Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Why the XFL won't work. Again. (XFL)

          For those of you old enough to remember, the XFL first came about in 2001 through a desire by WWE owner (and chairman) Vince McMahon to have a spring football league for fans to watch after the NFL season ended in February. The league had eight teams, and several rule changes to distinguish itself from other football leagues on the continent.
          What we got was entertaining for the first couple of games, but turned into a mess in a short period of time. Wrestling-style antics were part of the experience (like cameras in the dressing rooms, verbal altercations between coaches and players, etc.), and greatly diminished the game itself. The XFL's championship game, known as the 'Million Dollar Game' was also somewhat of a bust. Due to falling ratings and people leaving in droves, the XFL died a quick death after it's first (and only) season. Players were picked up by teams in the NFL and CFL, and that was that.

         Fast forward to now. The XFL will be relaunched next year, and will be completely different than the last time around. The league will feature actual football, and no antics similar to the last incarnation. Nine teams have been confirmed thus far, and there is talk on which rule changes would be utilized to keep the XFL different than the NFL or CFL, as well as putting the emphasis on kickoffs and kickoff returns.
         Vince McMahon himself has pumped more that $400-million dollars into this relaunch, and hopes to fill the void for the rabid football fans that extends from mid February to late June.
         TTS believes that it will more than likely duplicate the exact results from the first try, with the viewership and ratings being heavy for the first couple of weeks, before dropping off and collapsing altogether by season's end. For some reason, a spring league or professional football alternative has never seemed to catch on (the exception being the Arena League, but that is nowhere near football, and has collapsed three or four times already).
         That all being said, TTS won't be covering the XFL at all, as the AAF (Alliance of American Football) seemed to be the best thing to happen to football in years, only to fall apart itself before completing even one full season. It's another nice idea, but will end up turning to dust before it gets anywhere.

          Sad, but true.

Monday, May 20, 2019

CFL vs. NFL games: Through the eyes of a fan. (CFL/NFL)

         As someone who has been to both Canadian Football League and National Football League games, I can tell you that the game day experience is vastly different from one league to the next. Some people think football is football, albeit the different rules and field sizes. They couldn't be more wrong, as there are a lot of things that distinguish each league's action from one another.

         Tailgating. The first thing you are greeted with at an NFL stadium is the amount of tailgating (parking lots filled with cars and trucks, barbeques and coolers everywhere, tons of meat and beer) being done outside the stadium. It's commonplace in the U.S., and is starting to become a bigger thing here in Canada at CFL games, with more and more teams and stadiums (and local governments) starting to embrace it more, and loosen things up for the fans. People can grill their own food and drink their own beer (within reason) before entering the stadium.
         Concessions. One of the frequent problems I ran into during an NFL game was the behaviour of people lined up at the concession stands. Before I go any further, let me first say that I have several American friends that are very polite and have the utmost respect for everyone else. Time and again at an NFL game, people pushed past me in line, almost knocked me over, rarely say 'excuse me' or 'sorry', and seem to be more impatient than most people. You do get the odd moron up here in line at a CFL game, but the lines are more civilized, as well as orderly.
         Energy. The NFL has the edge here, with stadium crowds getting loud and rowdy when the home team scores a touchdown or make a big play. CFL fans can get loud as well, but because NFL stadiums are bigger with a greater capacity, it seems a lot more electric at an NFL game, especially if all the fans have had significant amounts of alcohol.
         Attitude. This one is a 'stand out' difference, and I'll explain why. Time and again I've been at a CFL game wearing the other team's jersey, and had a couple taunts or shouts of 'Go back to Winnipeg!', but little else. It always seems to be just some old-fashioned ribbing and good, clean fun. Even teams in the CFL that are hated rivals have fans that pick on each other, but rarely anything severe enough to warrant violence. Different story in the NFL. If you wear the opposing team jersey in the home stadium, you're as good as dead. If you were no jersey at all, or any team colours of any kind, you're invisible. I've personally had people try to pick a fight with me, throw a punch, toss beers at me, and use every expletive in the book. Interesting times indeed.

