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🏈 Guide to Football

February 06, 2020
SOURCE: GIPHY.COM
SOURCE: GIPHY.COM

The GIST

To start, it’s important to know that football is really only played in North America where there are two main leagues: the National Football League (NFL) played in the U.S. and the Canadian Football League (CFL) played in Canada. Talk about a sport called “football” anywhere else in the world and they’ll for sure assume you’re talking about soccer (or ‘footy’, as it’s affectionately nicknamed).

The NFL

Let’s start by giving you #thegist of the NFL, the most popular football league in the world where the best players aspire to compete.

NFL football is played on a 100-yard field with goalposts (called uprights because the posts face into the sky rather than the ground like soccer) at each end. There are 11 players from each team on the field at once. Through passing or running the football, the point of the game is to score touchdowns and field goals to have the most points at the end of four quarters (this is the same in the CFL). Each team has four attempts (called downs) to advance the ball 10 yards before the ball is turned over to the other team. TBH, we know this can be confusing, but stay with us! The rules are similar in the NFL and CFL; however, there are some key differences. Keep reading to get #thegist on the CFL. 

How’s it organized?

There are 32 teams in the NFL, which is divided into two conferences (NFC and AFC) which are further split up into four divisions (North, South, East and West). There are 16 regular season games leading to the playoffs which culminates with the Super Bowl. From the wildly overpriced commercials, to the star-studded halftime show, to eating until you explode – the Super Bowl is an event like no other.

The best of the best

The best team from the 2019-20 season was the Kansas City Cheifs who beat the San Francisco 49ers 31–20 marking KC's first Super Bowl in 50 years. Kansas City was led by their exceptional quarterback (QB), Patrick Mahomes (who is a big ketchup guy). 

Determining who’s the best player in the NFL is tough because there are so many different positions that require different skills. But it’s pretty synonymous that Tom Brady, who is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer is, quite literally, the greatest QB of all time with six Super Bowl rings. Other players to know in the league right now are running back (RB) Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers), and RB Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings). You can check out the top 100 list in 2019 as voted on by the players (!!!) here.

Female footballers

Think football is a man’s sport? Think again! There are actually three full-contact 11-on-11 leagues in the U.S., the biggest being the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA). Formed in 2009, the WFA has continued to expand and now includes 60 teams (!!!) across three divisions, each crowning its own champion at the end of every season.

And for those who dig the game but not the tackling, there’s always flag football — a similar game where players have to stop running when their flag is pulled off their belt rather than when they’re tackled to the ground.

Ramp up your trivia game

  • Only six teams have won a playoff game without scoring a touchdown (aka field goals only).
  • Brett Favre (of Green Bay Packers fame) and Tom Brady are the only 40-year-olds to ever win a playoff game, and Brady is the only QB above 40 to win a Super Bowl.
  • Just 18 teams played in the NFL’s inaugural season way back in 1922. We’ve come so far!

The CFL

Now that you have #thegist of football, let us break down how the CFL is different from the NFL:

  • A CFL field is 110 yards long vs. the 100 yard NFL field. It’s also a little bit wider.
  • The CFL has 12 players on the field at one-time vs. 11 players in the NFL partially because the field is bigger.
  • In the CFL, teams only have three attempts (downs) to advance the ball 10 yards, vs. four attempts in the NFL. This often results in more turnovers (when one team is forced to give up the ball to the other team) and keeps things moving at a brisk pace.

How’s it organized?

There are nine teams in the CFL, which is divided into two divisions: East and West. There are 18 regular-season games and then six teams make the postseason for the chance to win the Grey Cup. The season runs from June until the end of November, meaning the playoffs are generally played in sub-zero/snowy weather. Just check out the infamous 1996 Snow Bowl in Hamilton, Ont.! 

The best of the best

The reigning Grey Cup champions are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12, thus ending the longest Grey Cup drought in the league (29 years!).

The first Grey Cup was won in 1909 (!!!) by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, because back then it was awarded only to amateur teams. Today, the Grey Cup is property of the professional CFL, while the Vanier Cup is awarded to top amateur University teams across the country.

Did you know… 

  • There used to be some American teams in the CFL? The first team from the U.S., the Sacramento Gold Miners, was admitted to the league in 1993. American teams only played in the CFL for three seasons during the glory days of the early 90s.
  • The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have made the most Grey Cup appearances (25), while the Toronto Argonauts have won the most championships (17).

