Monday 21 June 2010

Ways to Grow the Game: CFL Fantasy Football

In an ongoing attempt to find ways to make the CFL a larger, more successful professional sports league, I will be looking at ideas that can push the CFL to the forefront of pro sports in Canada and North America. I have titled these articles "Ways to Grow the Game."

Gambling is a big reason why pro sports, especially football, have taken off. The offshoot of gambling, and something that I have participated in for years, is fantasy sports.

With over 15 million people playing fantasy football in the United States, the game has seen tremendous growth. People are no longer just concerned with "their team," but have branched out and now watch "their players" no matter what team they play for. No doubt this has been a key cog in making the NFL the juggernaut it is today.

Whether we like it or not, the NFL is the sports league by which all other sports leagues get judged. The NFL, for the better part of the last decade, has basically been printing money (Peyton Manning on the $20, Tom Brady on the $50, Brett Favre on the $100). It hasn't had a steroid scandal dog it (see ya, MLB), hasn't had a lockout take away an entire season (goodbye, NHL) and hasn't seen players go fight fans (looking at you, NBA). Yes, the NFL has had some player problems (Exhibit A: Jones, Adam; Exhibit B: Roethlisberger, Ben) but the don't seem to have tainted the league at all. Fans still flock to the games, and spend their entire Sunday huddled around a TV. One of the reasons is the popularity of fantasy football.

It's time the CFL gets in on this action.

Just this season a company has decided to create a CFL fantasy football website. Fantas-Eh Football launched in mid-May to try to meet all the fantasy needs of CFL fans worldwide. I wish them the best of luck.

I don't want to cut anyone off at the knees, but the CFL would be wise to jump on board and use their own website to promote fantasy sports to their fans. Maybe do something in conjunction with Fantas-Eh, but at any rate, the league needs to have started its own fantasy website yesterday.

I've been thinking about CFL fantasy football for a long time. A former co-worker of mine actually brought the idea up back in 2006 after he and I attended a Montreal-Hamilton game. We didn't go through with it because we couldn't get enough people to participate or devote the time to it, but the idea stayed in my mind with the hope that one day it could be a reality. Who wouldn't want to sit around and draft Arland Bruce, Ricky Ray or Henry Burris?

There are problems with a CFL-based fantasy football league that would need to be addressed. With only eight teams, leagues cannot be as large as their American counterparts (which typically have 10-12 teams). The cap for a CFL league would have to be six teams, with maybe as few as four being ideal. It's not a deal killer, but it's not ideal either.

One of the things I love about my NFL fantasy football league is that we can create a schedule and play one opponent each week. Once again, because of the small talent pool it would be hard to create a schedule to play opponents, so therefore it would have to be organized similarly to a playoff hockey pool. Again, not something that should stop anyone, but it's also not perfect.

Even with those problems, the CFL should do everything in its power to get its fans playing CFL fantasy football.

To do my part, I have decided to start the Blogskee Wee Wee Fantasy Football League (BWWFFL). I haven't finalized all the details, but I have convinced three of my friends to participate, and I will use this site to update people on the league. I know one of the dullest things in the world is to hear about someone else's fantasy team, but this is the only platform I have, so I'm going to use it.

As I said, details at this point haven't been completely arranged, but sometime this week a draft will be held, and the BWWFFL will be official. Hopefully someday soon, this will be the norm, not the exception.

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