         All in all, each game day experience is unique, and has it's quirks. If you've been a party to some odd CFL or NFL hijinks, let TTS know in the comments below!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

CFL/CFLPA reach a deal, plus some NFL news. (CFL/NFL)

         After several months of on again, off again negotiations the Canadian Football League and it's player's association (the CFLPA) have finally reached a tentative agreement that will see the league open the season on schedule. It has been said by other media outlets that the last couple of days were 'marathon' talks between both sides that were meant to bring the labour dispute to a conclusive end before things really got out of hand.
         Here are some of the main points of the deal that was reached:

         - New CBA is for three years.
         - Salary cap to increase by $50,000 a year, each year for the duration of the CBA.
        - Base salary for players expected to rise to $65,000 in year two.
        - Players will receive 20% in net revenue sharing from TV deals.
        - Three years of medical coverage is now included.
        - Canadian quarterbacks now count towards the ratio of national players.

        The deal is yet to be ratified by the players and their reps, but it is widely expected to pass, and quickly due to the new terms. Like any deal, there are supporters and detractors. The next couple of weeks will show us how well this new deal is actually received by everyone involved.

        Geno Smith goes to Seattle. In an effort to ass depth to the quarterback position, and to have a reliable (LOL) backup for Russell Wilson, the Seahawks have signed QB Geno Smith. This is yet another puzzling move from a team that has little direction. Smith doesn't have the best consistency, and his decision making process is a tad confusing, even on the best of days. TTS thinks this is yet another bad decision in a long line from Seattle.

        Fitzpatrick and Rosen battle it out. The Miami Dolphins seem to have a quarterback controversy brewing, and it's only mini-camp. Gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick and underachiever Josh Rosen are in competition to become the Dolphin's starting QB for when the season opens. This could go either way, and I'm really not sure what to make of it. Rosen is a former #1 overall pick that accomplished little in Arizona, losing the backing of management before being traded.
        Fitzpatrick is the model of inconsistency, throwing for massive numbers one week, then interceptions the next. No clear advantage for either of them at the moment.

        Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below, and TTS will respond!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Why the NCAA is mess, and how to fix it. (NCAA)

          There has been a lot of talk in football circles recently on how broken the NCAA system is these days. From schedules to inter-conference games, and the insane amount of money being paid to coaches, while players get nothing at all. Add the committee to the mix for rankings and playoff seeding, and you have a dysfunctional organization that long ago lost control.
          I will list several things that illustrate the root causes of some of the main issues in the NCAA today, and what I think should be done to fix them.

Seeding. The most obvious problem is the seeding and rankings done by the committee. It is beyond ludicrous to have teams seeded BEFORE the college football season even starts. I don't care who won the previous year's national championship or top four bowl games. I have always been of the opinion that rankings should not be put out until after the first week of the season, if not the second.

Unpaid athletes. College football players are students, I get that. But that having been said, for all the intensity and energy they play with, and all the huge plays and numbers they put up notwithstanding, these young men need to get a little piece of that massive pie that floats around the NCAA. Ohio State's football program alone brings in more than $1-billion annually. No one can tell me they can't afford to pay their players.

Scheduling. There are too many top college teams out there (looking at YOU Alabama, and Clemson!) that get super soft schedules, often playing un-ranked or second tier teams that are beyond garbage, making little sense other than to pad said top teams stats and position in the conference. Flat schedules and automatic beat downs need to stop, because most of us are sick of watching nothing games. Ever wonder why top programs (Alabama!) get soft schedules? Refer to billions of dollars that schools bring in, a point made in the previous paragraph.

