Tag Archives: NFL

Grey Cup Start Time One Day Too Late

By Jason Menard

There’s nothing wrong with competition. The problem comes when you’re throwing away your best stuff against something that’s way out of your league.

The Canadian Football League, an entity that seems to succeed from time to time in spite of itself, will broadcast its annual showcase event on Sunday, with the playing of the Grey Cup final between the B.C. Lions and the Montreal Alouettes. Of course, with a 5:00 p.m. start time, the game will be up against the Detroit Lions versus the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks facing the San Francisco 49ers, and a marquee match-up featuring the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Indianapolis Colts.

Sure, the Grey Cup will pull in its standard numbers, but how much better could they be if they stopped playing David to the National Football League’s goliath each and every week? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning when and where to pick your fights, but the CFL brass continues to fight a battle it can’t win, when an easier – and more profitable – solution is at hand.

Sundays are NFL days for football fans. Sure, there are those hardcore CFL fans who will choose to watch their beloved league over any gridiron competition. However, by continually matching CFL games against NFL competition, the league’s brass is missing an opportunity to attract new fans to the game.

Football fans love their sport. South of the border, Friday nights are dedicated to high school games, Saturday’s are the domain of the collegiate ranks, and the NFL rules Sunday. And while the CFL has a die-hard contingent of regular fans, for the most part Canadians aren’t as invested at the high school or university ranks. U.S. college programs can fill 80,000+ seat stadiums. Canadian colleges consider 3,000 fans an outstanding gate. High school sports south of the 49 th are broadcast on TV; here you’ll have to trek to your local school to peer through the gates. But instead of condemning fans’ lack of support for the amateur ranks, it’s high time the CFL take advantage of the time that’s available to them and make a play for the viewing public.

In the States, the NFL shies away from Friday and Saturday broadcasts because they don’t want to undermine the popularity of amateur sports. They know that the popularity of those levels eventually acts as a free feeder system for the professional ranks. In Canada, the opposite must happen. Instead of developing grassroots support, the CFL must establish the professional game as the ideal, towards which younger people will be drawn.

Some people get it. TSN has created a very successful franchise in Friday Night Football. It’s a popular broadcast and it serves as a forum for attracting football fans – not just CFL afficiandos – north of the border. We need more of this thinking, not less. The CFL needs to understand that Sundays are taken. The last three games of the year – arguably the most compelling matches of the season – are broadcast head-to-head against NFL competition. Sure, you’re going to retain the same audience as always, but you’re missing out on an opportunity to showcase your wares to an even larger demographic.

Play these games on Saturday. If the CBC gets its act together, they could anchor a Grey Cup broadcast with two compelling all-Canadian match-ups on Hockey Night in Canada. Promote the hell out of it as a celebration of Canadian sport! Start hyping the event weeks in advance and cross-promote on various network shows. Essentially, capture the eyes of those for whom the CFL is not a regular part of their viewing diet and stoke the fires of hunger for the event!

Unfortunately, the same people who have made the Grey Cup a tradition in their living rooms will continue to do so. Those others, for whom the NFL remains the Holy Grail, will not choose an unknown commodity over the product that they’ve confirmed that they enjoy. And save for a Janet-Jacksonesque slip by Nelly Furtado, the CFL’s marquee game will represent another opportunity lost.

The CFL’s decision to force people to choose between sports is a losing cause. This year, many people will be tuning in to watch the Colts continue their quest of perfection. Then they’ll transition into a Sunday night game that’s been bolstered by the NFL’s decision to permit flexible scheduling – thereby ensuring that a compelling match-up will be shown on their prime time schedule.

Those fans are spoken for. But what are they doing on Saturday afternoon? If they’re hungry for football, and the game’s marketed correctly, is it not conceivable that some of them may tune in for the Canadian league’s most important event? And what’s the worst that could happen? Some of them may actually enjoy the game. The CFL is an exciting product, featuring talented athletes playing a dynamic version of the game. Many people, in fact, think the Canadian game is the better version overall – so why not expose football fans to this event without making them actively stray from the brand to which they’ve been loyal?

Perish the thought. Marketing a great game to a football-hungry audience at a time where there’s no similar competition? That makes too much sense. Of course, for a league that stumbles upon success in spite of itself, the easy road is never the one taken.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

More Dynasty Talk than at a Carrington Reunion

By Jason Menard

The Super Bowl is over, the New England Patriots are victorious, and with the cacophony of voices are bandying the word dynasty about in a way not seen since John Forsythe, Linda Evans, and Joan Collins shared the small screen.

Somewhere, the ghosts of the truly great teams are sitting back and laughing at us. What does it say about a culture when winning two out of three is considered dominant?

Put it this way, the Ming Dynasty didn’t just last for a few years, with a few changes of political leadership and social direction thrown in for good measure. A dynasty, by its very nature, combines ultimate dominance with longevity.

To return this to a sports level, the Montreal Canadiens of the 50s and 70s, with multiple Stanley Cup runs, were a dynasty. The New York Yankees of the 30s and 50s, they were dynasties too! The Patriots? Didn’t they miss the playoffs last year? Hardly the stuff of legends. Worst of all, we now come armed with ready-made excuses to qualify our hyperbolic statements. How many times have you heard the term “modern-day dynasty” lately?

Why do we feel compelled to anoint moderately successful teams with the moniker dynasty? Perhaps it’s a lack of self-confidence. Our incessant need for cultural self-validation has permeated almost every aspect of our lives and threatens to swallow us whole.

We live in a time where we feel the need to justify the actions of the here and now, all the while stumbling over each other in the desperate attempt to find the “next” big thing. It’s like a sixth-grader proclaiming that Justin Timberlake is the greatest artist ever, and that John Lennon guy is just so yesterday. It’s something we’ve all done, but fortunately we all grow up and gain perspective.

Why is it that we can’t appreciate the accomplishments of the past for what they are? Instead of trying to overwhelm historical dominance with over-hyped mediocrity, why can’t we instead raise the bar and hold ourselves to a higher ideal?

Turn on the TV and what do you get? Multiple versions of the same concept, from channel to channel. And don’t get so smug thinking that this is a dismissal of reality shows. In fact, reality shows are at least in touch with today’s cultural environment and are self-aware enough to know their place.

No sooner had the last American Idol wrapped did advertisements for the next round begin to crop up on our screens. Ruben, Clay? They’re over and done, who’s next? However, you watch the more critically acclaimed shows and they’re the worst sinners of all. How many versions of the same thing are there? We’re up to, what, 10 Law & Orders and 8 CSIs? How many sitcoms about dysfunctional family situations are there out there? Can you really tell the difference?

Our modern society is rapidly becoming the equivalent of a cultural garage sale. Shows casting a sly, sarcastic eye at the shows and personalities of the 80s and 90s are phenomenally popular. Movie adaptations of 70s TV shows abound – S.W.A.T., Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch (do we really need to relive that?). In 10 years, what are we going to look back on? Retrospectives of retrospectives?

Our cultural frame of reference is postcard sized. And that’s why we’re so quick to proclaim our current crop of cultural icons as the greatest. The problem is that the situation will not get better until we start looking at the bigger picture.

As long as we’re proclaiming every half-decent accomplishment as the Second Coming, then there’s no impetus to strive to new levels. However, when we start holding our cultural icons to a higher standard, then we will truly be able to hold our collective heads up high. There will no longer be a need to diminish the past, but rather we will be able to proudly stand side by side with them as equals.

The more we toss around the word dynasty, the cheaper it becomes. Let’s save the word for those that truly deserve it.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved