Fans have their say

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

You've got to hand it to CFL commissioner Mark Cohon.

The annual CFL congress and coach-of-the-year shindig are set for Hamilton this week, and among the rule changes to be kicked around are a few suggestions culled from more than 2,000 letters and e-mails from fans.

It's a brilliant idea, better, even, than letting fans vote for all-stars, which can create unwanted side effects (see: NHL '09).

"It's about deepening the sense of belonging our fans have with the CFL," league spokesman Jamie Dykstra was saying yesterday. "Response has been positive and passionate."

What better way to find out what bugs fans about your game?

And, yes, there are things about the three-down game, endearing as it is, that annoy.

One of the fan suggestions that have made the table this week involves the point-after, or convert, a play that's become so automatic it's a waste of time. Literally.

Shorter games

In the interest of keeping the duration of games shorter, the CFL several years ago began running the game clock on converts (except for those that occur in the last three minutes of a half).

The result: we lose valuable and potentially exciting game time to watch the snoozefests that are convert attempts. And since the 12-yard kicks are successful 99.5% of the time, what's the point (pardon the pun)?

We've raised that complaint in this space before, but apparently the league listens to fans more than to sportswriters. Go figure.

Moving the convert back to, say, a 19-yard kick (same as the NFL), or even further, would at least add the possibility of a miss. Two-point converts could still be scrimmaged from the five, as they are now.

Another rule that irks fans as much as it does us is the intentional safety. Nothing quite like watching a punter hightail it for the end zone, run around for several seconds while half a dozen big guys chase him, then retreat out the back.

The fans say there's not enough of a deterrent to giving up a safety, and we'd like to add our own two points, I mean, two cents' worth.

The team surrendering a safety should be forced to kick off not from its 35-yard line, but from its own 20. Then maybe they'd think twice about conceding.

Fans have raised a third point, but we're not with them on this one.

The good, old rouge is under attack, that bastion of Canadiana that sees teams rewarded for failure: the missed field goal.

It's only a single point, but fans, apparently, want it taken off the board.

That's where we have to blow the whistle and say, enough already.

Those who want to remove the rouge obviously haven't seen one of those last-minute kicking contests, where the receiving team has to put a punter in the end zone to boot the ball out, just in case the kicking team misses the field goal or can't get a punt to sail through the end zone in a tied game.

It's pure drama, often with plenty of comedy, too. Ever seen an offensive lineman try to kick the ball back in?

I've heard it suggested that only end zone punts, and not field goals, should produce the single point, or only those that are downed in the end zone, not those that sail through.

Remove hands

We say remove your hands from the rouge, altogether.

What's more Canadian than rewarding failure with a pat-on-the-back consolation prize? We can't have a team march all the way down the field and give them nothing, now, can we?

All in all, though, this temperature-taking of the fans is a good thing.

CFL director of officiating Tom Higgins doesn't expect any big changes coming from the rules committee meetings. The important thing, Higgins says, is that fans know they're being listened to.

We'd take it one step further: if you're taking suggestions, but not acting, are you really listening, or simply conducting an exercise in P.R.?


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