Coaches. This points to money, again. Some coaches in the NCAA make more or even double (sometimes triple) what an NFL coach makes, and that is beyond ridiculous. This not only shows the arrogance of the school paying out the big dollars, but the ego of the coach that actually think he's worth that kind of money. I could go off on a tangent about this alone, but I won't.

And finally.....the committee. The rankings are almost identical every year before the bowl game schedule and playoff games start, the same four or five teams always at the top. You know why? Money is at the root of it, with a rather incompetent committee (to say the least) responsible for the rest. No one on the committee has the balls to change the status quo and actually let the teams play and see who is the best. Nope, instead they tell us who's the best. Brutal, isn't it?

Agree or disagree? Tell TTS in the comments below!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

CFL's 'one helmet' rule for 2019, and what it means. (CFL)

          In an effort to improve player safety across the league, and to cut costs for teams, the Canadian Football league has introduced a 'one helmet' rule for the upcoming (hopefully!) season. Gone will be a two helmet (or alternate helmet) system for teams that have home and away helmets, or use their 'rush' helmets as an alternate. TTS thinks this is a great idea, and below is the breakdown on how it will affect each and every team, and why it works.

Toronto Argonauts. Gone are the white alternate helmets (which didn't look very appealing to begin with), as the Argos will keep a navy blue helmet, but with a possible new or improved logo to start the season.

Calgary Stampeders. It's safe to say that any fan of the Canadian Football league won't be sad to see the Stamps' black helmets get axed. There was little point in introducing black into a team known as the 'red and white', as well as giving them that awful helmet.

B.C. Lions. Personally, I've been a big fan of the black home helmet and orange road helmet. It looks like the Lions will keep the black helmet (seen in a photo leaked from the upcoming team uniform redesigns), and incorporate white and orange stripes on it. Cool.

Ottawa RedBlacks. The black helmet in this case makes sense, with perhaps some more red to go with it (Hello!). The white helmets they had been wearing on the road didn't make much sense for a team called the 'RedBlacks'. Oh, and maybe make that 'R' on the helmet BIGGER.

Montreal Alouettes. This could go either way, as the Alouettes change their logo and helmet designs more often than most people change their socks. Hopefully, some kind of sanity will prevail, and they'll get the silver helmet back with that new logo they unveiled not too long ago. Hopefully.

Saskatchewan Roughriders. As per usual, nothing is expected the change here. The helmet will still be green, the logo will still be an 'S' with wheat, and the Rider fans will still play banjoes.

Edmonton Eskimos. The green helmet is going bye bye, replaced with a yellow helmet that will have the large 'EE' logo in green letters. Definitely an upgrade for the Esks.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It would be interesting to see if the Ticats lose the black helmet, and go back to the yellow helmet with black striping from days past. If they stick to what they have, the league would have three teams with a black helmet to start the season, and that's well.....boring.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers. There will be no changes to the only gold in the league, and that's a good thing. You don't mess with perfection, and Bomber Gold is just that. The iconic 'W' on the sides of the helmet is all that's needed, and the new uniforms look to stay the same as well. When you only have one gold in the CFL, you make sure you don't screw with it.

          Thoughts on your team's helmet changes? Comment below!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Ricky Ray retires. (CFL)

        Arguably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the Canadian Football League, Ricky Ray has announced his retirement after sixteen seasons in the Great White North. Ray played for both the Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts, recording a total of four Grey Cup championships across his illustrious football career. It is widely expected that he will jump into coaching, as well as be a slam dunk first ballot Hall of Famer as early as next year.
        By the numbers. Ricky Ray won Grey Cups in 2003, 2005, 2012, and 2017. His career numbers show 60,429 passing yards, a touchdown interception ratio of 325-177, and a pass attempt/completion ratio of 7,247/4,942. His career passer rating is 98.23, having played in 234 career games, and starting 214 of them. Ray was a model of consistency over the years, and largely avoided injury until his last couple of seasons.

