Last week, the 2016 Canadian Football League season began. For many Americans, the CFL is somewhere between a quirky parallel world and a bizarre afterthought. To others, it’s a desperate stopgap when their baseball team is foundering and there’s no other team sports to watch. I’m not a die-hard CFL fan per se, but if there’s a game on TV (thanks, ESPN!) I’ll tune in.
If you are among the minority of NFL fans that need a desperate pigskin fix, you might be surprised to know that the CFL draws some interesting parallels.
BC Lions: If any CFL team adopted and embraced the over-hyped “west coast offense” of the 1980s, look no further than Vancouver. The Lions are also a team that was very good in the 2000s but are now in rebuilding mode. Compares to: 49ers, Seahawks, Rams, Chargers
Calgary Stampeders: They have a stifling pass-rush defense, but their run-to-set-up-the-pass offense doesn’t really compare to anyone in particular. At the same time, they’ve had a lot of alumni that used to play for Bears, Vikings, and Chiefs’ secondary and practice squads.
Edmonton Eskimos: The offense finally clicked last year, giving the Esks their first title in over a decade. They don’t seem to have a lot of personality, though. Compares to: Colts, Panthers, Broncos
Saskatchewan Roughriders: The green and silver play in Regina, arguably the most rural and socially conservative city in Canada. Deep south football fans might relate to that. They’re also the only major sports team in the entire province. Compares to: Titans, Bucs, Falcons, Saints
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: At 22 seasons and counting, the Bombers have the longest Grey Cup drought in the league. Their fans are loyal, if not grumpy and self-deprecating. Compares to: Jets, Cardinals, Lions, Bills
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: These longtime also-rans lost the Grey Cup in 2013 and 2014, so hope springs eternal. Historically a bridesmaid, rarely a bride. They have the same colors as the Steelers, and Hamilton is also a steel town, but they also compare to the Bengals, Dolphins, and Redskins.
Montreal Alouettes: The most dominant team of the past decade or so might mesh well with New England football fans, but Larks fans don’t treat this as a religious experience. Plus, the core of those championship teams is starting to age. Compares to: Eagles, Ravens, Giants
Ottawa Redblacks: There is a history of football in Canada’s capital city, but it came to a halt when the Renegades folded in the mid-2000s. An expansion team with the same colors (but not the same name) emerged in 2013, going through most of the same growing pains new franchises go through. Compares to: Jaguars, Browns, Texans, Raiders
Toronto Argonauts: The team with a tradition of winning, and the team everyone else in the league hates. “They don’t rebuild, they reload.” Enough said. Compares to: Packers, Patriots, Cowboys
Happy Canada Day!