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🏀 Guide to Basketball

February 06, 2020
Guide to Basketball

The GIST

Professional basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball in a hoop to get the most baskets (and the most points). A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket they hit the shot. Courtside seats gives fans unprecedented access to the players, so basketball brings out celebrity sightings like no other sport. Just look at Drake getting up close and personal with Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse during the 2019 playoffs.  

How is it organized?

The highest level of the sport is the National Basketball Association aka NBA. The league is divided into two conferences (East and West), and each of those conferences are further divided into three divisions. There are 30 teams in the league, and only one team in Canada - our Toronto Raptors! In the 2018-19 season, the Raptors went all the way to the NBA Finals against the thought-to-be-unstoppable Golden State Warriors and WON, bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy (like the Stanley Cup of the NBA) home to Toronto. Unreal.

The best of the best

This season, the Toronto Raptors were the best. How'd it happen? Well, a blockbuster deal in the summer of 2018 sent longtime Toronto favourite DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for superstar Kawhi Leonard. The rest, as they say, is history. Kawhi led the Raps all the way to a championship with the help of supporting cast Kyle Lowry (a seven-season Toronto veteran), breakout star Pascal Siakam and three-point shooter Danny Green. #NeverForget

But then…. Kawhi broke the hearts of a lot of Raptors fans in the offseason by turning down Toronto’s contract offer and heading to the LA Clippers to play in sunny California where he grew up. He’ll be joined there by Paul George and the duo will be a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, LeBron James is busy building a superteam of his own in the same city with Anthony Davis on the LA Lakers. And then there’s 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo (pronounced YAWN-IS ANT-TET-TO-KOOM-PO), whose Milwaukee Bucks will also be in the mix. This season is going to be a doozy.

Play like a girl (it’s better that way)

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is one of the best professional sports leagues for women in North America as these basketball bosses actually get airtime on top sports networks in the U.S. and Canada. Keep your eye on Canadian WNBA All-Star Kia Nurse (New York Liberty), reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne (pronounced EL-ENA DELL-A DON) who led her Washington Mystics to the championship last season, and WNBA legend Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks). At a 6’4” she became the first woman to EVER dunk in a NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) back in 2006 when she was only a freshman. Like, pardon me?! We can’t even jump high enough to reach the top shelf in our kitchen...

Wow! Can I get more info on the WNBA?

Absolutely! The WNBA season runs from May until late September or early October, with each of the 12 teams playing 34 regular season games. The league has actually been around since 1997, though only three teams remain from inception: the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. Go deeper on how the league is organized here.

These women still have a long way to go before reaching parity with their professional male counterparts, but it probably helped that the WNBA Final saw Connecticut Sun take the Mystics to a thrilling Game 5, winner-take-all showdown that garnered national attention and a sellout stadium in Washington.

And in 2020, we finally saw the WNBA bet on itself by signing a groundbreaking new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will significantly benefit the players. Among other things, players receive an increase in salary that improves the average compensation from $79k to $130k (!!!) with the league’s top players set to earn $500k — more than three times the previous maximum. Cardi B would be so proud. It also includes added bonuses for top players, guaranteed fully paid maternity leave, better travel conditions and mental health resources. And maybe the most notable addition: access to offseason job opportunities with the league to limit the number of women playing in leagues overseas to make ends meet, which has become a nagging necessity for WNBA players. Can we get a hell yeah?! 

There’s obviously still a long way to go before there’s parity with the men’s professional leagues. That being said, this is a BFD — the WNBA listened to its players and took their input into account more than ever before. It’s refreshing to see a league partner with its players and bet on its women to move closer to closing the inequality gaps that still exist in women’s sports. 

One last thing…

The most important (although we are admittedly biased) fact about basketball is that the sport was created in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith! O’ Canada, indeed!

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🏆 All the fun stuff

February 06, 2020
All the fun stuff

Women’s hockey: The Rivalry Series, a five-game series featuring the US and Canada national teams, continued last night, with Team USA winning the series three games to one. Whomp whomp. On the bright side, they’re still playing the fifth and final game on Saturday night because Saturday night’s alright for fighting.

