For Sale: CFL's Soul
It's just wrong.
Wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to start.
That the CFL, according to a salesman in the front office, is officially willing to sell naming rights to the Grey Cup is a concept that tears at the very notion that this league and its traditions are pieces of unique Canadiana worth preserving.
I can see it now. Ben Johnson doing spots for the Cheetah Grey Cup.
This idea, of course, has been kicking around for a few years. Somebody named Gavin Roth, apparently the CFL's senior director of partnerships, just made the decision to go public with it and lend it some official weight yesterday.
You might think this kind of pronouncement might be left to, say, the commissioner.
Except the commissioner, Tom Wright, is on his way out. As we've seen this year with a number of issues, that's left the CFL with a huge vacuum at the top.
Having some sales guy come out in the middle of Grey Cup week and tell the world the league is willing to besmirch the legacy of one of this country's most revered sporting traditions by attaching some company's name to it just makes you want to throw up.
It smacks of desperation.
Roth tried to soft-peddle the idea by saying the Grey Cup is "a very sacred name" - not just sacred, but very sacred - and that the league wouldn't just sell naming rights to Joe's Garage or Meatloaf Express.
It would have to be an "absolute stellar brand." Like a beer company, perhaps? Oh yeah, and they'd have to be willing to pony up a lot of dough.
That means, just like the punchline to an old joke, the CFL has made it clear what it is.
Now we're just negotiating the price.
Someone needs to stop this and stop it now. Anybody with great affection for this league understands an enormous element in the CFL's appeal is it's history.
The Grey Cup is the ultimate symbol of that history, both good and bad.
Moreover, it's not named after a colour, for crying out loud. It was named in honor of a former governor general of Canada 97 years ago, and attaching a corporate name and sponsor to it would be akin to slapping a giant swoosh on the Peace Tower.
While we're at it, imagine the snazzy corporate logo you could fit in the middle of the Canadian flag.
See, this is less about being a CFL traditionalist and more about being a proud Canadian.
But with no new commish in sight, and with leadership sorely needed on a variety of fronts, including returning excitement and pizzazz to the game itself, it is more than worrisome that there is no strong leader dictating direction here.
And once the CFL sells its soul, they'll be no going back.