An open letter to Colin Kaepernick:

Dear Mr. Kaepernick,

How are things? View From The South understands you’re still unemployed. I’ve been there, and I know it’s not at all easy. In fact, we’re writing you today to offer a solution: Colin Kaepernick, come to the CFL!

I know, I know. The CFL doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of the NFL. The opportunities for massive endorsement deals like Beats by Dre won’t happen, because apparently Canadians don’t use headphones. TSN, the nationally-broadcast sports network, doesn’t cover the league as extensively as ESPN does for the NFL, so you won’t get as much screen time microscopically exploring every facet of your pre- and post-game activities.

Aside from these shortcomings, though, the CFL has much to offer a guy looking to make a comeback in the NFL. Yes, I know that Vince Young recently couldn’t make it work up there in the Great White North, but you, you know, actually *played high-level football for the past six years*. Sure, your 2016 statistics of 59.2% pass completion and 16:4 TD-to-interception ratio in 11 games, good for just 23rd place in QB rating ahead of the likes of Cam Newton, Eli Manning and Carson Wentz, were abysmal enough so that not even the Los Angeles Rams were willing to offer you a token spot on the roster for ’17.

But CFL history is rife with stories of American quarterbacks who came to the CFL to prove themselves worthy of a shot/another shot at the NFL. The list of guys who overcame their limitations in the CFL and ultimately going on/returning to the NFL includes Doug Flutie (deemed too short to play in the NFL), Jeff Garcia (too small), Joe Theismann (wanted a fair salary) and Warren Moon (um, let’s see … hmmm, can’t really think of anything).

I know that the CFL season is just about to start, but the league plays an 18-game schedule in which backup quarterbacks are increasingly critical to a team’s success. View From The South dares say that at least seven of the CFL’s nine teams (excepting the Edmonton Eskimos and BC Lions here) would be happy to have you in as no. 2 on the depth chart – even if you haven’t played in a Super Bowl in four years.

And there are differences in the game that may take some time for a guy who maintained a 4.0+ GPA in college and who took his team to the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter. After you learn the subtelties, though, whoa. You’ll learn that this is a game built for your style of play: With three downs, the quarterback may be forced to improvise and start running much more frequently than in the NFL. You’ll also get an extra receiver to target and an extra yard back from the defensive line – all the better to read the defense (or defence) with.

Now I realize you may actually have retired from football altogether, “choosing” a career in activism rather than on the football field, with the, let’s say, gentle assistance of 32 NFL franchise owners who are certainly not blacklisting you, but if you’re considering playing in 2017, consider the CFL.

Oh, one other thing: It’s about Canada. Should you take VFTS up on the unbelievably unofficial offer, you will have to play and reside at least temporarily in a strange foreign country, where certain advantages America has may not be in evidence. The insistence that everyone has the right to free speech, even if that free speech is expressed in an unorthodox and unpopular manner, is not so prevalent in Canada. Generally speaking, certain social issues with which you are concerned may not be quite as conflagrated as they are here in the ‘States, and the country’s prime minister (like the president, pretty much) is currently putting little effort into making Canada great again.

As for the CFL itself, the team owners are not as wealthy as their NFL counterparts and thus care far, far less about important matters like league image and luxury box seating. They don’t even care enough to keep the riffraff out of the stadiums by jacking up prices to beyond what folks with reasonable incomes can afford!

The national anthem is different, too. It’s called “O Canada” and most folks would prefer if you stopped short of unwelcome distractions which might be considered disrespectful, likesay, stripping down to the full monty and doing cartwheels at the 55-yard line while it is playing before games.

Thank you for your consideration and best of luck to you in your future endeavors – as long as you keep it wholesome!


View From The South

Ripping off Gregg Easterbrook. Welcome back to the View From The South, a weekly column about the Canadian Football League, Canada, football, leagues and really whatever the hell else might in any way be tangentially related to CFL Football.

Longtime (read: old) readers of long-form sportswriting may notice a similarity of format and/or stylistic elements to a fantastic and now sadly possibly extinct football column called Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Penned by Gregg Easterbrook weekly while the “artificial football universe” was in full swing, the column informed, entertained and occasionally blew readers away for 15 years in Salon, at and in the New York Times. “TMQ” may be back for the 2017 season, but no proper announcement has been made by any media outlet or Easterbrook himself on the column’s future thus far.