        There was a lot of doubt as to if Ray would play again after the devastating injury he suffered last season in Toronto's home loss to the Calgary Stampeders on June 23rd. As someone who was watching that game and saw the play, you can tell that was the end of Ray at that very moment. Ray did not play another game for the double blue, and spent most of the off-season debating his future as a player in the Canadian Football league.

        There is no doubt that he'll rank as one of the all-time greats in the CFL. All the best to Ricky Ray, and what the future holds for him. TTS hopes that he'll be in the league as a coach soon enough, as he has shown himself to be one of the smartest people in Canadian football.

Throwing The Slant's top WRs of all time! (CFL/NFL)

          It's time for another top ten! This time it's a list of the top ten receivers of all-time, including players from both professional leagues. As per usual, I'll explain after every player why they are on their list, and some of their football accomplishments.

10) Chad Johnson. The man who was once known as Chad Ochocinco played most of his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals, whose talent and skill-set produced many touchdowns and highlight reel catches week in and week out. His only dectractor were the stunts that cost him money and respect.

9) Ben Cahoon/Art Monk. Cahoon won the Most Outstanding Canadian award in the CFL two years in a row, three Grey Cup championships (all with Montreal), and holds numerous CFL records fr receiving and receptions. Art Monk is a three time Super Bowl winner in the NFL, and set new records in his 1984 season with the Washington Redskins.

8) Darren Flutie. The long-time CFL player and brother of QB Doug Flutie, Darren set some records of his own, and stays fourth in all-time CFL catches and receiving yardage. He is also a two-time Grey Cup champion.

7) Michael Irvin. Throwing touchdown passes to Michael Irvin was almost a sure thing, and with it came three Super Bowl championships with the Dallas Cowboys, as well as multiple Pro Bowl appearances. His whole career was spent with Dallas, where he's something of a legend there.

6) Terrell Davis. One of the most innovative and flamboyant receivers ever to play in the NFL, Owens led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2001, 2002, and 2006. Although Owens never won a Super Bowl, his talent was undeniable, and his recent induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame cementing his status as an elite player.

5) Andre Reed. The man who appeared in four straight Super Bowl games with the Buffalo Bills might not have won any of them, but ranks at number five on this list because of how impressive his play really was. Upon retirement, Reed was second in all-time receptions, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

4) Brian Kelly. A top target for Warren Moon in the Edmonton Eskimos' dynasty years, Kelly amassed close to 12,000 yards in his CFL career, and won five straight Grey Cups. He also holds almost every Edmonton Eskimo record for receiving, and was voted in the top twenty of the greatest CFL players ever.

3) Randy Moss. One of the greatest NFL players to never win the Super Bowl, Randy led the league in receiving touchdowns in five seasons (1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009), holds the record for most receiving touchdowns in a season (23), and most in his rookie year (17). One of the most gifted athletes at the WR position, Randy Moss will forever be one o the greats.

2) Milt Stegall. The greatest CFL receiver to never win a Grey Cup, Stegall played his entire CFL career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, recording 15,153 yards, 147 touchdowns, and was also the league's most outstanding player in 2002, and was a first ballot inductee into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Stegall made catches and did things no other CFL receiver could do, and constantly redefined the position whenever he played.

1) Jerry Rice. This man sits alone at the top, the greatest wide receiver in football history. A 3-time Super Bowl winner, Super Bowl MVP, league MVP, 13 time Pro Bowl visits, Jerry Rice also holds many of the receiving records that still stand today including total yardage (22,895), receptions (1,549), career receiving touchdowns (197), total touchdowns (208), and all-purpose yards (23,546). There is simply no one better than Jerry Rice.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Grey Cup, 2020 Draft, Angry people. (CFL/NCAA/NFL)

         As many of you out there know, the CFL's Grey Cup trophy has been around since the late 1800's, ever since it was first donated to serve as the championship trophy for the amateur football team that came out on top each year. Many names have been enshrined on the cup since, and this year marks only the third time in it's history that the base will be replaced. A new base with a similar shape will be given to the Grey Cup, and every year from now on, one plate will be removed and sent to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame to be displayed.
        I have personally been in the company of the Grey Cup, and it is an awesome chalice to behold, able to humble a man in the process. I think it's a great idea to showcase the old base (which will receive a replica Grey Cup), as well as each plate that comes off the new base. Here's to many more years of the Grey Cup, and Canadian football as a whole!

