55 Yard Line - CFL

We're clearly well into awards season in the CFL, even if there's a ways to go before the major awards banquet on Thursday, November 25. TSN's player poll came out with some interesting results Tuesday, and each team's nominees (as selected by the Football Reporters of Canada and the CFL's head coaches) for the league's major awards were announced today. However, one of the nominees for the league's top honour, the Most Outstanding Player award, has apparently already written off his chances.

According to The Calgary Herald's Allen Cameron, Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris (pictured, right) didn't sound too thrilled about his nomination as the team's most outstanding player, and wasn't high on his prospects of claiming the overall award. That wasn't out of humility, though, or recognition for the efforts of some of the league's other top players. Nope, it's apparently all about geography.

Burris told Calgary reporters that "the eastern media, they think a football is a round puck". Here are more of his comments from The Calgary Sun's Ian Busby:

"The Eastern media think a football is a round puck still," Burris said Wednesday after practice. "Until they get their brains right, I'm (applauding) the Western media."

"Last year rubbed it in more when people said Montreal was the best team. They were last year, so people said they deserved all the awards. Calgary was the best team in 2008, so why didn't we win all the awards?

"I don't get into the hoopla. We know how the media is in the East. Our job out here is to win games."

It looks like Burris' diplomacy skills are right up there with his fashion sense. Disregarding the wisdom of making such comments for a moment, there are still plenty of logical problems with those statements, and it's worth taking a look at them to blow this line of thinking out of the water before anyone jumps on Burris' conspiracy bandwagon.

First and foremost, some of the most knowledgeable CFL media types fall into that category of "Eastern media"; it's worth noting that two of the most recent inductions into the Football Reporters of Canada wing of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Stephen Brunt and Herb Zurkowsky, currently work in Eastern media outlets (the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail and the Montreal-based The Gazette, respectively). It's not just them, either, as there are many others who provide great football coverage in the CFL's Eastern cities, including TSN's Dave Naylor, Sportsnet's Arash Madani, Mark Masters of The National Post, Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator and Terry Koshan of The Toronto Sun.

Yes, the CFL sometimes doesn't get as much attention in Toronto as it does in other markets, but if you read the weekly Secondhand Eight links pieces, you'll notice that there are always plenty of good stories coming out of the CFL's three easternmost cities (and their fellow East Division city of Winnipeg as well, but I don't think Burris was referring to Manitoba). Moreover, there's also quite a focus on hockey in Vancouver and Calgary, and that doesn't prevent great coverage of the CFL in those cities either. Generalizing that eastern reporters don't understand or care about football is ludicrously unfair and patently untrue.

Second, even if Burris' assertion was somehow true and the FRC's Eastern voters really didn't know much about football, it's hard to imagine that would keep Burris from winning this award as a result. For one thing, each city's FRC chapter has an equal number of voters for these awards. For another, it's not that Burris is so transcendently brilliant and dangerously avant-garde that he can only be appreciated by the most informed connoisseurs of the game. He's not some "alt buzzband" that only the refined can appreciate. Rather, he's a good player who has some great games and some awful ones, such as the 29-10 home loss to B.C. in September where he completed 11 of 26 attempts for 136 yards, was intercepted twice and was replaced by Drew Tate.

Most players have good days and bad days, and Burris is no exception; he's had more good games than bad ones this year and has put up impressive statistics, which is why he's a candidate for this award in the first place. That's not dependent on the football knowledge of the voters, and if anything, that relationship would quite likely go the other way. It would seem more likely that someone unfamiliar with the complicating factors in football could just look at the raw passing yards (where Darian Durant and Burris are 1-2) or some of his impressive highlights (he was overwhelmingly selected as the CFL player with the strongest arm, after all), while a more nuanced observer might give further consideration to the more subtle cases of Anthony Calvillo (right behind Burris in yards, with a higher completion percentage of 67.6 vs Burris' 66.1, and a better TD/INT ratio of 32-7 as opposed to Burris' 37-20) and Cory Boyd.

That's not to say that Burris wouldn't perhaps be a worthwhile most outstanding player selection (although he wouldn't be mine), or that anyone who votes for him doesn't know football. Knowledgeable people can make a solid case for him, as Busby did earlier. From this corner at least, though, it seems like he'd be more likely to draw shallow ballots than any other nominee thanks to his great arm, impressive highlight reel and league-leading touchdown totals, so maybe Burris would be better off if the eastern media was the way he thought. In any case, I doubt this is going to gain or lose him any votes, as the FRC members I know are too professional to let something like this affect their votes. It's a shame Burris doesn't seem to share that sense of professionalism.

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