In an annual event that is as predictable as the god awful stench that emanates from Wascana in the spring (which is distinct from the general stank of Regina), the rouge has once again come into question. Whenever discussion comes up on potential rule tweaks, eliminating the “reward for failure point” is always among them. Usually the arguments are too stupid to dignify with a response. This time however, rather than an outright elimination of the rouge, a rule tweak is being floated that would see the rouge continue but undergo some serious changes. This suggestion has at least enough thought behind it to warrant some discussion. So I’m wading into the rouge debate.
Full disclosure on two things before we start. First, I am generally against rule changes. I hate the push for “change for change sake”. We feel compelled to change the rules every year and then wonder why our referees struggle to consistently apply rules that they have to learn new every year. Some changes make sense but as a general rule, rule changes should be the exception not the norm. The game is not broken. Second, I like the rouge. I do. It’s a unique part of the CFL game and I love it. So don’t expect unbiased analysis on this… though if unbiased analysis was your thing, you would have given up on me a long time ago.
First things first… the rouge is not a reward for failure. Our game evolved from rugby and the rouge is actually a reward for field position gained. You don’t want a team scoring a point on you, don’t let them cross midfield. If your philosophy is that a rouge is a reward for failure then we should probably also abolish the field goal as it reward failure to score TDs and we should abolish overtime as it is a reward for failing to win within the allotted time.
Now the reason that I didn’t outright dismiss this round of anti-rouge sentiment is that the tweak would be that a rouge would still be scored on a missed FG or Punt if the ball/player fielding it are downed in the endzone. If it flies through the endzone untouched then no point. Honestly not a terrible idea… even for a crusty anti-change guy like myself. I’m not endorsing the change, just saying that its intelligent enough to warrant consideration as it preserves the essential “get the ball out of the endzone or give up points” part of the game that encourages returns.
Even a rouge enthusiast such as myself has to concede that it’s a bit weird that you can miss a FG by 20 yards to the left and still get a point but if you miss by one inch and it hits the uprights you get nothing. Also, if untouched punts were no longer singles it might take some luster off a certain local punting legend (though people would probably still cream themselves over how far the punt went). Actually when it comes to punting I would much rather see a rule change whereby if a punt doesn’t land inbounds anywhere on the field (not just between the 20s) it’s a penalty. Coffin corner kicks are an essential part of the game but if we are talking about rewarding failure I don’t believe you should be able to just kick it straight out of bounds without consequence (but that’s a debate for another day).
So personally I see nothing wrong with the rouge. The number of times it actually dictates the outcomes of games is extremely minimal so its not like the is a massive issue that is holding the league back. I love everything about what makes the Canadian game unique and we should be wary of getting rid of those things that do make our league unique. I like healthy debate on well thought out ideas (i.e. not stupid reality show suggestions for playoffs) but on this one I’m siding with tradition. You’ll have to pry the Rouge from my cold dead hands.