        Even though three quarterbacks went in the first round of this year's NFL draft, the 2020 edition has the NCAA star power to make it one of the most explosive (and manic) drafts ever. Three top quarterbacks from the NCAA will be in the 2020 draft. Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbet, and Jalen Hurts.
        I know that we have a year before said drat rolls around, but I'm going to make an early prediction, in which Jake Fromm will go as the number one pick next year. I say this, because Fromm is easily the most well-rounded quarterback in the NCAA, and also the most disciplined. That being said, because the 2020 draft is so loaded with QBs, we might see the first three or four picks in a row directed at said QBs. But, only time will tell, and we'll all have to wait until next April.

       So much anger. A lot of sportscasters are losing their minds over NFL teams and players as of late. Max Kellerman (former boxing analyst, and New York Giants fan) went off on a couple of rants seemingly directed at the Giants' brand new QB Daniel Jones, before later amending his statement to say that the rant was directed at Giants' general manager David Gettleman.
        Stephen A. Smith (who always has an axe to grind) ripped into Ryan Clark and Greedy Williams for suggesting that the Cleveland Browns would not only win the division (thanks to new stud QB Baker Mayfield, and the addition of WR Odell Beckham Jr.), but the Super Bowl as well. Smith literally blew a gasket on live TV, running down the notion of the Browns even winning one game, let alone get into the playoffs at the end of the season.
        Things are getting interesting in the NFL, to say the least.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

CFL and CFLPA talk money. (CFL)

         The CFL and CFLPA held two days worth of talks on Monday and Tuesday, primarily talking about money. With 97% of the CFLPA and it's members in favour of a strike, the CFL must tread lightly during the current round of negotiations, but also can't fully cave in to the CFLPA as well. Players want an increased salary and more guaranteed benefits for when they retire, and are willing to disrupt the start of the season to achieve this goal.
         There is however, a large disparity between what the players association wants and what they can get, and this seems to be getting lost in the discussion. As I've mentioned before here on TTS, there is only so much money to go around within the league. The CFL does not bring in anything close to what the NFL does, and this includes advertising, endorsements, partnerships, merchandise, and other revenue tools at their disposal. It's become far too easy for any player's association from any league to want a bigger piece of the pie.
         Unfortunately, the league must play hardball. They can ill afford to lose any of the fan base over a squabble like this, and the players should already know this.
         These labour negotiations could have been done at the start of the year, but instead were parlayed until too close to the start of the season, the intention being to cripple the CFL, and force them to the table to accept whatever proposal the CFLPA will eventually make. Until two days ago, there hadn't been any talks between the two sides since April 9th, and this is due to egos on both sides of the table being unable to coexist.
         Randy Ambrosie needs to shoulder a lot of the blame as well, as he hasn't really done much to help the proceedings, nor put the minds of loyal fans at rest. He delayed negotiations until now because of "other priorities". What could be a bigger priority than making sure the CFL actually plays football this season? Is he trying to tell us that the F in CFL (it stands for FOOTBALL, case anyone forgot) doesn't actually mean anything because the league has 'better things to do'?
        His lack of leadership is fully on display in this matter, preferring to stay silent, and put global expansion and foreign interests ahead of the league and it's domestic problems. This serves no purpose, and is pretty much a big middle finger being waved at the fans themselves.

        As far as TTS is concerned, both the league and the player's association need to put aside their egos and get it done, FOR THE FANS. There really is no other option.