian players) be willing to even consider this?" Remember that while half the league is Canadian, the other half are...? American. And with the exception of QBs, Canadian make more money than Americans. So the American half of the CFLPA would benefit greatly from less Canadian starting spots from a $$$ perspective. Also, the top Canadian would likely be unaffected as well. The Labattes, Laurents and Sinopolis of the world will still make top $ regardless of 5 vs. 7 spots. So its really only the fringe/depth Canadians who would be harmed by this. Not saying I like the idea, just pointing out why from a CFLPA perspective its something to think about.

As for me? Look, I get that from a business perspective and maybe even from a quality of product perspective this would be beneficial. I don't believe the quality of Canadian players is inferior (the top ones are as good as the ones south of the border that come up here). But the quantity of quality Canadian players is not necessarily there. Canadian depth is always an issue and it gets worse as the season wears on an injuries happen. Do you really think we would have let Josh Stanford on the field without the ratio? So I can see the allure.

But for all the operational sense this would make (for owners and players) it overlooks one important issue. Its a marketing nightmare. The CFL has become and longstanding Canadian institution thanks to a core of very dedicated fans. Fans who love Canadian football. Any attempt to reduce the Canadian portion of Canadian football does not make for a good headline and will not sit well with the core CFL fan base. While most of CFL's superstars are admittedly American, you need Canadians for fans to cheer for. Riderville is the shining example of this. Chris Szarka would get a standing O for a 2 yard run on first down. Every one of Jason Clermonts 7 receptions as a Rider led to a rash of pregnancies and babies named after him 9 months later. Parades are planned every time Rob Bagg catches a pass.  We love our Canadians. Want another example? Because he is Canadian, people want so badly for Brandon Bridge to succeed that they are willing to overlook the fact that he isn't very good. I repeat, We love Canadians. 

And so its in the CFL's best interest to maintain strong Canadian content and that does require the ratio. Would the top 4-5 Canadians still be on the starting roster without it? You bet. But reducing the ratio gives less opportunities for Canadians to shine. Less jobs for young players to aspire to. And less of what makes this league the CFL. Canadians. Zach Evans is likely never given the chance to develop from a raw junior player to the stud starter he is today with a 5 man ratio.

Are the 6th and 7th Canadian starters as good as American equivalents? In a lot of cases no.  But Canadian pride has a lot more marketing value to the CFL than does the potential for a slightly better on field product. 



Anonymous said...

The attendance isn't very good now would it be better if there were more top notch players in every position? Dont know but I do think there are not enough quality Canadian players to go around

S said...

I agree with your position here Prophet on the ratio. The top Canadians likely make the roster regardless, the bottom few and perhaps some PR guys would be bumped out of the league in favor of slightly better American players if the ratio is lowered.
Many people are talking about how much better the product would be if you replace 2 starters with marginally better Import players and this is where I would disagree... If you replace your bottom two Canadian starters with slightly better players how big of an impact do people really see that making? Your best American players are already on the roster and the others are obviously not better than the current non-Canadian roster players so a slight bump here, in talent, from the more unnoticed players is likely irrelevant (1 less dropped pass, 1 more tackle, American O Line or big interior DL, etc.).

Plus the extra Canadian content requirements adds a new and interesting aspect to roster creation (from a fan point of view but likely hated by GMs and coaches) and, like you said, much more marketable than another American player making 1 or 2 catches a game (No one cheers for that like they do for a homegrown talent).

The discrepancy in pay for top starting Canadians and American counterparts at similar talent levels would only be exacerbated by lowering the number of Canadians IMO. They could look to address this in some way but Supply and Demand will likely always win out... besides I like to see Canadians making bigger money in the Canadian league!

Skot Kortje said...

Brave but appropriate you joined the debate, Rider Prophet. We’ re all fans of this league for good reasons, and I can’t have too much of an inflated sense of my own opinion on the import quota debate. Lots of passionate viewpoints to be certain. But here’s where I put my Moose Jaw money: I think that the future of the league and the import quota is being actively and indirectly addressed by Ambrosie. Having thought a bit about CFL 2.0, at least the vision the Commissioner is articulating I would expect that his use of the Premier League in the U.K. as a model tells you he knows that the best future for the CFL is to open it up to the best players in the world. What kind of talent is out there, I don’t know, but this is the start of a necessary pivot if the league is to survive, in one form or another. I’ve been a Rider fan since Ronny, George and Bill Baker the Undertaker graced us with their incredible talent and will cheer for the Riders no matter what league they were in. My loyalty is to the Riders first, then the CFL. But I feel passionate about the CFL because it is the Canadian Football League, not because it is the Canadian Football Players League. On that, I know my opinion differs from many other seasoned and nationalistic CFL fans. I finished my university in Toronto and wound up staying here (forgive me), now for over 30 years, so I do have a pretty clear understanding of how weak and threatened the CFL is in Toronto. It’s pretty frustrating seeing such little interest and passion for the CFL in this great city. It’s pathetic. How to change that? I think Ambrosie is throwing the dice in a calculated move that might just revitalize the perception of the CFL in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, which are understandably more cosmopolitan in terms of aspiration. I really believe the only other alternative is another go at American expansion, hopefully learning from the past attempt. In any case, both visions - CFL 2.0 or American expansion - imply changing or abandoning the import ratio. Given that the best Canadian football players are playing in the NFL, and that the import ratio distorts CFL player personnel management and economics, the slow death of the import ratio seems a sensible approach. The fans deserve a league leadership that protects and grows the unique Canadian game. The kind of protectionist tendencies that underlie the CFL’s import quota are outdated in the modern world and certainly holds back an incredible entertainment product. There’s my $2 bill.

Keep up the great work, sir!