Monday Mailbag: a loan for the CFL, XFL merger, the Canadian ratio

The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag answers questions from readers across the country every week.

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Please note that by sending us a question you are giving us the right to publish it along with your name. Questions may be lightly edited for spelling and/or formatting.

We’ve answered a handful of questions below. If your question didn’t get picked, don’t panic — we’ll save it to potentially answer here next week or on the 3DownNation Podcast.

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If the CFL needs a money loan to start the season, why don’t they get one from the bank like everyone else? I’m sure all of the owners can put up their teams worth as collateral.

-John Anderson

Thanks for the question, John. I like your first name.

You are absolutely right that the CFL could go to the bank for a loan. They could also choose to “loan” the money to themselves, as the league’s six private owners are worth well over $10 billion combined.

The league’s private owners have generally chosen not to invest in their own product since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Had they wanted to, the league could have fully self-funded a shortened “bubble” season in 2020 to stay relevant. They didn’t. The teams could also have committed to playing a 2021 season even without fans in the stands. They haven’t.

The CFL’s problem isn’t capital — it’s the willingness of stakeholders to use their existing wealth. It’s not my place to tell ultra-rich people how to spend their money, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that there is huge amounts of money behind many CFL teams. The owners just don’t want to spend it.

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Can someone help me understand why preserving our Canadiana CFL — its rules and Canadian content — is so critical in a globalized sports world?

I’m 60 and I’ve been an ardent CFL fan but I don’t go to games to watch a handful of Canadian-born players. I could care less where they come from and preserving 100 or so Canadian jobs is too insignificant to worry about.

A bigger stage with U.S. teams and network contracts will attract better players and most likely inspire even more Canadian players to play, and create a younger fan base. And good Canadian talent will play. Canadian kids don’t play football because they dream of playing in the CFL. It’s the NFL all the way. It would be like a kid dreaming of playing in the AHL.

A merger with a U.S. football entity would be perceived as one step closer to the NFL by American players and thus Canadian players as well. So what are we protecting? It’s dying in Vancouver and Toronto and most Lions’ fans would get into a Seattle rivalry way more than one with Edmonton.

It’s time to change because we have little to hang onto. A more profitable, higher profile league will attract better talent on both sides of the border and we the fans will benefit.

-Don Delayen

Thanks for the question, Don. You make some really good points.

I agree that watching elite players in the NFL will inspire kids in Canada to play football. I also believe that watching elite Canadian players in the NFL — especially “skill players” like Chase Claypool and John Metchie III — could inspire them even more.

The XFL provides players with the shortest route to the NFL, so I can see a future in which many choose that league over the CFL. That doesn’t mean the XFL will inspire anyone to take up football. You said it yourself: kids don’t dream of playing in the AHL, so wouldn’t the XFL be exactly that — a secondary league?

I don’t view the CFL as a minor league. It’s not a second-rate American football league — it’s a first-rate Canadian football league. Most of the big-name NFL players who have come to the CFL have been terrible. The games are unique and require different skillsets and physical attributes to play.

Will the CFL ever have the same talent level as the NFL? No, but the skill between the two leagues is a lot closer than most people believe. And if given the choice between remaining unique and becoming a cheap imitation of its larger counterpart, the CFL would be foolish to become “Diet NFL.”

Preserving our roster rules is essential because many of the greatest Canadian players of all-time wouldn’t have gotten a chance to play were it not for the ratio. Players like Andrew Harris, Jerome Messam, Chris Van Zeyl, and Brad Sinopoli — all recent CFL award-winners — would have been passed over at the start of their careers for more pro-ready American talent.

Davis Sanchez eventually became a starter in the NFL but admitted he never would have had the opportunity to play professional football if it weren’t for the ratio. He was a late-bloomer and unless forced to do otherwise, teams will almost always take a pro-ready prospect over a project. I’d argue the same is true for current Canadian NFL players like Tevaughn Campbell and Brett Jones.

You said that “good Canadian talent will play” in a league with no ratio. The problem with that is most of the CFL’s top Canadians weren’t “good” at the start of their careers. They were developmental players who improved over time to become stars.

Edmonton’s Kwaku Boateng has grown into one of the CFL’s best pass-rushers, but nobody wanted him in the 2017 CFL Draft. 40 players were taken ahead of him. In a ratio-less league, Boateng would never have signed a professional contract. Now he’s a star.

As for Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, I see the downturn in the CFL’s major cities as a temporary, fixable problem. Ten years ago, Ottawa was considered a dead market. Hamilton and Saskatchewan went through extremely challenging years in the decade before that. You’d never know that today.

The XFL is interested in the CFL’s big markets, which wouldn’t be true if they didn’t believe a “secondary league” could be profitable in them. I take that as a sign that invested, engaged ownership could make the CFL popular again in our country’s largest cities.

The CFL isn’t perfect and I’m open to change. The business model needs to be improved and some type of partnership with the XFL could be beneficial for both parties.

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