In any case, TMQ was always my first read when it was launched. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Easterbrook, despite some disagreement with his more mainstream political takes, and don’t want anyone to think VFTS is merely ripping off TMQ. In this column’s defense (or defence), three things:

  • It’s not a knockoff, it’s an homage.
  • You can’t copyright a column format.
  • Gregg, if you’re reading this, we’d love to pick up Tuesday Morning Quarterback here at The Grueling Truth. We pay less than you’re used to getting at The Atlantic or the New York Times – like 100% less – but we’re terrific virtual hosts!

Changing My Predictions. (Admit it: You’ve now got a certain R.E.M. song running through your head. Sorry about that.) Hey, over on the Rouge, White & Blue CFL Podcast, yours truly and co-host Joe Pritchard got in our 2017 CFL season predictions in well before just about anyone else.

Here’s how the original predictions went:

Calgary Stampeders, 15-3
BC Lions, 14-4
Edmonton Eskimos, 10-8
Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 10-8
Saskatchewan Roughriders, 6-12
Ottawa RedBlacks, 11-7
Hamlton Tiger-Cats, 7-11
Montreal Alouettes, 5-13
Toronto Argonauts, 3-15

This was, in my original vision, to result in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ crossover bid ultimately landing them in the Grey Cup, where they’re take a double-digit loss to the Stampeders.


(And I may or may not be aware of the full extent to which my fan goggles are clouding my vision here.)
Did you see what Darien Durant did in that one preseason game? Despite Chris Jones’s reticence to keep the veteran around in Saskatchewan, the old guy’s got gas in the tank, piss and vinegar in his bloodstream, possibly cybernetic tendons in his throwing arm and a chip on his shoulder bigger than a hearty loaf of Momma Jones’s cornbread (SO to Ron Montgomery). After kicking the tires on 358 give or take a couple dozen) over the past three seasons, well, comment dit-on «The Alouettes’re back, baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!11» en français…?

Coupled with the football shape Ottawa’s Trevor Harris appears to be in after that first preseason game against the Ticats, my new 2017 CFL season predictons look like this:
Calgary Stampeders, 15-3
BC Lions, 13-5
Edmonton Eskimos, 9-9
Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 9-9
Saskatchewan Roughriders, 5-13
Ottawa RedBlacks, 11-7
Montreal Alouettes, 10-8
Hamlton Tiger-Cats, 6-12
Toronto Argonauts, 3-15

As for a Grey Cup prediction … is this Als fan brave enough to take the surprise and – nah. Stampeders over the RedBlacks. Sorry, Winnipeg, but you still get that crossover playoff spot!

Saskatchewan Roughriders (6.5) at Montreal Alouettes. I picked this game in CFL Pick ‘Em 70 days ago when the game was opened for the ’17 season. Since the initial pick, I’ve been down on it (when S.J. Green departed), really down (when Bear Woods left and the concomitant rumor emerged that front office and The Great Coaching Hope Jacques Chapdelaine were not on the same page about the deal) and now up enough (thanks to Svengali Durant) to even like Montreal by more than the touchdown pointspread. Further, I’d say that Durant, with Ernest Jackson now catching his passes, will be the QB to own in week 1 fantasy, as he seeks to rip apart Jones et al in a game that counts.

Meanwhile, here’s a question that I’ve been throwing out in any public forum were folks have to listen – namely the Grueling Truth’s Rouge, White & Blue and CFL Pick ‘Em podcasts : How long should Riders fans have to wait before Coach Jones finally sticks with a core group of players with which to go forward?

This may be strictly rhetorical at this point. Here’s to thinking, however, that the Roughriders won’t mystically solve all their roster issues before opening kickoff. Alouettes win handily.

Bizarre Odds on Grey Cup. Sorry, all, but VFTS still can’t get over this one. Online sportsbook naturally have the Calgary Stampeders as the favorites to win the 2017 Grey Cup, but at odds of 7/2 still available in most places. Just sayin’ is all.

