Are You Ready for Some Canadian Football?

 

CFLlogoOnce again, football season is finally here. No, not the NCAA or the NFL, whose seasons do not begin until late August and early September, but rather the Canadian Football League, the first game of the 2015 season being a showdown tonight between the Ottawa RedBlacks and the Montréal Alouettes on ESPN2 at 6:30pm CDT. As for how I became interested in Canadian football, here is the story…

It was July of 2012 and I had just returned to Lubbock after having spent nearly two months in the United Kingdom doing historical research. The beginning of the NCAA and NFL football seasons was still several weeks away, but I noticed that there were a number of Canadian football games showing on ESPN3, so I decided to check them out. Almost instantly, I was hooked.

In contrast with American football, Canadian football uses a field that is 110 yards long and 65 yards wide, with each team fielding 12 players. As each team has only three downs (as opposed to the American four) to advance the ball, Canadian football features more passing, scoring, and more frequent lead changes. It is quite an interesting and exciting game in its own right. As for the scheduling, most games are played on Friday night and Saturday, with some Sunday games and certain special exceptions such as the first game of the season and games played on Canadian Thanksgiving in October. The playoffs conclude in late November with the Canadian Football League championship game, known as the Grey Cup.

In the late summer of 2013, while doing archival research in Ottawa, I decided to drive over to Montréal to see the Alouettes play their East Division rivals, the Toronto Argonauts (the Ottawa RedBlacks would not enter the league and begin playing until the following year). The 120-mile drive on Highway 417 (which becomes Autoroute 40 after crossing the Québec border) from Ottawa to Montréal was a memorable one. Miles and miles of forest passed by, and for much of the trip I was listening to a country music station out of Ottawa. At one point, a song by Lefty Frizzell named “Saginaw, Michigan” began playing, and my mind drifted…

I thought of my great-great-grandfather Frederic LaRoche, who left Québec in the 1880s – where the LaRoches had lived since the 1660s – to seek out a new life in America. The great northern pine forests have always had that effect upon me, dredging up some deep ancestral longing to return to the lands of my forefathers. The same feeling overcomes me whenever I visit the Pacific Northwest, where I have family both immediate and extended. I often wonder if there is, indeed, such a thing as ancestral memory. It is as if the trees are saying “you belong here,” or in the words of Tolkien, “Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is fair!”

Upon arriving in Montréal on that late summer day in September, I parked in a garage beneath a shopping mall and then walked north to McGill University, on whose campus is Percival Molson Stadium, home of the Alouettes. Before the game got underway, I wandered around the stadium and visited the team gift shop. But just as I began making my way to my seat, I was intercepted by three petite, beautiful young women. One of whom handed me something. I figured it must be an advertisement for some local business, but lo and behold, it was a calendar, and the three young women turned out to be Montréal Alouettes cheerleaders! I chatted them up for a while, after first having to say “Je regrette. Je ne parle pas français.” Next time I’m there, perhaps I should ask Cousin Annie for some French lessons and some backstage passes. Heh.

AlouettesCheer2

Anyway, the game was an exciting one. I had been hoping that I would get to see the legendary Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo play, but he was out with a concussion injury and would retire after the season was over. The game was a relatively high scoring contest, but the Alouettes lost by a score of 37-30 after a late, game-tying touchdown was waved off when an Alouettes receiver stepped out of bounds at the eight-yard line. C’est la vie.

IMG_0124

There is nothing quite like the thrill of watching a competitive sporting event, be it professional basketball, college football, or Major League Baseball. Such memories are to be treasured forever. If you have the time, check out tonight’s game. And go Alouettes!

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  1. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    Football in the summer…I could be persuaded. :)

    • #1
  2. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    I’d be a Lions fan having graduated from SFU.

    Simon Fraser was blacklisted from the CIAU for recruiting athletes from out of province. We, therefore, competed in the NAIA except for the Shrum Bowl. So, our players mostly played US rules but many were drafted by the CFL.

    I was a student trainer up for a year or two. Way more fun to watch from the side lines than the stands.

    • #2
  3. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    Thanks for a great post. I gather Canadian football has improved since I kept falling asleep watching it on a Saskatchewan motel-room TV in 1997. Players colliding; wide receivers actually standing still as they waited for passes; and a young head coach with a big earring.

    Speaking of motel-room TV’s, on one in Arkansas I once spied the Canadian Country Music Awards. How they got there, I have no idea. It took me a ridiculously long time to figure out why there were even such awards at all: country music is about your country. Of course Canada’s is going to be different from America’s.

    • #3
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    < facetious pedantry mode = on >

    The “C” in CFL doesn’t stand for “Canadian”. It stands for “correct”!

    < facectious pedantry mode = off >

    But seriously, the first official intercollegiate football game, between Harvard and Montreal’s McGill University, was played according to rules more akin to the CFL than the NFL.

    On the other hand, it was also more akin to rugby than to the CFL, but why lets facts get in the way of nationalist mythology?

    ;-)

    • #4
  5. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    lesserson:Football in the summer…I could be persuaded. :)

    CFL starts in the summer for the same reason Canadian Thanksgiving is in October: Winter comes earlier in the Great White North.

