Canadian football is appetizer for pigskin fans|Opinion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

The day when the lights buzz, crackle and bathe the fields of battle in fluorescent glory is just weeks away.

The season starts a week earlier than last season, and that means the fields will be hotter and coaches will get less time to get their charges in gear for the season.

So as football season approaches, there are few, if any appetizers to appease the pigskin appetite.

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Maybe watching practice, but like Allen Iverson, who likes practice except coaches? It’s like a salad without croutons and dressing for an appetizer. It’s the stuff your mother wanted you to eat when you were young that tasted horrible, but that was good for you. Think green beans and spinach.

So what does a football fan do to slake the thirst of the long summer? Watch baseball?


Go north of the border.

Cox Sports Television has been showing a full slate of Canadian Football League games and for those not familiar with the game from the people who gave us Bryan Adams, Alanis Morrisette and “You Can’t Do That on Television,” it bears watching.

Viewers instantly know something is up by the accents, the British spellings for Sports Centre and defence and the oddball field that is both longer and wider than its American counterpart.

The rules changes make it a bizarrely unique game. In the American game, where only one player can be in motion. In Canada, everyone except the quarterback can be. Also the defensive line and offensive line are a yard apart versus the 11-inch neutral zone in the U.S.

Was that 12 men on the field? What draws a flag south of the border is standard operating procedure in the Great White North. That and the flag that would be thrown is orange, not yellow.

And there is the three downs versus four, which makes special teams all that more special. The rouge is a unique way to score a point, not a pathetic musical that everyone’s girlfriend loves with Moulin hung on the front. Downing the ball in the end zone on a kickoff will result in one point being awarded to the kicking team.

Plenty of American players have made a good living north of the border, but the highway north is usually a one-way street. Warren Moon and Doug Flutie were great in the CFL before making the leap to the NFL. But few do since the game’s rules favor smaller, quicker players over the big, powerful types preferred in the NFL trenches.

Watching Canadian football reminded me of the part from A Christmas Story when the hounds stormed the kitchen and pilfered Ralphie’s family’s Christmas turkey and they were forced to dine on Peking duck instead.

The concept is there. The spirit is right. But the devil is in the details. Either way, it’s a lot better than watching the WNBA or yet another Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees game.

And it’s a nice way to pass the time until when Friday nights are filled with high school action, Saturdays are for college and Sundays are for the NFL.

So head up north with your remote. You’ll be glad you did.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. Write to him at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail