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Welcome to the world of CAFA


bleuet

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WARNING: We are back to the fifties and the owners take strange decisions. THIS IS NOT ABOUT MAKING THE NICEST CONCEPT POSSIBLE. We are having fun about a sort of WHA football ancestor. It's all about fun. HELMETS AND UNIFORMS may not be nice and this can be voluntary. But all comments, even negative, are welcome.

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A fictive story...

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF CAFA!

In 1949, a group of businessmen from Ottawa tryied to purchase the CFLs Ottawa Roughriders franchise but they failed, as the CFL commisioner of the time could simply not sit at the same table then them for diner. Commisionner Grant was someone very special and not everybody, even the most fortunate, was entitled to adress him..

The same happened in 1951 when business people from Halifax tried to convince the CFL to allow a new franchise for the Nova Scotia capital city.

Both group met and decided to build their own league, to try to steal football audience from the CFL, a sort of personnal revenge against 68 years old cigar smoking Grant.

In 1953, the Can/Am football association was born.

Now, the publicity stunt and motto of this new league was: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF CAFA: FOR THE FOOTBALL FAN ON A BUDGET!

You already know this will go wrong don't you?

They decided to use the CFL rules (3 plays for 10 yards instead of 4) but, choose NFL size fields instead of the wider CFL fields.

Why?

Because this way, they could build more stands to maximize tickets revenues. After all, no doubt the crowd would hurry, buy tickets and fill these quickly built stands to watch this exciting world!

8 teams played the first season:

North division

OTTAWA-HULL BEAVERS

MONTREAL PATRIOTES

MARITIMES SAILORS

ALBANY MOOSE

East division

NEWARK TOWERS

TRENTON-NEW-JERSEY WILD RUNNERS

READING EXPRESS

INDIANA TOMAHAWKS

Notice they named the Newark and co division EAST because it was obvious a WEST and SOUTH division would be added later. After all, nobody could resist this new spectaculer football... At least, this is what those mad milionnaires thought ;-)

We will see in the next chapter that what happenned in the inaugural 1954 CAFA season game in Halifax was premonitory of the faith of the "league of the revenge boys"

Stay tuned..

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1 9 5 4

The first ever inaugural game of the CAFA took place july 18th 1954 at the Halifax football field. 12000 fans watched the game that night, at least did they watched what they could see.

With 9:30 left in the 4th quarter, the Indiana Tomahawks led the Sailors 7 to 3 when ... the entire field came to darkness as a power outage hit the suburbs of Halifax.

The field was located in some distance from the nearest light source still available and the crowd could barely see three row before them.

Asked by the umpires to start the gas emergency generators, the stadium manager answered he could not do it: the generator were on a train somewhere near Atlanta!

Unlike what the CFL did couple years ago, facing the same problem aligning cars with headlights on all along the field, it was not possible because the stands were too close to the field.

Would the game be played at the Owen Bush stadium, home of the Tomahawks, this may have not happen.;-)

How incredible was the scene as young boys were paid 25 cents each to shout the crowd the game could not ba completed that night, and it would be completed the day after by 1 PM ... a MONDAY!

Still, 4000 fans saw the last 9 minutes and a half monday afternoon, and Indiana won 7 to 3...

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1 9 5 5

Despite all the improvisation that took place in the first season, the CAFA was looking for the 1955 season with optimism.

Surprisingly, the average attendance at the regular season games was still around 12000 and it looks like everthing was all and fine until...

Until, slowly but surely, many fans started complaining about the lack of points. The average total number of points scored for a CAFA game for the two teams was around 16.

Two reasons were identified: the field size, not large enough and therefore making passing play very tough for quarterbacks, and the ... color of the ball.

You named it. The league wanted to do this different from the CFL/NFL: they decided to use orange balls. Now, as it was too expensive to produce orange materials for the balls, these clever folks simply decided the balls would be painted in orange.

No matter why the receivers had a real hard time keeping the slippy ball in their hands.

These orange bowls also brought lots of jokes in the newspapers, that were talking about quarterback throwing "invisible" balls on TV. There was no color TV yet, and the orange balls did not look at all on black and white TV sets.

Anyways, after winning the Irving bowl in 1954, Pennsylvania Reading was again at the finals against Montreal. The Patriotes (named after 1837-38 the Guerre des Patriotes) were wearing the red and green colours of the flag of the patriotes.

Montreal deafeated Reading 14-7 for the ... Royal bank bowl. Yes, our clever owners decided to name the trophy in honor of their best sponsor which meant ... the trophy could change of name season after season.

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For Montreal, the green, white and red might work better for a franchise in Mexico. I'd use the fleur-de-lis and colors from the Quebec flag, with a white strip in a blue helmet:

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Lenny Moore, the Colts HOF running back was nicknamed the Reading Rocket as well as the Reading Rambler and Lightning Lenny.

