It was around mid-March when all hell started to break loose in the world.
The coronavirus was starting to take grip of society, with thousands of new cases propping up around the world accompanying a shocking number of deaths. The speed with which the virus was spreading became such a problem that professional sports leagues had no other option but to shut down. First was the NBA, followed by MLB, the NHL and MLS, all of which immediately halted play.
This is all old news by now. But it was at that moment back in March that the thought first crossed my mind: of all the professional sports leagues around the world, what an envious position the Canadian Football League is in. After all, while these other leagues were either in-season or on the brink of starting, the CFL was still months away from its June kickoff.
Surely, I thought, things would be cleared up by then.
How naive I was. Fast-forward to Tuesday's announcement from CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who, after postponing training camps last month, did the same with the start of the season.
"While it is now clear that the 2020 CFL season won’t start before the beginning of July, we are committed... to play a full season or as close as we can come to one. We recognize this may require some creativity and we are preparing for multiple scenarios," Ambrosie said in a prepared statement.
It was, of course, the right decision. It was the obvious one, too, given some Canadian cities, including Calgary, recently announced a ban on all large-scale events until at least June 30.
It's also not a reach to think Tuesday's update won't be the last bit of bad news for the CFL and its fans.
After speaking with players and league executives across the CFL, the consensus is a July start is being viewed as best-case scenario.
Needless to say, I don't think anyone is envious anymore.
While all pro sports leagues rely on ticket sales to pay the bills, nowhere is that more prevalent than the gate-driven CFL. So while other leagues have suggested resuming action in empty facilities, that's out of the question here.
With some teams already struggling to turn a profit, relying on the influx of cash from a TSN TV deal won't be enough to keep the lights on. And that's assuming that TSN won't drastically cut its spend in the event the usual 18-game CFL regular season doesn't have to be shortened.
Which brings us to a different conversation altogether, one the starts with the question of what the 2020 season might look like.
First, the bad news: while the CFL continues to seek out advice from medical professionals to come up with options, there's no denying the potential for a lost season.
While Ambrosie remains committed to the idea of a full season, unless he plans to shorten training camps, get rid of pre-season games, eliminate bye weeks and extend the season beyond the third week of November, it just doesn't seem plausible.
Training camps can't just be eliminated, and simply shortening them would also create significant problems.
Pre-season games could certainly be cut. Most starters usually play just one half over two exhibition games and, if it allows for more meaningful nights on the regular-season schedule, then it has to chalked up as the cost of doing business in 2020.
Bye weeks, which grew in number from two to three in 2018, can't just be eliminated, either. At least not without serious consultation between the CFL and the players association.
One of the biggest concerns at the CFL office and among its teams — look no further than the Blue Bombers, who ended a 28-year Grey Cup drought in November — is the loss of momentum. The club has had a banner off-season, filled with various celebrations and record sales in team merchandise.
And what about the other feel-good story in the Montreal Alouettes? After being the laughing stock of the CFL for a few years running, 2019 saw the Alouettes transform into a successful outfit on and off the field. The league was finally able to find a new owner, too. Talk about unfortunate timing.
In considering what a shortened season might look like, we'd have to work on two assumptions — both of which are huge ifs: that by July, American players will be allowed to travel to Canada without a 14-day quarantine, and that large groups will be allowed to assemble.
With the current timeline, and factoring in a two-week training camp, we're looking at a mid- to late-July start. More likely, it will be even later. While many prefer not to think about it, perhaps it's best to consider a drop-dead date for a regular-season kickoff.
The most popular suggestion being floated is Labour Day. While not ideal, it allows for an eight-game season with each team playing every other team once and one bye week.
The negatives in this scenario also loom large. The CFL would essentially be going head-to-head with the NFL schedule and with the weather much colder in Canada, asking fans to freeze their butts off during in the coldest stretch of the season might be a tough ask. The hope, of course, will be that fans will be so hungry for live sports it won't matter.
Either way, I don't envy the CFL anymore. But I do wish everyone concerned the best of luck through these trying times.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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