It’s time for the CFL to crack down on depth chart deception

I learned a great new word this summer: “gedogen.” It’s Dutch, meaning “forbidden but allowed” or “a rule that is not enforced.”

The term is special because it so succinctly describes a concept for which there is no English word. The only other such term I can think of is “schadenfreude,” a German word that means “taking joy in others’ misfortune.”

There are many things in the CFL that are gedogen, the two most prominent being tampering during free agency and releasing false information on depth charts.

Let’s talk about the latter.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats listed rookie Maleek Irons as their starting running back in Winnipeg last Friday night. Irons was healthy — he played in the game, recording one carry and one reception — but Tyrell Sutton took 60 per cent of the snaps. The veteran tailback carried the ball eight times and caught three passes, one of which went for a touchdown.

A similar issue occurred in late August when William Stanback was listed as the starter for the Montreal Alouettes. Despite being listed as the backup, Jeremiah Johnson recorded Montreal’s first seven rushing attempts of the game. Stanback — who was returning from injury — finished the contest with just six carries to Johnson’s 12.

These are just two examples of teams using their depth charts to mislead the public regarding their makeup of their rosters, which is a problem.

The CFL partnered with TSN three years ago to create a daily fantasy game that allows fans to predict who will be the top performers of the week. The game has become quite popular — it’s frequently discussed during broadcasts and featured on the league’s website — with a trip to the Grey Cup serving as the grand prize.

How can fans predict which players will perform well when it’s impossible to be sure who’s starting?

Most fans probably aren’t aware that the depth charts teams release prior to game day are sometimes different than the ones they submit to TSN.

Public depth charts sometimes contain false information designed to mislead the opposition — which, in turn, misleads fans — while the depth chart submitted to TSN is supposed to be legitimate.

TSN is also typically told the day before the game which player will be scratched — information that is not released publicly until one hour before kickoff. This is to allow the league’s broadcast partner the opportunity to properly prepare graphics and commentary well ahead of the game.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers started Marcus Rios at field-side halfback in Week 11 after he’d been listed third on the depth chart behind Mercy Maston and Mike Jones. Maston was scratched due to injury, but Jones was healthy — he played the entire game on special teams.

I spoke with a source at TSN who confirmed that the depth chart Winnipeg submitted listed Rios as the third-stringer.

This wasn’t a surprise because TSN’s panel had spent a portion of the pregame show talking about how Jones was making his first career CFL start. His photo also appeared in the starting lineup that was introduced by Chris Cuthbert, even though Jones wasn’t on the field at the time.

Winnipeg’s depth chart deception made the league’s broadcasting partner look foolish on live television. That’s unacceptable.

Broadcasters, media members and fans need to know who’s starting and who’s not. It’s that simple. And it’s a problem that doesn’t exist south of the border.

The NFL has strict rules about the frequency, accuracy and specificity of injury reports, which the league says is of “paramount importance in maintaining the integrity of the game.” Penalties for breaking these rules “may include a fine on the involved club, fines or suspensions of involved individuals, as well as the possible forfeiture of draft choices.”

The CFL would be wise to mimic this policy and the accompanying penalties for rule breakers.

Teams will bend the rules to gain a perceived advantage on the opposition, which is understandable. But creating stricter rules — and, you know, actually enforcing them — should keep teams from breaking them at the expense of fan enjoyment and accuracy.

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