By Emma Teitel - Monday, November 26, 2012 - 0 Comments
Last night Justin Bieber asked a crowd of 53,000 middle-aged men to be his boyfriend (sources say he went home alone) and the Toronto Argonauts won their first Grey Cup in eight years. They won it at home too, which is pretty cool, and puts this notion to shame.
Speaking of shame…
I still don’t know all the rules of the game (I almost wished the CBC had aired another one of those sexist programs catering to sports ignorant women), but I do know the Argos killed it last night–namely Chad Kackert, Ricky Ray, and Swayze Waters, says National Post sports writer, Sean Fitz-Gerald, who was sitting beside me in the press box–and was kind enough to tell me that.
In other news, this happened during Burton Cumming’s lounge remix of the national anthem:
The Stampeders logo was decapitated shortly after fans poured out of the stadium. Of course, the grass zambonis (not sure what the proper term is) had to wipe everything away eventually, but the horse’s head went especially early.
Headless Stampeders Horse:
And on my taxi ride home I didn’t hear a single honking horn. Instead, I saw just three lonely blue-clad figures at Yonge and Dundas waving an Argos flag. Maybe I’m being unfair, or it was a Polkaroo moment, and I happened to miss the mobs of Argos fans every time I went outside, but I don’t think Toronto fully appreciates that we are at long last, victorious. Or perhaps I forgot that we do care about Toronto football.
Just maybe not so much the Argos…
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, November 26, 2012 at 12:26 AM - 0 Comments
Ricky Ray’s poise and talent has never received proper recognition. The 100th Grey Cup changes all that
Chad Kackert got the MVP nod after the 100th Grey Cup—and deservedly so. The Toronto Argonauts’ running back was a human cannonball in his team’s 35-22 win over the Calgary Stampeders. If you can feature a cannonball who catches.
But make no mistake: the difference-maker in the centennial celebration of this grand ritual was Ricky Ray.
Nerves heading into a big game is a condition we can all understand. Even the Argos mild-mannered QB threw an interception on his first play of the game. “It was hard to get into a rhythm tonight,” he admitted afterward. “It was the longest game I think I’ve ever played in, between the pre-game and half-time (shows), and it was hard, just not being able to get into the normal flow of the game.”
But Ray is a player who settles, who adjusts. Always has been, dating back to his earliest days with the Edmonton Eskimos, when I watched him fight his way into a job held by a pretty competent pivot by the name of Jason Maas.
This game, as a result, quickly became tale of two QBs, which is exactly what the Argos wanted. There was Ray, loose and fluid, gunning his way down field to set up a field goal and another touchdown. And there was his counterpart, Kevin Glenn, wound so tight he looked ready to snap, squibbing easy sideline passes and—at the 43 second mark of the second quarter—heaving an interception that Argos cornerback Pacino Horne ran back for a major.
For Calgary, arguably the CFL hottest team, it was the fooball equivalent of a tire fire. Two-and-outs. Broken offensive plays. Untimely penalties. With the score 24-6, the Stamps retreated to their locker room seeking some small glimmer of hope. But they couldn’t find it.
Yes, Glenn rebounded a bit in the third quarter, putting the team into a position to score. “But if you don’t score touchdowns,” said Stamps coach John Hufnagel ruefully, “you’re going to have a hard time winning, and we had to keep settling for field goals.”
There was more to the Argos’ triumph, of course, than Ray’s serenity. Or his deadly accurate arm. Credit will got to Scott Milanovich, the Argos no-nonsense coach for constructing a multi-faceted offence, allowing Ray options he says he never had with other teams. It is also due the devastating Toronto defence, which stuffed Calgary’s one shot at a major at the one yard line.
And, of course, Kackert.
But for me, this game goes down as the one that nudges Ray into the pantheon of great CFL QBs, alongside Flutie and Cavillo and Damon Allen. Despite his 2005 nod as Grey Cup MVP (when he beat Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes), and his resilience amid the sharp decline of the Edmonton Eskimos afterward, that level of recognition for Ray was in doubt.
He had endured the stigma of yesterday’s man before last winter’s blockbuster trade that brought him to Toronto. He arrived in a city where the future of Canadian football, never mind the Argonauts, remained in question. Over a bumpy regular season, and a better playoff season, his calm seemed to spread. He has laid those questions to rest—at least for the time being.
His performance tonight brings to mind the aforementioned legends in their primes: not the best of his career, but great in the cauldron-like conditions of Canada’s biggest annual sports gathering. Ray is a player who can carry his team, and a good many of the 53,208 people crammed into the Rogers Centre tonight could see it. They shouted their appreciation when Ray stepped onto the dais for the Cup ceremony.
Ray was reluctant to reflect on his legacy after the game, citing the years left in his career: “Hopefully when I’m done playing I’ll have time to reflect on all the memories, the great years I’ve had,” he said.
So enjoy your luck, Toronto. And make the most of the time you have left with a future legend.
By Emma Teitel - Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 8:16 PM - 0 Comments
Yesterday at noon, I walked into a Boston Pizza in downtown Toronto, in the middle of the Grey Cup street festival. Everyone was watching American college football. One guy yelled at the TV repeatedly. At Ohio state players: “that’s how we do it.” At Michigan players: “Take it b-tch.”
I sat down at the bar next to a man named Greg Weston, a Torontonian who grew up in Kingston. He was wearing a Saskatchewan Roughriders hat. When he was eleven or twelve, he says, his family had a very important house guest. “There used to be a program where families would take players in [on the road], and we hosted a player for a few days,” he says. “Walter Bender. Played for the [Hamilton] Tiger Cats, then was traded to the Rough Riders.” Weston and Bender hung out and ate dinner together every night.
