With it being a new calendar year, plenty of people around the world are making resolutions on what they want to change about their lives in 2011. Some resolutions are grandiose plans that are tough to achieve, while others are small, achievable changes. Not of all of them are accomplished, but the act of striving to improve oneself carries merit of its own; growing and improving is more positive than sitting in place, and that applies for sports leagues and teams as well as individuals. Along those lines, here are five things I'd love to see the CFL look at changing during this next calendar year.
—An end to celebration penalties: Look, some of the CFL's most memorable moments (and the ones that get the most attention and publicity from around the world) don't come from on-the-field plays, but rather the celebrations that follow them. This league's seen some great ones over the years, from Duck, Duck, Goose to the Stampeders' bobsled team to the Ticats' boat and the Blue Bombers' cannon (which Terrence Jeffers-Harris is pictured firing above). However, the league takes a rather inconsistent approach to them, penalizing some and ignoring others. This isn't the No-Fun League, guys. Let the players celebrate however they want (you could always call them for delay of game if they take too long) and reap the publicity benefits.
—A salary and contract database: The CFL made some progress on this front in 2010, going from attempting to keep potential free agents secret to finally releasing a comprehensive list of all players who could explore free agency. However, there's still little to no information out there on players' contract lengths and compensation, as well as the salary cap. What does come out comes out by dribs and drabs, and that would be easy enough to remedy. Building a database of player contracts (or even just including that information on the league's player profiles on their website) would allow fans to figure out how long players are likely to be around for, plus get an idea of how much of a cap hit each player presents. There are lots of smart CFL fans out there, and giving them more information will only improve their connection to the league. It also provides an easy way for the league to build its web traffic without any real downsides.
—A second Touchdown Atlantic: This seems likely to happen, even if there hasn't been much in the way of reported progress since initial reports that the league would try to follow up last year's success with another regular-season game in Moncton in 2011. It's highly important that this does go through and does happen this year, though; running another one in 2011 would let the league build off the 2010 momentum, and hosting two regular-season games in two years would provide an excellent gauge of where the dream of a Maritime CFL franchise stands. If a 2011 game is held and again draws huge crowds from around the Maritimes, that would suggest to me that a full franchise might not be too far off; if the response is more muted, that might indicate that occasional games out East could make more sense than a full franchise.
—Closer ties to CIS: There's been a lot of progress on this front in recent years, but 2011 presents a truly unique opportunity to take that even further. The pairing of the Vanier and Grey Cup festivities in Vancouver provides a great chance to try and expand the links between the professional and university game in Canada, and hopefully CIS and the CFL will go beyond just amicable coexistence for that week. A collaborative approach that emphasizes both events could be very beneficial for all concerned. The ties can also be strengthened beyond just championship week; there are plenty of opportunities for CFL franchises to work with local CIS teams during the year via special cross-promotions, ticket deals and such. In the end, it's growing Canadian football that's the key goal, and both organziations have important roles to play in that.
—A pink gear compromise: 2010 saw plenty of silly controversies, but the ones over pink apparel may have been the worst. The league's reaction is understandable considering their existing policies, but the way they handled the situation wasn't the best. What would make a lot of sense would be to designate one game for each team as a breast cancer awareness game, where players could wear any pink apparel they want. That keeps the league's uniform policy intact, but allows their teams and players to show support for a valuable cause and does so in a comprehensive way that will likely do more good than scattered individual actions.