Leave the rouge alone

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

If there’s one thing Randy’s Road Trip has been good for, it’s getting people to talk about the CFL deep into the off-season.

First, there was the idea of reformatting the playoffs with higher seeds picking their opponents. More recently, the idea of changing the rouge — a uniquely Canadian scoring method — has come up.

Let me begin by saying I’m not one of those hardcore traditionalists who rails against any and all change. It’s healthy for the league to review it’s rules; just because something has always been done one way doesn’t mean it can’t be changed or improved. For a long time football existed without the forward pass and you’d never find anyone today complaining about that change.

With all that said, tweaking the way the rouge currently works in the CFL doesn’t make sense. It’s a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

As things currently stand, a single point is awarded: on kickoffs if the returner fields the ball and takes a knee in his end zone; on punts in the same situation or if the balls goes through any part of the end zone; and as a result of missed field goals where the returner takes a knee in the end zone or if a missed kick sails through any part of the end zone.

What Commissioner Randy Ambrosie talked about changing is the last part of the rule. Instead of awarding a single point on missed field goals, a rouge would only be awarded if the returner fails to make it past the goal line. Missed field goals that go directly out of bounds would count for nothing. Given that he’s said nothing about punts, seemingly punting directly through the end zone would continue to count for one point.

Some argue that teams are “rewarded for failure” when they receive a point for a missed field goal. I disagree. The offence is rewarded for getting into range to attempt a field goal and the defence is punished for failing to force the offence off the field. Not to mention the defence still has the ability to avoid conceding a single by simply returning the ball if it land in the end zone.

Consider the following scenario. There’s no time left in the fourth quarter of a tie game. The offence is in range to attempt a field goal. If the rule is changed, a coach wouldn’t even bother to try for the three points — they would instead have their punter smash the ball through the end zone. Rouge scored, win earned. The proposed rule change wouldn’t have any effect at all aside from leading to more punts as opposed to late-game field goals.

Furthermore, in an era when every sports league in the world is looking to increase scoring, why would the CFL consider a proposal to take points off the board?

Not to mention that the rouge is beloved by many fans who recognize it as part of what makes Canadian football unique. Is it quirky? Sure! But why is that a bad thing?

Football in this country has a long tradition of being different than football anywhere else in the world. At a time when the commissioner is flying around the global to promote the Canadian game as part of his CFL 2.0 initiative, why tinker with a rule that has a rich history, adds an extra element of strategy to the game and puts points on the board?

I’m all for examining rules and changing them to make the game better and more exciting, but I fail to see how tweaking the rouge does either. That’s why I believe that, when it comes to the rouge rule as it’s currently written, the league would be smart to leave well enough alone.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).