CFL First Impressions

Kerry Joseph

Considering three quarters of the teams in the Canadian Football League qualify for the playoffs, it’s fair to say the season is a marathon rather than a sprint. However, one can still pass judgement after only one week of football. Here are ten thoughts that came to mind after the first four games of the season.

(1) The Bombers will be competitive

True, the CFL is a league with substantial quarterback turnover, but after week one it’s safe to say the Stefan LeFors experiment in Winnipeg is clearly a work in progress. Although the weather in Edmonton on Thursday probably prevented the Eskimos from running away with the game, it showed that Winnipeg’s defence will keep them in many games they have no business being even close to winning.

(2) The Stampeders need Ken-Yon Rambo

Though Montreal was clearly the better team on Canada Day, Calgary can take solace in the fact they staged a formidable comeback without the CFL’s top receiver in 2008. (Rambo missed the game with an injured hamstring.) Though the Stampeders had a balanced attack with no receiver catching more than four passes, it’s clear they can’t wait for Rambo become yet another weapon for Henry Burris. At 32, the jury is out on whether Jeremaine Copeland can still be a number one target.

(3) Tiger-Cat fans can put down the bottle

Nothing drives Hamilton football fans crazier than a loss to the Argos. However, they play in the East, where third place is more than up for grabs. The key games for the Tabbies might be those against western teams, where they can avoid any possible crossover and thus improve their playoff chances.

(4) Random thought of the week

Shannon Boatman playing for Toronto is probably the best name on any football jersey since He Hate Me.

(5) Kickers are kind of important

As demonstrated by Toronto running back Jarrett Payton’s inability to kick a seven yard point after, there might not be a more important player on a team than a kicker. Teams don’t carry more than one, so when the man with the golden leg goes in for a tackle for the rest of the year, you can bet that coaches will be holding their breath. Unless they can get away with tripping the returner…

(6) Avon Cobourne will have a massive year

The Montreal running back entered this season with the stated goal of 2,000 all-purpose yards. Though he only had nine receiving yards against Calgary, his 107 on the ground should serve notice that he is well recovered from the injury that kept him out of six games last season. As the rushing yards add up, it will open up the passing options out of the backfield.

(7) Canada Day is Eh OK

There is no reason why the CFL shouldn’t open on Canada Day more often. If July 1st falls on a Sunday it might be hard to get four games in on one day, and if it’s a Monday or Tuesday it’s too early in the week to start. The league profited from jammed stadiums in Hamilton and Calgary on what could (and should) become a second Labour Day of sorts, where football is a quintessential part of the holiday.

(8) Kevin Glenn should keep his helmet within an arm’s reach

I’m not suggesting that the Quinton Porter era be cut short already in Hamilton, but when you’re leading a team that hasn’t had a solid quarterback situation since the days of Danny McManus and you have a pivot who led his team to a Grey Cup game on your bench, your trigger finger has to be itchy. Good luck with that decision, Marcel Bellefeuille.

(9) The Michael Jackson celebrations are mercifully over…I think

TV viewers were able to hear Arland Bruce acknowledge that his bone-headed celebration was a tribute to the King of Pop. What a relief that was, because at the time I thought it was a prophecy for a long, long benching from Bart Andrus. Good for you Arland, you got on ESPN. Now stick to doing what you get paid to do, catching the ball.

(10) Great television

Just throwing it out there, but is there a better TV crew than TSN’s CFL on-air talent? Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor can flat out call a game, period. Though Rod Black’s play-by-play is somewhat generic, Duane Forde is a healthy addition to the broadcast. Let’s not forget about the panel, which for my money is the best on TV, for any league, on any network, above or below the 49th parallel. Chris Schultz can break down the game like no one else, Jock Climie is a thinking man’s analyst, Matt Dunigan is flat out entertaining, and aside from his mustard-handling skills, Dave Randorf is phenomenal.

-Marc Tessier

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