As it becomes harder and harder to remember what a CFL game looks like, I reflected upon my longest standing CFL dream. Every summer without fail in the PrePan, the lazy hazy days of July would roll by and the Baseball All Star game would be upon me, and while my interest in that game has waned, what comes next is still important to me. The day after the MLB All Star game has always been a day with NO TELEVISED SPORTS IN NORTH AMERICA. I have never understood why the CFL did not try to schedule some games and grab the attention of a desperate American sports media. But beyond just trying to grab some free American publicity, I think there is a larger goal for this day during the summer: celebrating the league and the county’s interest in football with Football Day in Canada.
In 2000, the CBC created a full day celebration of hockey, with games and human-interest stories and it was an immediate success and it is still an absolute Canadian tradition 20 years later. Why is there no day to celebrate the long tradition of football in Canada? Of course, it is more localized than hockey, but people would be amazed at how many locations would have teams, leagues and current/former players excited to celebrate football. There are so many amazing stories of determination, ingenuity, team building, resilience and commitment to be told. And if the CFL and TSN are not interested in celebrating football in Canada, then what are we doing???
So being a guy with some free time on his hands, here is my plea to the CFL/TSN:
According to Stats Can, in the range of 300,000 people play football in Canada and while that does not match up with hockey, it is still a significant number of families who have an interest in football. This is also a huge untapped resource for the CFL to engage with. The average CFL attendance numbers range around 25,000 and TV audiences in the 800,000 range. The scale of these numbers clearly show that there is room to grow and a one day celebration of the sport can only help get more eyes on the CFL.
Too often, when people think of football, they think of concussions or hazing or negative experiences in university pubs with idiot football players (that last one may just be me) and FDIC would help get out the truth about the youth football, it is one of the great experiences in life to play on a football team. One of the great facts about youth football in Canada, especially in the high schools, is that it allows athletes to join without needing to pay for equipment or ice time. As equipment is loaned out and field time provided, it takes the pressure off families who want their kids to be involved in sports but cannot afford it. Youth football is also an incredibly equitable sport with the size of a football roster, many more athletes can have the feeling of making a team. And lastly football has so many positional requirements, that it allows athletes of all sizes and skill to prosper. These are the facts that the CFL needs people to know, to help build a connection with its game.
A night with no sports in the summer is an absolute slam dunk for the CFL. To not only host a game but make it a yearly celebration, would let the CFL corner sports media for just one day but that is still free advertising in the US. You might even convince ESPN to run a game or two as they will be starved for content.
In the end, it will help grow awareness of youth football in the country and the more people in football feel connected to the CFL, the better!