Plain Goofy

Calgary Stampeders' receiver Sulecio Sanford displays a photocopy of a still image taken from a...

Calgary Stampeders' receiver Sulecio Sanford displays a photocopy of a still image taken from a video tape of a controversial play which took place in Friday's CFL game in Vancouver, in Calgary, Monday, Oct.25, 2004. (Calgary Sun/Jim Wells)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

CFL officials butcher calls. That's hardly shocking news for long-standing fans of the great Canadian game who also enjoy 20/20 vision.

For years we've witnessed blown calls from coast to coast, or at least from coast to Montreal. It's almost embraced as part of the CFL's century-old tradition, like frozen feet and drunks at Taylor Field.

Yet it's a fall-on-your-arse shock to discover a CFL owner suggesting one of the many unique rules that govern our game is "stupid."

The man signing the cheques for the B.C. Lions thinks the open-field kick that led to a controversial Stampeders touchdown Friday night -- reversed by bungling officials working the game -- makes the CFL "look Mickey Mouse."

"Frankly, that play shouldn't even be in the rule book," Lions owner David Braley told a Vancouver newspaper.

"It's a stupid play. It makes it look Mickey Mouse. If you have a forward pass, I'm not so sure you should allow a kick."

The play wasn't Mickey Mouse but Braley's comments certainly appear Goofy, at least to football fans passionate about the league.

And the statement is more than a little troubling coming from a man entrusted with preserving the unique nature of the CFL as the Lions' alternate governor.

Would he like to see the Canadian field shrunken to NFL phone-booth proportions? How about adding a fourth down or maybe instituting a fair-catch rule on punts, which stifle creativity and excitement south of the border?

What we need in the CFL are teams trying to execute more plays as unique to Canadian football stadiums as Hudson Bay blankets and flasks brimming with booze.

How about a drop-kick -- a ball bounced off the turf before being booted through the uprights for three points -- to win the Grey Cup? That beats seeing a frumpy placekicker waddling onto the field any day.

Stampeders GM-head coach Matt Dunigan, who played 14 CFL seasons and called for his team to try, out of desperation, the trick play against the Lions, wants to see the league's peerless excitement preserved.

"It is a unique game, we have some unique rules that differentiate it from the football that's played south of the border," Dunigan notes. "We've kept more rugby rules involved in this game, which all football stems from, originating right out of the Toronto area. We're excited about keeping the grass roots and style of the game involved, which makes this game unique, exciting and fast-paced.

"I was watching an NFL game Monday night and guys were walking off the field with lots of time to go on the clock. With that much time, you've still got three more scores in the Canadian Football League.

"It's a unique game, a great game ... and we haven't changed the rules as much as the other football leagues have."

Braley should be praised for saving the Lions from extinction by purchasing the team eight years ago and bankrolling a CFL revival on the West Coast.

He even found new, strong ownership for teams in Hamilton and Toronto, helping to make the league more viable than ever.

Honourable contributions, indeed.

But as for his views of the rules, he's missing the point or, shall we say, the 'rouge.'

While the officiating can be stupid or even Mickey Mouse, the rules are a great Canadian tradition that should be celebrated, not mocked.


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