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Footnote: Exactly 50 years after the original Express' incredible season, the city of Reading decided to give their new indoor football team that name, both as a result of it being the overwhelming winner in the name-the-team poll and to bless that new team.

Looks like it's certainly worked out. B)

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Way to go !

1 9 5 6 (updated.. folowing a mistake..)

One franchise saw its attendance drop dramatically: Montreal. The Patriotes had to compete with Grey cup champs Alouettes, which slowly were getting back the favor of fans. Desillusion was taking place as TV contracts were harder to get but the league still had many games on TV...

Facing criticism, the league finally throw the orange ball to the garbage and got back to NFL classic balls ... but not before half the season was gone...

Yes, our owners make strange decisions!

At the end of the season, Montreal was sold to people from Quebec city, who moved the team in their city. Unfortunately, the Patriotes did not play the last 3 games of the 1956 season, the owners throwing the towel.

But our intrepid owner began thinking expansion, and 2 more teams were to be added to the original 8, by 1957.

The 1956 GM bowl made history and reporters renamed the event the GREAT MUD BOWL.

In the eve of the championship game, 16 inches of snow fell on Albany. Of course this was causing major problems. At least, the league did not asked the players to wear snowshoes!

In emergency, they rent 2 road snowblowing machines and sent them on the field but, the temp rised to 43 F and the snow began to melt ... as the big wheels of these heavy equipment made huge holes in the field, when the machines did not plow part of grass themselves!

In hurry, they fixed the mess the best they could. No way the game could be delayed or played elsewhere as for the very first time, the final game would be broadcasted on many of NBC's eastern stations and the NBC team and equipment was already in place. Could not miss this opportunity!

At the end of the GREAT MUD BOWL, nobody could recognize both teams players who were all brown mud. There was no white left on the Newark white jerseys as runningbacks were falling, putting a foot in trenches that began more and more evident on the field.

The Moose won ... 6-2. Remember, these are CFL rules!

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Sometimes, simple logos work as gud as complex ones.

1 9 5 7

For its 4th season, the league expanded to 10 teams and changed its publicity slogan: CAN/AM FOOTBALL: SOMETHING YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE!

A team was allowed to Burlington VT, the Vermont Atoms and the owners launched an attack at the heart of the CFL, Toronto with the York Sentinels. The Ottawa-Hull franchise make a big coup, stealing ace quarterback Sam Etcheverry to the MTL Alouettes but it costed lots of money.

They certainly not knew their new motto SOMETHING YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE was that true before a hot and sunny sunday afternoon game which took place in Quebec city.

The Champlains (named after the founder of Quebec city Samuel de Champlain) host the Vermont Atoms and the greens lead 10-0 on Quebec city (former Montreal team).

With 3 minutes to go in the second quarter, some fog appeared on the field, which was not normal because of the weather that day.

Slowly, players and part of the crowd found out this fog had a bizarre smell: it smelled like smoke. Then quickly, everybody realized what was happening: the little snack cabin which was under the south side stands was burning, after cooking oil got in flames.

But the problem was this: this particular section of the stands over the snack cabin was in wood!

The owners had little time to build the stands for the new teams stadium. As the start of the season was getting close, and some steel H beams could not been shipped in time, the owners decided to build some parts of the stands in wood instead of steel, temporaly, the time the season ends.

Did they knew what happened at their team 8th game of the season, they probably not have taken the same decision.

In a total confusion, the crowd left the little stadium and the south stands disappeared in smoke, without heavily damaging the rest of the steel stands which got wood seats.

In everyones memory, it appeared it was most probably the first time a pro football game was interrupt by a fire! Nothing was most true: it was something YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE!

Quebec city tried to play the remaining of the game later but the league refused and the Atoms were awarded the 2 points.

The Champlains had to play their last home games in their previous old stadium in Montreal, in total indifference.

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1 9 5 8

The 1958 recession hit hard the CAFA. The same recession that ruined Ford launch of its new line of cars, Edsel, sent the average assistance down 35% down from 1957.

This would not be without consequences for the league, already struggling finding a way to get more points on the score boards. The board of governors even tought about allowing 4 plays instead of 3 for 10 yards but finally backed up.

3 teams came close to not finish the season, getting deficits over deficits. It was not fun anymore to own a club in '58..

Defending 1957 CAFA champions high-flying Ottawa-Hull Beavers were back to the final game, once again led by Etcheverry. This time against the surprising York Sentinels, who did not hesitate to use any trick play possible, legal or not, to beat the opponents, including decoding their signals along the lines or renting the opponents the worst motel possible, the farthest possible from the stadium, and of course, keeping the opponents fans less tickets then what the rules stated.

