Not much unites this country. It's bigger than big geographically and is divided, pretty deep, linguistically. Only hockey, generally, and this Grey Cup game, immediately, will spur Canadians to link up. For one glorious day four million Canadian corneas will be glued to the TV, with brewskis (and snacks?) close by.
The Grey Cup finale, and week up to, is an often impromptu, what-have-you, heady brew - of brews and nuts - more hooting than soothing, more Screech than Scotch, but it is even more than that. Manitoba Premier, Greg Selinger, says it’s going to be a “...barnburner.”
And why not? In the East Semi, now 5-straight winners, Ottawa Redblacks, beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 35-28 and in the West, now 9-straight winners, Edmonton Eskimos, beat defending champions Calgary Stampeders 43-31. Lotsa scoring.
Bodes well for the big game affair this Sunday.
Grey Cup Gala dinners are affairs. And if affairs don't usually burst out from these sit downs, most assuredly long-term lay-down relationships do. (My parents met at a Grey Cup Dinner in Toronto. Mom came in from Vancouver, Dad from Winnipeg, and the rest is history.)
In a way, it’s a shame that the Calgary Stampeders didn’t make it back to the final this year: Karyn Drake and Quick Six won’t be performing. At McMahon Stadium, the Stamps home field, every time the team scores a TD, Karyn and her trusty Quarter Horse, Quick Six, scoot in celebration along the east sideline.
And sometimes, in the past, come Grey Cup week, Stampeders have horsed around. Remember the horse (Marty) and rider (Fletcher Armstrong) clip-cloping in the iconic Toronto Royal York Hotel, like they did during the 100th Grey Cup?
The Calgary Stampeders are like the New England Patriots. Both win, for years now. But, there are some differences. Stamps coach, John Hufnagel, doesn't look resemble Bill Belichick un-made-bed ensemble and his team hasn't been accused of sucking air out of footballs. Hufnagel is, however, OK with his players getting nookie before a Grey Cup game. “To finish” is all important!
Sorry, got off track...
The first Grey Cup was played in 1909. You might recall that that was the year Serbia mobilized against Austria-Hungary and the Boston Red Sox traded pitcher Cy Young to Cleveland.
Since then, the Canadian Football League (CFL) has delivered a different, delightful, game. For one thing, the end zone is as big as the ISIS Caliphate in the Middle East. For another thing, there are three downs, not four, but with a wider field, by 8.5 yards, and a longer field, by 10 - and with receivers and backs in motion before the ball is snapped, there's still plenty of action. A statistical analysis of the 2012 seasons of the NFL and the CFL, showed the CFL as more of a passing league, the NFL as more of a running one. (And CFL fans get 18 season games, versus 16 in the NFL!)
And who can forget the famously different “Sleeper Play" given to the gridiron world, OK, to Canadians, in the 1948 Grey Cup? It was subterfuge at best, a beauty at worst, and has since been outlawed. Booo!
Like the Canadian game, the actual Grey Cup trophy has gone through some weird and wonderful plays and days. It has survived two blitzes (one being of missiles) in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
It was stolen from a bar.
In another bar, the cup stretched the offense, when it was used to measure strippers' cup busts. And it has been broken almost as often as a politician’s promises...
Speaking of promises, Cy Addley is famous for his Grey Cup attendances. As of three years ago, he had taken in 54 in a row. Cy, however, is but one of thousands that make the annual pilgrimage to the game...and while Canadian fans know that the Grey Cup halftimes (though headliners Fall Out Boy “Centuries” will try to change this generally-accepted fact) can’t quite compare to Super Bowl acts - and know game-time Grey Cup TV ads aren’t broadcast as wide as are Super Bowl commercials, they feel OK, saying; it’s kinda nice to emphasize the game and not the pomp, eh?
And Canadians do respect the silvery, smooth and sleek, Super Bowl Vince Lombardi trophy, but are proud of their traditional-looking Grey Cup hardware.
Now what of Winnipeg? The city is world famous for its Royal Winnipeg Ballet. It is also well known for its curlers, on ice, not on hair, and for its, ahem, pretty chilly winter weather. (And, like most stadiums, Winnipeg’s facility has a horribly boring name: Investors Group Field.)
Now, are Winnipeggers dismayed by a possible late-fall cold spell?
No. Firstly, it was the first city worldwide to develop the 911 emergency number. Secondly, if temperature records from 2003 to 2012 are trustworthy, the daily high for the November 29th game could be anywhere from (Celsius) 3 degrees plus to 15 degrees minus. (Fahrenheit: 37 plus to 5 plus.) Thirdly, if people grouch too much about the elements, they can take their beefs to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, located nearby.
Winnipeg is kinda like Green Bay. They are mid-west cities with a deep love for their football. But Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans, unlike the so-neat Green Bay Cheese-head rooters, have seen their city host, a few times, their national pro football championship. Green Bay, to the NFL’s shame, has not been deemed worthy to host Super Bowl...yet.
Here’s another great football-final-in-Canada play. Sometimes The CFL Pros, with the Grey Cup, and the college-amateur kids, with their Vanier Cup, settle scores the same weekend, and sometimes even in the same city. Very cool pigskin promoting.
In the end, of course, it’s the excellence of the teams that determines Grey Cup memories. Usually, the dueling duos, with octane offenses, and insane late-game back-and-forth momentum-play altering changes have left fans across the land gasping.
The Grey Cup, in essence? Even when it’s cold to play out there, in Canada, deservedly, it’s hot everywhere.