Another season of three down football is upon us, and we’re reminded once again that there are some definite differences between the CFL, and the billion dollar big show to the south of us, also known by some as the ‘No Fun League’.
The biggest difference becomes obvious on pay day. Most practice roster players in the NFL take home more money than starters on Canadian teams. There are some legendary old guys like Bud Grant who can remember a very different era. Bud came to Winnipeg in 1953 to play for the Blue Bombers, because he could make more money than he did with the Philadelphia Eagles. Today, a lot of American players use the CFL as a place to stay in shape and sweeten their highlight reel while their agent finds them an NFL contract. Then there are those who come north to play because they got caught smoking weed.
A good example is Frank Alexander, a huge defensive lineman who used to play for the Carolina Panthers. Frank was suspended three times by the NFL for using marijuana, but Wally Buono was quite happy to give him a chance to play for the BC Lions. His is by no means the first such case.
Hands up if you remember Ricky Williams, an outstanding tailback who played for the Toronto Argos in 2006, after failing a drug test in Miami. Ricky had the misfortune of breaking his arm in his first CFL game against the Roughriders at Taylor Field. His CFL career was short-lived and the Dolphins brought him back the next year.
Right now one of the CFL’s biggest stars is receiver Adarius Bowman of Edmonton. He had an outstanding career at two U.S. colleges, but when he was eligible for the draft in 2008, the NFL wouldn’t touch him because he had been busted for smoking weed. After false starts in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Bowman became a genuine superstar in Edmonton.
The CFL doesn’t even try to stop players from smoking marijuana. One of the league’s general managers, who shall go unnamed, once told me that if they did decide to get serious about it, they wouldn’t have nearly enough players to field nine teams.
Life goes on in the quest for the Grey Cup.
I’m Roger Currie