The Beavers loosed the Krispy Kreme Bowl (not kidding), in the hands of the Sentinels by the score of 21-11 in front of 5000 fans watching the game, under the worst rain Toronto had in 15 years. Of course, the running gag at radio was: was there doughnuts in the Cup? Ask the Sentinels players, they brought the cup with them in their room.

As they were trying the find a dry spot in the Sentinels stadium, the fans wondered why in the world this league always had such badlucks year after year.

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1 9 5 9

Credibility is important in the world of pro sports, and the CAFA owners learned it the tough way.

The York non-sportive tricks and the fact they are now champions despite treachery, the lack of constance in the way the umpires were ruling the game, the criticism regarding the lack of points on the boards...

And now? Rumours of CAFA players betting on their own games...

After a very difficult year, the league certainly did not need other problems to give them complications. Some rumours sent these allegations back to the CFL and NFL offices, accusing them of trying to put the last nail in the coffin to an already struggling adventure. In the business of pro sports, there are rules between different teams but not between different leagues.

Just like this was not enough, the league saw one of its game interrupted because of ... grasshoppers.

In the end of july 1959, the Towers (renamed New York Towers by their owners) visited the Trenton Saints (formely known as the Wild runners.)

After 6 minutes of play, the field was invaded by thousands of grasshoppers coming from no where in what any scifi movie fan would have give everything they had to live and see. The most terrifying Alfred Hitchcock movies were looking somewhat funny compared to the vision of people leaving the stands under the sounds of the unwanted visitors.

Fortunately, the "cloud" of grasshoppers left only 4 minutes after they arrived, most of the fans got back in the stands, and the game could continue.

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For sure, this league had a sort of bad spell on it. Quebec city, Vermont and the Sailors did not finish the season because of lack of attendance and rumours became bigger of a probable end of operation of this league.

After the Canadian Tire bowl, won 17-10 by Reading, the governors met and, after the Champlains, Atoms and Express owners confirmed end of their operations, the New York Towers owners announced they would not continue the CAFA adventure, bringing the 6 years odyssey to an end. December 4th 1959, the press was informed of the end of the CAFA.

Stay tuned for the epilogue to come later.

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LOVE how you wrapped it up...can't wait for the epilogue!

P.S. That bit about the Reading Express indoor football team...that team is certainly real-they're members of the Indoor Football League in case you didn't know (and even won a championship of their own back in 2009 as members of the AIFA)

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I did not know it: pure coincidence I swear! THanks

E P I L O G U E

Lots have been said on the Can/Am football association. The league of the revenge boys, as they called themselves, made innovations and terrible errors.

They came up with agressive colors, uniforms, helmets designs and shooked the world of football. They also came up with an orange ball??? took the CFL rules (involving passing strategy) on a NFL size field (which prooved to be the major reason why there was no many points scored as the field was not made for a 3 plays rule), took strange marketing pratices (naming the trophy in honor of the best sponsor ???)

But they certainly brought the hyper conservative world of football an electroshock! Unfortunately for him, old CFL commissioner McKenzie Grant did not see the death of the sacrilege league, as he passed away in 1958. Scotch and cigars are good but only when you're alive.

Don't worry for our rather young and intrepid businessmen, they stopped the adventure just in time. They did not loose all the fortune, as their prudent accountants told them when to stop playing with lots of money when it's not worth it anymore. Many were using losses to pay less income taxes on other of their entreprises revenues, but when it's not worth anymore, it's time to close shop.

You may think nothing's left from the CAFA story, more then a couple of black and white pictures.

Nothing is more false.

As they announced to their fellows they were stopping to be involved in CAFA, the New York CAFA franchise owners were already in intensive talks with a new pro football league, named the American Football League, which wanted badly a team in NYC.

The bid was interesting for the new AFL as the Towers were one of the most successfull franchise of the CAFA, as well as Ottawa-Hull and, at least in terms of wins/losses, Reading.

As a bonus, they bought all new helmets and uniforms in 1959! Why not use them for 1960!

By 1963, they became the New York Jets, just in time for the Joe Namath era!

When you'll watch the New York Jets on TV in 2012, tell yourselves that you are watching, of course at a very very little scale, what's left from the CAFA and remember the 1954 Newark Towers are their grandfathers...

Let's not forget that Reading named its indoor AIFA team Express to honor the sucessfull story of their "black and white ancestors" of the fifties... ;-)

Hope you like reading this as much I had fun writing it..

PS I hope my english was not too bad! ;-) CANT WAIT FOR FOOTBALL!

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The TITANS OF NEW YORK playing the BUFFALO BILLS on New York polo grounds, 1960.

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