    ;-)

    • #5
  6. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    Misthiocracy:

    lesserson:Football in the summer…I could be persuaded. :)

    CFL starts in the summer for the same reason Canadian Thanksgiving is in October: Winter comes earlier in the Great White North.

    ;-)

    Funny story about Canadian Thanksgiving. I was up in Vancouver as a kind of birthday gift from my wife and neither one of us knew it was Canadian Thanksgiving until a guy on the street asked for some change. I hadn’t gotten any Canadian cash out yet so I told the guy sorry and he told me. “No problem, Happy Thanksgiving!”.  For at least an hour I thought the guy had started on the Nip a little early and then it dawned on me that everything was closed and nobody was around. Doh! Great time though, Vancouver and Whistler were awesome.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    John H.:Thanks for a great post. I gather Canadian football has improved since I kept falling asleep watching it on a Saskatchewan motel-room TV in 1997. Players colliding; wide receivers actually standing still as they waited for passes; and a young head coach with a big earring.

    Speaking of motel-room TV’s, on one in Arkansas I once spied the Canadian Country Music Awards. How they got there, I have no idea. It took me a ridiculously long time to figure out why there were even such awards at all: country music is about your country. Of course Canada’s is going to be different from America’s.

    Meh. Most Canuckistani pop-country music is little different than the Yankee variety. The place names are in Alberta instead of Alabama, but it’s still over-produced, homogenized nonsense.

    There are, of course, exceptions to this rule on both sides of the border, but they tend not to make country music’s Top 40 charts.

    • #7
  8. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    John H.:Thanks for a great post. I gather Canadian football has improved since I kept falling asleep watching it on a Saskatchewan motel-room TV in 1997. Players colliding; wide receivers actually standing still as they waited for passes; and a young head coach with a big earring.

    One claim that CFL fans like to make is that it’s a more technically-precise game than the NFL, because many of the players tend to be former top NCAA players who simply weren’t physically big enough for the tastes of NFL scouts.

    There may be some truth to this claim, but the flip-side is that CFL defensive lines tend to be a little squeamish. If, during one’s college days, one was among the smaller players in a sea of man-mountains, it’s natural that one would get in the habit of shying away from bone-crushing hits.

    Plus, considering how little CFL players are paid, there’s little financial incentive to risk serious injury by using one’s body to stop a freight train.

    As such, even die-hard CFL fans tend to suffer from forehead bruises as they slap their faces in disgust every time a defenseman does the old “try to step aside without looking like you’re stepping aside” to allow a hated Tigercat or Blue Bomber to score a touchdown.

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    MLH:I was a student trainer up for a year or two. Way more fun to watch from the side lines than the stands.

    I prefer to sit in the nosebleed seats, ackshully.

    What I love about football (and why I find hockey dreadfully boring) is the strategic nature of the game, and the only way to truly appreciate it is to have a full view of the entire field.

    Watching hockey, for me anyways, is like watching tennis. It’s all about following the puck bounce from one side of the rink to the other.  With football, on the other hand, there’s (metric) tonnes of stuff going on nowhere near the ball.

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    MLH: Simon Fraser was blacklisted from the CIAU for recruiting athletes from out of province.

    Well, yeah. How you supposed to grow fine football players when your talent pool is all hopped-up on lotus flower?

    ;-)

    • #10
  11. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    MLH:I’d be a Lions fan having graduated from SFU.

    Simon Fraser was blacklisted from the CIAU for recruiting athletes from out of province. We, therefore, competed in the NAIA except for the Shrum Bowl. So, our players mostly played US rules but many were drafted by the CFL.

    I was a student trainer up for a year or two. Way more fun to watch from the side lines than the stands.

    SFU is also somewhat infamous for being the university where Rachel Marsden graduated from. ;-)

    • #11
  12. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    lesserson:Football in the summer…I could be persuaded. :)

    The cheerleaders help. ;-)

    • #12
  13. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    lesserson:

    Misthiocracy:

    lesserson:Football in the summer…I could be persuaded. :)

    CFL starts in the summer for the same reason Canadian Thanksgiving is in October: Winter comes earlier in the Great White North.

    ;-)

    Funny story about Canadian Thanksgiving. I was up in Vancouver as a kind of birthday gift from my wife and neither one of us knew it was Canadian Thanksgiving until a guy on the street asked for some change. I hadn’t gotten any Canadian cash out yet so I told the guy sorry and he told me. “No problem, Happy Thanksgiving!”. For at least an hour I thought the guy had started on the Nip a little early and then it dawned on me that everything was closed and nobody was around. Doh! Great time though, Vancouver and Whistler were awesome.

    That sounds very Canadian!  Even the panhandlers are polite.

    • #13
  14. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Mike LaRoche:

    MLH:I’d be a Lions fan having graduated from SFU.

    Simon Fraser was blacklisted from the CIAU for recruiting athletes from out of province. We, therefore, competed in the NAIA except for the Shrum Bowl. So, our players mostly played US rules but many were drafted by the CFL.

