CFL signature jerseys have radio voices seeing red

Ricky Ray passes while wearing Toronto's 'signature' jersey (The Canadian Press)
Ricky Ray passes while wearing Toronto's 'signature' jersey (The Canadian Press)

Radio is called the most visual medium. For a football play-by-play broadcaster, presumably means being able to identify any one of 24 players on the vast CFL field at any moment.

The football fashion trend of wearing an alternate jersey where the traditional front numerals are replaced with a logo has been included in the CFL's signature jersey collection. The Ottawa Redblacks, Edmonton Eskimos, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts' alternates all include a large logo and small numerals.

The new look has received an 'F' from all nine of the league's radio voices. While it might amount to a symbolic protest, Toronto Argonauts radio voice Mike Hogan disclosed this week that the Football Reporters of Canada plan to file a formal complaint with the CFL about the unique jerseys.

There's a lot of talk going on about the new CFL alternate jerseys. All nine radio play-by-play announcers across the league have agreed to file a formal complaint about the jerseys, which feature logos on the front, much like a hockey sweater. It's virtually impossible to call a game without being able to see numbers on the front. It's also tough for officials, statisticians, teams studying game film and most importantly, fans in the stands. If you can't identify the player, why wear numbers in the first place? Queen's wore those jerseys on Saturday. I hope it's a one-time occasion. I'm not a guy to point to the NFL simply for the sake of doing so, but there's a rule that mandates the size of numbers on both side of the jersey. There's major push back against the CFL for the same issue. (

Henry Burris in Ottawa's signature jersey, which it debuted Aug. 24 (The Canadian Press)
Henry Burris in Ottawa's signature jersey, which it debuted Aug. 24 (The Canadian Press)

The jerseys are popular with fans and are only being worn twice a season for each team, so it probably makes too much sense for the CFL to give in to the broadcasters' concerns. It doesn't present a problem for TSN and RDS, since the two rights holders use enough cameras and have enough tight shots that TV viewers are able to distinguish the player(s) on screen. The Redblacks' jersey design obscuring whether, for instance, Jonathan Williams (No. 75) or Moton Hopkins (95), just sacked the quarterback is likely very small. Most would probably just be happy with the sack.

That is not to say one shouldn't have empathy for each team's radio broadcaster. Commentating football involves more matching of numbers with player names and biographical details than baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer. The sport has larger rosters, which are also subject to more turnover from game to game due to the frequency of injuries. The number-less torsos are definitely a nuisance, but as an issue, it's unlikely to get critical mass.

The broader point is that jerseys that looking styling and cutting-edge up close and on TV don't necessarily mesh with the craft of painting word pictures for radio listeners. It's interesting, certainly.



Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.