Another year is about to come to a close, which means it’s time to look back on the top 3DownNation stories of 2021.
After a dark and dreary 2020, this year presented its own unique challenges and a rebirth of sorts. After months of speculation, controversy and even talks of merger with the XFL, the CFL returned to the field and completed a shortened campaign just under the wire, mere days before the Omicron variant prompted tougher COVID restrictions across the country.
It was a year defined by resilience, one that necessitated the need to adapt to new challenges and stride into the unknown. You’ve been with us through it all and we could not be more thankful for your continued support.
Let’s take one last look back at 2021 before turning the page to what will hopefully be a much more predictable 2022.
10. ‘It’s going to be four down football’: June Jones believes The Rock can pull off a CFL-XFL merger
Way back in March, the CFL world was aflame with speculation that the league would move to four downs. About to enter January, we are still having that conversation, but at least the XFL is not involved.
Former Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones became a popular sounding board at the height of XFL speculation due to his position as head coach of the Houston Roughnecks.
His insistence that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson would bring a fourth down across the 49th parallel rubbed more than a few readers the wrong way, but it hasn’t happened… yet.
9. Nearly 40,000 fans ranked final choices for new Edmonton team name
The Edmonton Football Team’s eventual rebrand to the Edmonton Elks was a hot topic early in 2021 and it appears fans were just as engaged with our articles as they were with the process itself.
Justin Dunk’s report that 38,532 people had ranked the seven finalists for the new name got more traction than the ballot itself, almost enough for us to forgive him for voting ‘Elkhounds’ number one.
8. The definitive Edmonton Football Team name ranking
Keeping with the Edmonton name change, it wasn’t just news reports that generated interest.
Contributor J.C. Abbott’s light-hearted ranking of the seven finalists — as well as a few off-the-ballot choices — stirred up plenty of passionate rebuttals from fans in disagreement. He had the last laugh though, with ‘Elks’ firmly at the top of both his list and the team’s.
7. ‘I’m not going to apologize for it. I refuse to’: Suitor defends Canadian talent in face of merger speculation
The numbers show that CFL fans — and 3Down writers, for that matter — got tired of XFL speculation very quickly, but a defence of Canadian content never lost their interest.
TSN colour commentator Glen Suitor quickly established himself as a voice of reason at the height of merger talks and went to bat for the CFL’s ratio rules when few others in the media would. Fans agreed with him, cementing his place as one of the most respected voices in Canadian football.
6. Blue Bombers suspend Canadian offensive lineman Asotui Eli
Two years later and COVID-19 is still making major CFL headlines, even at the Grey Cup.
The news that Winnipeg’s backup offensive lineman Tui Eli would not be able to travel to Hamilton for the championship game due to his vaccination status kicked off the month of December with a bang and a three weeks later, it makes this list.
The Bombers didn’t need Eli to repeat as Grey Cup champions, but stories about unvaccinated players likely aren’t going away in 2022.
5. Former NFL punter turned show host Pat McAfee: ‘It’s dead, but the CFL was awesome’
The cancellation of the 2020 CFL season had many fearing the worst, but reports of the league’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
Unfortunately, exaggeration is right in the wheelhouse of NFL punter turned sports talk shock jock Pat McAfee. Fan response forced him to apologize for calling the CFL “state fair football” early in 2021, but he clarified his comments by pronouncing the league dead.
The CFL returned to the field very much alive just a few months later. How do you like us now, Pat?
4. Province of Alberta doesn’t anticipate vaccinating general public until fall
You never know what is going to go viral and John Hodge’s report on Alberta’s vaccination timeline took off in a way that updates from other provinces simply couldn’t replicate.
Vaccination rates in the general public were a major factor in the CFL’s plan to return to play in 2021 and Alberta’s original plan to not ramp up its shot giving strategy until September was very bad news.
Fortunately that timeline got moved up and fully vaccinated fans flooded McMahon and Commonwealth all season.
3. Longtime TSN analyst, former NFL and CFL offensive lineman Chris Schultz passes away
Sometimes an article can be incredibly successful and you still wish that you never had to write it.
The sudden passing of CFL on TSN panelist Chris Schultz due to heart attack in March rocked the CFL community to its core and led to an outpouring of tributes for the former Toronto Argonaut across social media.
There will never be another broadcaster quite like the big man. We still miss you every gameday, Schultzy!
2. Former NFL head coach, NBC analyst Tony Dungy throws subtle CFL shade
Nothing gets CFL fans quite as fired up as American media personalities making comments about their game and they had plenty of opportunity for anger after former Bombers’ quarterback Chris Streveler was pressed into action with the Arizona Cardinals last January.
Dungy, the former Super Bowl winning head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, commented at half-time after a Streveler pick six that “defences in the NFL are a little bit tougher than the CFL defences.” Some fans took issue with those comments, but the Dungy got nowhere near the hate that the subject of our top article of 2021 did.
1. NFL commentator Boomer Esiason dissed the CFL and people aren’t having it
Public enemy number one for CFL fans in 2021? Randy Ambrosie is breathing a sigh of relief because that honour goes to Boomer Esiason.
The NFL colour commentator was on the call when Streveler threw that aforementioned pick six and got a bit too personal for CFL fans in his critique of the play.
“What a horrific mistake by ‘Reveler,’” said the CBS announcer mispronounced Streveler’s name. “He throws it in between three Ram defenders as he is getting hit in the pocket. This isn’t the Grey Cup. This isn’t the CFL. You can’t just take chances and throw the ball down the middle of the field and expect somebody not to come down with it. There’s just no reason to throw the ball there.”
As expected, Canadians came down hard on Esiason and their anger translated into clicks. Not only was this the top viewed article of 2021, it was the third most viewed article in the history of the site. Boomer’s reputation may never recover!