    I was a student trainer up for a year or two. Way more fun to watch from the side lines than the stands.

    SFU is also somewhat infamous for being the university where Rachel Marsden graduated from. ;-)

    That, and how it competes with York U. for the title of “Ugliest University Campus in Canuckistan”.

    ;-)

    • #14
  15. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Misthiocracy:< facetious pedantry mode = on >

    The “C” in CFL doesn’t stand for “Canadian”. It stands for “correct”!

    < facectious pedantry mode = off >

    But seriously, the first official intercollegiate football game, between Harvard and Montreal’s McGill University, was played according to rules more akin to the CFL than the NFL.

    On the other hand, it was also more akin to rugby than to the CFL, but why lets facts get in the way of nationalist mythology?

    ;-)

    Yep, I remember the nighttime temps going below freezing in Ottawa in early September.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Mike LaRoche:

    Yep, I remember the nighttime temps going below freezing in Ottawa in early September.

    You haven’t lived until you’ve worn a snowsuit under your Halloween costume.

    • #16
  17. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Misthiocracy:

    Mike LaRoche:

    MLH:I’d be a Lions fan having graduated from SFU.

    Simon Fraser was blacklisted from the CIAU for recruiting athletes from out of province. We, therefore, competed in the NAIA except for the Shrum Bowl. So, our players mostly played US rules but many were drafted by the CFL.

    I was a student trainer up for a year or two. Way more fun to watch from the side lines than the stands.

    SFU is also somewhat infamous for being the university where Rachel Marsden graduated from. ;-)

    That, and how it competes with York U. for the title of “Ugliest University Campus in Canuckistan”.

    ;-)

    But the views!

    (Am I supposed to know who Rachel Marsden is?)

    • #17
  18. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    MLH:

    Misthiocracy:

    Mike LaRoche:

    MLH:I’d be a Lions fan having graduated from SFU.

    Simon Fraser was blacklisted from the CIAU for recruiting athletes from out of province. We, therefore, competed in the NAIA except for the Shrum Bowl. So, our players mostly played US rules but many were drafted by the CFL.

    I was a student trainer up for a year or two. Way more fun to watch from the side lines than the stands.

    SFU is also somewhat infamous for being the university where Rachel Marsden graduated from. ;-)

    That, and how it competes with York U. for the title of “Ugliest University Campus in Canuckistan”.

    ;-)

    But the views!

    (Am I supposed to know who Rachel Marsden is?)

    Here you go.

    • #18
  19. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Mike LaRoche:

    MLH:

    (Am I supposed to know who Rachel Marsden is?)

    Here you go.

    Thanks. Well after my time.

    • #19
  20. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I figured it must be an advertisement for some local business, but lo and behold, it was a calendar, and the three young women turned out to be Montréal Alouettes cheerleaders! I chatted them up for a while, after first having to say “Je regrette. Je ne parle pas français.

    I’m only surprised that that managed to stop you mon ami. :))

    Interesting post and even though I think I know everything about all sports that matter, I may have to take a second look at the CFL but only because of your Mike Leach pedigree.

    • #20
  21. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    EThompson:

    I figured it must be an advertisement for some local business, but lo and behold, it was a calendar, and the three young women turned out to be Montréal Alouettes cheerleaders! I chatted them up for a while, after first having to say “Je regrette. Je ne parle pas français.

    I’m only surprised that that managed to stop you mon ami. :))

    Interesting post and even though I think I know everything about all sports that matter, I may have to take a second look at the CFL but only because of your Mike Leach pedigree.

    Oh, it didn’t stop me.  Just slowed me down a little, at first.  Love is, after all, a universal language. ;-)

    AlouettesCheer3

    • #21
  22. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    EThompson:

    Interesting post and even though I think I know everything about all sports that matter, I may have to take a second look at the CFL but only because of your Mike Leach pedigree.

    Glad to have you aboard, mon amie! :-)

    • #22
  23. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    By the way, Friday Night Football is the CFL’s equivalent of Monday Night Football.  Here’s the opening sequence featuring a singer named Janey Brown.

    • #23
  24. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    However, I’d rather they use Bill Medley’s “Friday Night’s a Great Night for Football” from the 1992 Bruce Willis film The Last Boy Scout.

    https://youtu.be/naKQvKE-tZY

    • #24
  25. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    The game is now underway.  Go Als!

    • #25
  26. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Touchdown, Als!

    • #26
  27. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    The Alouettes lost, 20-16.

    • #27
  28. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Mike LaRoche:The Alouettes lost, 20-16.

    Sorry, dude. and to an expansion team with a lame name.

    • #28
  29. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    MLH:

    Mike LaRoche:The Alouettes lost, 20-16.

    Sorry, dude. and to an expansion team with a lame name.

    This month has just sucked in so many ways.

    • #29
  30. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Mike LaRoche:

    MLH:

    Mike LaRoche:The Alouettes lost, 20-16.

    Sorry, dude. and to an expansion team with a lame name.

    This month has just sucked in so many ways.

    Yeah, I had a birthday and forgot to get my free meal at Denny’s (but now I get their senior discount)!

    • #30
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