He’s been a Roughriders fan ever since.
And he thinks there’s a specific reason–besides the fact that there were no CFL games on TV that day– why the Canadians in Boston Pizza were a lot more excited about an American college football game on TV than the big-league Canadian one coming up.
“Toronto, we’re a bunch of wannabees,” he says. “We like American football better. I have to say I am not the biggest CFL fan. I’m a die hard NFL fan. We go for what’s bigger and better and when the [Buffalo] Bills come to town we get excited about that. Let’s face it. A lot of people here for the Grey Cup are Stampeders fans.”
He has a point. If you’re in Toronto and you’re not within a three block radius of the Roger’s Centre and you’re not a CFL fan, you might not even know what the Grey Cup is, let alone that it’s taking place in your city. Hockey fan or not, it’s impossible to avoid the Leafs (no matter how much they stink.) Avoiding the Argos is almost effortless.
Steve Sommerfeld is probably as big a Calgary Stampeders fan as they come. He was also in Boston Pizza that day, in full Stamps regalia (jersey and cowboy hat) drinking a pint; though he wasn’t paying much attention to the college game on TV. ”I went to the mall yesterday dressed like this,” says Sommerfeld, “and the guy [at the store counter] says ‘what are you in town for?’ And I say ‘a football game’ and he didn’t know.”
Sommerfeld and his friends say they love Toronto, but acknowledge that other, smaller, cities are probably better suited to host the Grey Cup. And they’d know, as they’ve upheld the same tradition for the past seven years: going to the Cup together and always taking with them, a “lucky football” signed by the entire 2004/05 Stampeders roster. I followed the group of guys–three out of four of whom were in full Stamps gear–out of Boston pizza, where they passed their lucky football back and forth all the way down Front Street, into another bar (also showing American college football.) I don’t really remember what happened next…
This was one of the only quotes I could make out my tape recorder the next morning:
“Nobody worries about pipelines from B.C. We just party.”
On my way here (I am currently at the Grey Cup, in the Roger’s Centre Press box) a lone TTC employee kept yelling “Argos” on my subway car. The refrain? “Shut up.”
Things are different here. We (the Argos) are winning, everybody’s happy (save my Stampeders friends) and if the next two quarters are anything like the first ones, this city will know victory for the first time in forever.
If they’re paying attention that is…
By Emma Teitel - Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 12:28 AM - 0 Comments
Maurice Price took advantage of me…
My ignorance of CFL football, that is.
My Maclean’s editor asked me to cover the Grey Cup and the million of events that surrounded it because she said it’s “funny” when people who don’t know about sports are forced to report on them.
So I went to the Rogers Centre and waited outside the Calgary Stampeders dressing room, roster in hand, hoping to interview somebody–anybody– about anything other than football. I would ask about post-season plans, I thought. My dad was a sports writer (he wrote a book about the Argos in the ’80s) and he said a lot of the players work other jobs in the off-season. He once wrote a piece about CFL players who work as repo men in the summertime. Maybe I’d find some repo men.
I flagged down the first muscular guy who walked out of the dressing room. He told me he was in a hurry.
“Just a few questions?” I asked .
He smiled and said ok. And then he asked the first question: “Do you know who I am?”
(If you are ever forced to cover a sport you know nothing about, bring a photo roster)
“No, I’m sorry,” I answered. His friend, another burley black guy, laughed.
“I’m the team trainer,” he said. “They come to me to get in shape for the season.”
Oh cool, I thought, I’ll ask him about their pre-game meals.
“I make them eat chicken nuggets and hamburgers and pizza,” he said. “It’s good for your nutrients. That’s how we get so big and strong and fast.” The trainer told me chicken nuggets were actually the standard in football nutrition. He said they eat nuggets in the NFL, too: “overpriced nuggets, from McDonald’s.”
Something wasn’t right. “Come on man, just tell her who you are,” his friend said.
“All right,” said the trainer. “I’m Arjei Franklin.”
I googled Maurice Price. He was standing in front of me.
“I tried to tell you,” he said.
Maurice is from Orlando. He says the biggest difference between Americans and Canadians is that Canadians have “bigger heads.”
“Like physically, or mentally?” I asked him.
If we do have bigger heads that’s about all some of us have in common. Stampeders fans-easily distinguishable from Torontonians by their smiles (and of course the occasional cowboy hat) aren’t afraid to brave the elemtents. I’ve seen 15–and counting–in shorts. And one guy in a tank top. They must eat their chicken nuggets.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, November 21, 2008 at 3:29 PM - 3 Comments
Oh, to be in the Sexy City when the Als are playing in the…
Oh, to be in the Sexy City when the Als are playing in the Grey Cup. Wait, I will be there! As a fan, not an official blogger…
Just as well, because it is sad and disturbing to see an accredited member of the press screaming obscenities at Stampeder fans, as I will no doubt do at some point this weekend (can’t help it, lived in Edmonton for seven years, Calgarians are hicks, etc, etc).
Meantime, Commissioner Mark Cohon tells us the CFL is in pretty good shape all things considered, with the notable exception of the put-a-team-Ottawa initiative, which has been put off until, er, 2011. All in all, buddy’s doing a great job, though.
So it says here, Als by five—and I don’t give a fig about the season series. They have the best QB in the league. They’ve got Ben Cahoon (aka the Big Cahoona), who can haul in a passing seagull if he wants to, never mind the damn ball. They’ve got a young phenom in Jamel Richardson. They’ve got a super-tough D to run against.
Red Horse, beware.