Statistic of the Week Which May Give the Ottawa RedBlacks Hope In Week 1. In the past three seasons, the Stamps are “just” 5-2-1 (for a .625 winning percentage) in the first three weeks over the past three seasons. They’re “only” 3-2-1 in the last two seasons’ first three weeks. If hope exists to defeat Bo Levi Mitchell’s Stampeders, a team that’s failed to win just 10 times in the past three regular seasons, it’s early in the season.

Calgary Stampeders (-2.5) at Ottawa RedBlacks. The Grey Cup rematch! The defending champion RedBlacks gave their starters some quality time this preseason, affording a good look at a remade offense and supplemented defense. their starters quality time in both weeks of the preseason, and they’ve looked pretty good, despite the remaking of the offense.

As for Calgary, who didn’t lose too much in the offseason beyond the expendable (for the Stamps, anyway) Bakari Grant, are they as tired of the “road to redemption” storyline that everyone from the CFL official website on down is writing about? The South reckons that, if you’re not sick to death of this tired cliché already, you just haven’t been paying attention (not that, in this case, it’s a bad thing).

The pick here, incidentally, is RedBlacks over the Stamps by less than the 2½-point spread. The grueling truth is that VFTS isn’t gonna be picking against Calgary too often in 2017, and they can’t possibly go undefeated, can they…?

Edmonton Eskimos (+3) at BC Lions. Another CFL team that traditionally starts cold: The Eskimos. They’ve lost three of the last four openers, albeit including that amazing 45-37 OT game against Ottawa last season.

For favored BC, expectations are high in ’17 and VFTS is expecting to see those expectations pan out in week 1. With the exception of Adam Bighill’s departure to the NFL and the signing of DL Jabar Westermann by the Alouettes, this team’s intact and adds a lot of, by all accounts, nice draftees. How do you lose two of your top three defensive players, one of whom is an NFL-level talent, and yet still improve? Wally Buono, that’s how. BC Lions win.

Weird Canadian News Story of Spring. Perhaps The Grueling Truth should run View From The South year ‘round, if only to keep track of the imminent alien invasion that’s apparently going to come from Canada. (See? Our president is on to something! Aliens *are* sneaking across our border! But they’re differently-speciesed aliens! And it’s the other border!)

In late May, a British Columbia resident was featured in reports and rare capture on video of a glowing flying object against a deep bank of black clouds. (The capture of video of the UFO was rare, not that clouds; it was B-freakin’-C, after all.) Reportage runs in the traditional fashion of these things, with the easy logical elimination of sources like reflections of light or testing by the nearly air force base, and rightfully concludes that aliens are visiting – in fact, it’s one specific alien.

As the witness to the first wave of invasion concludes, the objects “were neither planes of any type or birds.”
Ah, crap, call off the dogs and stand down international defense (or defence) units. It’s just Superman.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats (-3) at Toronto Argonauts. Is it The South or is this a bit of a down note on which to end week 1? Hamilton is just a 3-point favorite, but it’s difficult to see much good happening in Toronto this season. New GM Jim Popp had a nice draft and brought over Bear Woods as well, both all about trying to reproduce the game plan of the glory-days Montreal Alouettes, but that’s a medium- to long-term plan.

As for Hamilton, question marks aplenty in general. Specifically, the but interrogative hangs over ach Collaros who, talent-wise, was once considered the prohibitive tops in the CFL. Since the injury of 2015, though, both Collaros and the Tiger-Cats have been characterized by spotty play at best, never seeing to find that higher gear in individual games or during the season.

The challenges on offense will be compounded by the reworked secondary: Four veterans departed in free agency, while three of the team’s first four draft picks were devoted to the D. But even if all the new parts are as good as advertised – and judging by the preseason, we can figure at least first-rounder DL Connor McGough to be – won’t this take some time to gel? Here’s thinking it could well. We’ll run with the Tiger-Cats to bet the Argos in the opener, but a consideration of the schedule generates thsis bonus prediction: Hamilton will be 3-6 at the halfway point of this season.

Rod Black’s Crimes against the English Language. VFTS simply cannot wait for the Human Excuse To Drink himself, Rod Black, returns to sadistically torment TSN viewers through his thorough annihilation of the English language. This is definitely my favorite part of this entire column to write. Or is it…?

Next week: The Toronto Argonauts start clearing cap space in order to increase their chances of signing Lebron James in 2018.

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