Grey Cup 2018 : red and black will triumph, whoever wins in Canadian regulation time

Nov 24th, 2018 | By | Category: Sporting Life

In fact Rihanna is a fellow Commonwealth citizen of Barbados. But who knows? If she ever did get together forever with Drake, she might even go to a Grey Cup game – as long as it wasn’t in Doug Ford’s Ontario.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2018. GANATSEKWYAGON,ON. Both Donald Trump in the neighbouring USA today, and his wily colleague Doug Ford right here in the new Old Ontario, have become so appalling lately that I have sought refuge in thoughts about the 2018 Grey Cup – annual championship of the Canadian Football League, held for the 106th time in Edmonton, Alberta this Sunday, November 25, 2018.

There are some respects in which the 106th Grey Cup  – with the Calgary Stampeders (western champions) vs. the Ottawa Redblacks (eastern champions) – will mimic certain current political grievances in the true north, strong and free, from the Atlantic to the Arctic to the Pacific oceans. The Calgary demonstrators who recently greeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Ottawa (including those holding especially appalling signs about his mother) are just one case in point.

As noted, however, I’m focusing my thoughts on the big game this Sunday in an effort to avoid appalling politics. So, to get my TV-watching partner’s key question out of the way first, the Stampeders (“the class of the CFL once again this season”) are “4-point favourites on the Grey Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by”

Ricky Ray, Toronto Argonauts QB, in 2017 Grey Cup game on snowy day in Ottawa.

At the same time, the “Stampeders have advanced to the Grey Cup on five occasions over the past decade, but have come up short in three of those championship bids including a stunning 39—33 loss to the Redblacks … two years ago at BMO Field in Toronto.”

(And then there is last year’s magnificent Canadian game in the snow at Ottawa, when my own home team, the historically fabled Toronto Argonauts, unexpectedly beat the Stampeders 27—24. As if in some just compensation, the Argos have come up with the worst record in all of the CFL this year! But, further back historically, it is somewhat intriguing that in the 56th Grey Cup, almost exactly 50 years ago, on November 30, 1968, the old Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Calgary Stampeders 24—21 at the old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.)

Part of the Stampeders’ Grey Cup struggles may involve their “touchdown horse Quick Six.” Back home at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Quick Six (and his rider Chelsea Drake) celebrate every Stampeder touchdown by racing along the sidelines with the team flag. Yet, as explained by Global News : “In the past two years, the horse hasn’t been allowed at the Grey Cup game.” (For safety reasons. And this has been true at other such games in faraway places.)

The Calgary Stampeders “Outriders” cheerleaders in action.

This year (as also explained by Global News) the “touchdown horse won’t run the length of Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday.” But – perhaps because it isn’t all that far to travel as well – Quick Six and Chelsea Drake will “still be allowed to celebrate touchdowns with the players in the end zone, according to the Stamps.” Who knows? This could also improve the Stamps’ odds of actually winning the Grey Cup in 2018.

(As evidence of just how old I seem to have become in my own age of recurrent senior moments, I seem to similarly remember suitably lubricated Calgary Stampeder fans in cowboy hats bringing a horse into the lobby of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, in what must have been the early 1960s. I can also remember when it was still not unusual to see horses pulling milkwagons and breadwagons in Toronto in the 1950s. As the historian Ramsay Cook long ago observed, the 19th century did not really end in Canada until 1950.)

Ottawa RedBlacks’ QB Henry Burris is awarded MVP after leading his team to victory over heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders in Grey Cup 2016.

I can say that I have been to Edmonton a few times myself, and I like the place a lot. It is a serious city further north than any other metropolis of more than a million people in North America – and home of “the Yardbird Suite … Alberta’s jazz hub … 60 years strong, volunteer run, and a Downbeat Great Jazz Venue.”

This 106th Grey Cup will mark the fifth time Edmonton has hosted the game. It typically draws what counts as a large crowd in Canadian football. The average attendance for its four earlier games is 61,590. As just one comparison familiar to the likes of me, the average attendance for the last four Grey Cup games hosted by Toronto is only 46,180.

Some will just say that this just shows Toronto is the CFL city least interested in Canadian football. I am not a serious Toronto football fan, at all. But I do know people who are, and who feel only an NFL team could keep their interest up – in a city that already has the Maple Leafs in the NHL, the Raptors in the NBA, and the Blue Jays in MLB.

Shania Twain arrives by dog sled for 2017 Grey Cup half-time show. The 2018 show will feature the Grammy-winning artist from Brampton, Ontario, Alessia Cara.

Perhaps influenced by such serious fans around me, I have long seen the Canadian Football League as something of a whimsical phenomenon. Note, eg, that the team colours of both this year’s Grey Cup rivals are red and black. And then there is the name Ottawa “Redblacks” itself. It is, I suppose, slightly better than the old name of Ottawa Roughriders, whose colours were red and black – from the days when two of the nine CFL teams were called Roughriders (Ottawa and Saskatchewan). But really … what kind of name is “Redblacks”? It’s like calling the fabled Toronto Argonauts – who apparently actually hold “the title of the oldest sports franchise in North America” –  the Doubleblues.

In my old age I have nonetheless come to the point where I am looking  forward to watching the Grey Cup from Edmonton on my TV in beautiful, downtown Ganatsekwyagon, Ontario tomorrow night. The stupidest thing the CFL tried in its recent history was expanding into the United States in the first half of the 1990s. But current CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie gave a good press conference the other day, about more realistically reaching out to such places as Mexico and France  – and (most crucially, I think) finally getting a team in Halifax. (Which I later heard on TV has now wisely decided on the name Atlantic Schooners. They already have 5,000 season-ticket subscribers, and only need a suitable stadium.)

There will always be many crazy things about the CFL. But as even Rihana from Barbados has apparently concluded lately : “Clinton made me want to be faithful ; Bush made me want to be smarter ; Obama made me want to be better ; Trump makes me want to be Canadian”!

POSTSCRIPT : Congrats to the Stamps on their 27-16 win over the Redblacks.  They happily beat their Grey Cup jinx of the most recent past.

The height of the game on our TV at any rate was a “record 97-yard punt-return touchdown on a slippery Commonwealth Stadium turf” by Calgary’s Terry Williams.  Game MVP was Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

Not everyone here north of the lakes really got into the game. Adam Radwanski at the Globe and Mail tweeted : “After two classic Grey Cups I guess we were due for a bit of a comedown. At some point the league’s dominant team had to dominate.”

My TV watching partner here on the north shore of Lake Ontario, on the other hand, worked in Banff as a student. She was cheering for the Stamps and their mascot Quick Six, and went to bed happy.

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