NHL: Washington Capitals star forward and captain Alexander Ovechkin is once again proving why his nickname is “Alexander The Great”. In the last six games, he’s recorded three hat tricks and has scored 14 goals since January 13th — the same amount of goals the entire Calgary Flames team has scored over the same period. At the pace he’s at, he’ll likely score his 700th career goal this weekend. Hope we didn’t jinx it.

Raptors: Can’t stop, won’t stop. The Toronto Raptors have officially set a new franchise record, winning 12 straight games. Last night’s game against the Indiana Pacers looked dicey, with the Raps down by 15 points at the half, but a late game comeback gave them just enough to keep us on the edge of our seats and beat the Pacers 119–118. Now, on to the next one!

Baseball: The Boston Red Sox made a crazy huge trade in a three-team deal with the LA Dodgers and Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, trading away one of their best players, Mookie Betts, and one of their most expensive, David Price, to the Dodgers.

  • The BoSox traded these studs to avoid paying a “luxury tax” for the third straight year. And, given the Dodgers are looking to go all-in for a World Series win this season, LA was the best landing spot.

🏅 Tokyo 2020 get at us

February 06, 2020
Tokyo 2020 get at us

The GIST: We’re less than six months away from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. And you know what that means? It’s Olympic qualifier season, baby!

Sweet! Who’s up first?: That would be our women’s national soccer team, currently competing in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. They absolutely dominated in the group stage, winning all three matches and outscoring their opponents 22–0. Having swept their group, Canada will now face Costa Rica in tomorrow night’s semifinal at 7 p.m. ET.

  • This is a must-win match, because the winners of the semis book their ticket to Tokyo. Not, not anxiety-inducing.

You’re telling me. Do we have a good chance to win?: Well, Costa Rica won two of their three group stage matches, but Canada is still expected to take this one. *knocks on wood furiously*

  • In the other semifinal, Mexico is taking on the United States, who, as reigning FIFA World Cup champions, are also expected to win, setting us up for an always-fun Canada-USA final. Can’t. Wait.

Got it. Anyone else qualifying?: Yep — our women’s national basketball team.They’re competing in one of the four FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournaments taking place this weekend. Canada is in a group with Sweden, Belgium (where the tournament is being played) and Japan (who already qualified for the Olympics as the host nation).

  • The tournament consists of three games for each team, with two Olympic spots up for grabs. So, all Team Canada needs to do is finish the tournament with a better record than Sweden or Belgium. And, as the fourth-ranked team in the world and rocking those sweet new OVO jerseys, we’d say things are looking pretty good.

🏀 Trading places

February 06, 2020
Trading places

The GIST: It’s trading season! And no, we’re not talking about trading stocks. The NBA trade deadline is today at 3 p.m. ET.

Remind me, what’s a trade deadline?: It’s the last time in a season that teams are able to trade players. That said, teams are still allowed to sign free agents.

And why does it exist?: To encourage competition and keep competitive balance among teams before playoffs start in April. By February teams kind of know which teams will likely be in the playoffs (like the Milwaukee Bucks), which teams are on the cusp (like the Memphis Grizzlies), and which teams won’t make it (like the Cleveland Cavaliers). So today, expect some trade activity as playoff-contending teams try to add some top talent for their playoff push.

Got it. Who’s been traded already?: After days of speculation, on Tuesday, the Houston Rockets pulled off a mega-deal involving four (!!!) different teams. Houston moved starter Clint Capela and Nene Hilario to the Atlanta Hawks and Gerald Green to the Denver Nuggets. In return, the Rockets received Robert Covington and Jordan Bell from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

  • The Nuggets also received three other players and the Wolves acquired four, bringing the number of total players traded to 12. Talk about dizzying.

Anyone else?: Former Golden State Warrior turned Memphis Grizzly Andre Iguodala (pronounced EE-GOO-DA-LA) is officially heading to Miami to play with the Heat, with Memphis getting Justise Winslow in exchange. Iguodala hadn’t played for the Grizz all season as he was holding out to be moved to another team.

  • Actually though. The 36-year-old veteran has been living in California (not close to Memphis) and was willing to miss the entire season if he wasn’t traded, which obviously rubbed his teammates (especially star rookie Ja Morant) the wrong way. Drama.

Wow. So what can we expect today?: A new-look NY Knicks squad. Sitting at 13th in the Eastern Conference, look for them to send a couple of players packing in return for some future prospects.