I know you were all looking forward to the thrilling conclusion of my series on the best Riders by number. And don’t worry it will come. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like talking about football. Not theoretical, or historical or absurdly comical football. But real life, present day football.
It’s been a while. My vocal chords are in better shape then they have ever been mid-summer. Wisers called me the other day to see if I was still alive because my purchasing has nosedived. Even my neighbours came to check on me because the loud curse words that usually emanate form house on a weekly basis have gone silent. I’m not dead, just missing football.
You’ll note that since this whole pandemic started I have talked very little actual football. I honestly just started mentally preparing myself for no CFL season. But with every other major league starting their returns and the CFL in a series of discombobulated conversions about its own return… it’s time to jump back in and talk football.
I get asked lots if I think there will be a CFL season. It’s second only to “Could you do up your fly?” in terms of the question I get asked most frequently. The honest answer is I don’t know. Two months ago I would have said zero chance. Today I would say there is a chance, but I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly great one. They have a hub city. As if the pandemic isn’t bad enough, CFL players would have to spend it locked down in Winnipeg. That could be considered capital punishment in some countries. But what the CFL doesn’t have is money or a deal with the players or a Health Canada approved plan. They can probably get a deal with the players but the money… well that’s the major issue. The feds already nixed the Jays so the health plan is also no guarantee.
With no fans in a gate-driven league money is hard to come by and the federal government appears to the only other source of revenue available. Without it, there will be no season. It’s really that simple. I mean they haven’t tried the trusty old telethon yet but I’ve been pitching that for months with no takers.
The deal with the players will also be tricky. Look I get both sides of this. For the players, they are looking at a best case scenario of a 1/3 of their salary (which for most them is not a lot of money), to play with increased risk in an already risky job, while giving up all their freedom to live in one of the last places anyone outside of Manitoba would want to find themselves, with no answers on what happens if they or their teammates get the virus. Football players may not always be the brightest in our society but even they are smart enough to not be jumping at this high risk/low pay opportunity. Some players are so desperate for money and to play football they will play regardless of the deal. Some players (the higher priced vets) probably make enough to make playing worthwhile. Some may decide to sit out and that’s ok… unless it’s a Rider player and then the punishment is a public flogging and exile… its in the constitution.
I also get the owners' side. Most of them could make more money investing in VLT playing. Their revenues are way, way down so with a 6 game season they really only can offer a portion of the peanuts they normally pay. From their perspective why would you pay a player for games they did not play with money they do not have? (I’m not saying that’s a particularly nice stance, but it’s sound business stance). Football is a great game but a crappy business.
Also, I get people dumping on Randy Ambrosie (and I won’t pretend he’s without fault) but all he is in this is a glorified human shield for the owners. He delivers their message and executes their strategy and takes all the blame. Given freedom of action he may choose a completely different strategy.
So will there be football in 2020? I hope so… but I’m not prepared to bet on it. But it was nice talking football again.