All-star teams don’t matter to every fan, but they definitely matter to players, especially when it comes to contractual incentives around them. That makes it incredibly important to have a good process for selecting them. And it’s even more important to make sure that process is followed correctly and leads to the correct outcomes being announced. You wouldn’t think that last part would be necessary to spell out, but it went very wrong for the Canadian Football League (CFL) Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the CFL initially announced its divisional all-stars early in the day. Those selections took a lot of criticism for notable omissions, though, and then the announcement page on the league website suddenly vanished. That led to multiple media members reporting that there had been counting errors and there would be new results coming. The league eventually spelled that out themselves, and then eventually released a full new list with 19 changes. Here’s some of how that played out on Twitter.
— Tim Baines (@TimCBaines) November 2, 2022
Deeply strange, but the page announcing the Divisional All-Stars from this morning on the https://t.co/TcmVgO3SRq page appears to have been removed entirely from the website.
Not on the front page, and when I click on the link from Google, it says page not found pic.twitter.com/lk9IYkhwdy
— Danny Austin (@DannyAustin_9) November 2, 2022
I’m hearing there’s a recount happening
— Danny Austin (@DannyAustin_9) November 2, 2022
According to multiple sources, the CFL gave teams the wrong list of divisional all-stars and will be sending out a new list. Word is the results were calculated incorrectly and there will be multiple changes to the original. What an embarrassing situation for the CFL. #wfp
— Jeff Hamilton (@jeffkhamilton) November 2, 2022
— CFL (@CFL) November 2, 2022
It is positive that the league eventually admitted the mistake and eventually put out the correct list. Getting this right is what ultimately matters. But this should have been done correctly and checked and double-checked in the first place. The largest loss here is for the players who initially thought they were all-stars and then had that taken away from them, but there also are impacts for those who should have been there initially and for the fans and media who were following this.
This is not the only time votes have gone wrong. We’ve sometimes seen odd inclusions from individual media members picking the wrong similar-named player or team in a drop-down menu, including a vote for Cubs’ reliever Ryan Tepera as NL MVP in 2020 and a few issues with AP polls, including Georgia versus Gonzaga in a AP college basketball poll this January. (The AP polls show a strong handling of this, though; they’re perhaps more prone to mistakes than most given the frequent nature of the voting and the large numbers of collected votes, but they tend to confirm intent on odd votes and fix those where the voter’s ballot didn’t match their intent.) We’ve also seen occasional odd ballots where the voter forgot about a particular player or team. But it’s odd to see a voting mistake come from the tabulating league rather than an individual voter, and especially to see that on a once-a-year award with a longer tabulation window than a weekly poll.
This also comes in the first season where the CFL has incorporated fan voting. The league announced in September that fans would be able to submit up to three ballots each that would count towards both the divisional all-stars and league all-stars (which will be announced later)s. The majority of the votes are still from media members (local and national members of the Football Reporters of Canada organization), and from team head coaches, but fan votes were also incorporated for the first time this year.
It’s unclear if the inclusion of fan voting this year played any role in the “error in the tabulation and weighting of votes” here. Fan voting has certainly led to quite a few stunts and unusual results across sports, and it’s taken criticism for that. The CFL’s process of giving fans a minority role rather than a majority one feels like a way to at least partially balance that, and it’s possible that the first erroneous results here were from fan ballots not being properly downweighted relative to media and coaches. But there are other ways tabulation could go wrong (including omissions or improper weightings of ballots particular FRC chapters or head coaches), and no details on the specific error have yet been reported.
Regardless of what led to this specific issue, it seems good from this corner that the majority of the CFL all-star voting still comes from the media and from coaches. Yes, people have made ethical arguments against media votes for sports awards in the past. And some organizations, particularly The New York Times, have prohibited their writers from voting for awards. But media-voted awards still tend to produce the most reasonable results, especially when taken from a large enough sampling of people who regularly cover a league. And the eventual list here looks about right, so the CFL’s majority media/coaches voting and minority fan voting isn’t the particular problem this time around; it’s the tabulation error that caused the issue.
The timing of this mistake is certainly unfortunate for the CFL. The league’s playoffs kick off Sunday, with the Montreal Alouettes hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Semi-Final (1 p.m. Eastern) and the B.C. Lions hosting the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Semi-Final (4:30 p.m. Eastern), with both games on ESPN2 in the U.S. and TSN in Canada. The Western Semi-Final is perhaps particularly interesting, with star B.C. quarterback Nathan Rourke (who tore up the league in the first part of the season, including with one of the most accurate performances ever) playing his second game back after surgery following a Lisfranc sprain, and with more than 30,000 fans expected for that. The games will be the star Sunday, but it’s rough for the league to have much of the talk this week instead be about this All-Star voting snafu.