By David Song, November 3 2015 —
As we head into Week 19 of the CFL, three teams are battling for the final playoff spot — the B.C. Lions, Montreal Alouettes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. South of the border, the NFL is in full swing as well, with four squads remaining undefeated through Week Eight. For those looking to get their football fix, there seems to be an embarrassment of riches to choose from. But which league is better?
The NFL has a significantly larger fan base, resulting primarily from America’s vast population. However, many Canadian football enthusiasts also find themselves tuning into the NFL, forgoing the league much closer to home.
There are a couple reasons for this. For starters, the NFL has 32 teams, while the CFL only has nine, resulting in more variety for the American organization. As well, the overall superior collection of talent in America’s league is undeniable. Current NFL legends like Marshawn Lynch, Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson dominate the field every week, and would surely run rampant in the CFL.
That isn’t to say the CFL is devoid of talent — the NFL has housed some notable stars who began their careers north of the border, like Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake and cornerback Brandon Browner.
What truly sets the CFL apart is their players’ motivation to play the game. CFL players are paid a fraction of what their NFL counterparts receive — the average CFL salary is roughly $80,000 per year, and each CFL team operates under a $4.2 million salary cap. To put this in perspective, quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers will earn $22 million this season alone.
The CFL’s athletes risk their bodies for the game they love just like NFL athletes do — but they do so without the guarantee of a lucrative contract. CFL athletes strive to make it into the league and give their all each week, without a financial security blanket to rely on should they get injured and see their careers come to an early end.
For this reason, the CFL remains in a league of its own. Every player is there because they truly love football. Unlike top-tier NFL athletes, who make enough in endorsements alone to live well, each player in the CFL has a genuine reason to give their best effort every game. Playing in the league truly is their livelihood.
The CFL may not boast the same glamorous appeal as the bright lights of the NFL, but when it comes to which league has more heart, there’s no question that Canada’s league comes out on top.