By Emma Teitel - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 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 Aaron Hutchins - Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM - 0 Comments
Sports stadiums and arenas are popping up across the country
There is another boom in Canadian real estate and it’s not in houses or condos; it’s in professional sports facilities. Several football stadiums and hockey arenas are set to sprout up across the country, and like the residential housing boom, they are largely being built on borrowed money.
The city of Regina unanimously approved a deal for a 33,000-seat stadium for the Saskatchewan Roughriders on July 23. The estimated $278-million cost has the team paying $25 million, while the bulk is split between the city and province (to be repaid in property taxes and higher fees attached to ticket prices). Other new CFL stadiums, meanwhile, are in the works for Ottawa, Hamilton and Winnipeg, and all will be funded by provincial and city governments.
Also on the horizon are some ambitious arena projects. Edmonton is pushing for a new home for the Oilers. Quebec City hopes to bring back the Nordiques with a $400-million arena, with the cost shared between the city and province.
By Michael Friscolanti and Charlie Gillis - Monday, November 30, 2009 at 6:33 PM - 13 Comments
Someone blew the Grey Cup for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But was it really Jason Armstead?
When a sports team chokes, the choke in question doesn’t usually require much explanation. The Boston Red Sox lost that World Series game to the Mets because Billy Buckner let a slow groundball dribble through his legs. The Buffalo Bills blew their first of four Super Bowl chances because Scott Norwood was wide right. And the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s probably would have won five straight Stanley Cups had rookie defenceman Steve Smith not passed the puck into his own net.
The 97th Grey Cup featured its own memorable choke: the underdog Saskatchewan Roughriders lost to the Montreal Alouettes by one measly point because someone wearing a green jersey was on the field when he should have been on the sidelines. But unlike Buckner and Norwood and Smith—whose gaffes were instantly obvious—we still don’t know who actually screwed up. The coaches are not saying and, to their credit, the culprit’s teammates aren’t throwing him under the bus either.
Here’s what we do know. With five seconds left on the clock and the Als down by two, Damon Duval attempted a 43-yard field goal that didn’t even come close to the uprights. But to the horror of Rider Nation, penalty flags flew as soon as the ball was snapped. Saskatchewan had 13 men on the field—one too many—and Duval was granted a do-over from ten yard closer. He didn’t miss. Alouettes 28, Riders 27. Game over.
Fingers were quickly pointed at Jason Armstead, the Rider receiver who was standing in touchdown territory when Duval missed kick number one. “It looked like somebody ran on late into the end zone,” said TSN broadcaster Chris Cuthbert. It certainly did seem strange that the Riders—desperate to block the field goal attempt—would waste a player in the end zone when an extra body would have certainly helped on the line of scrimmage. Even if the Als missed the kick and the ball traveled through the end zone, the resulting single point would not have cost the Riders the Cup. (At least one fan is convinced that Armstead is to blame. Just hours after the final whistle, some semi-literate soul altered the receiver’s Wikipedia profile to say he “was responsible for a crucial penalty during the final play of the 2009 Grey Cup” and “ultimately put the Montreal Alouettes in field goal position”).
In the locker room, Armstead proclaimed his innocence. “What kind of question is that?” he told reporters. “Come on, ask a smart question. Don’t do that. Ask a smart question.”
What he should have said is: “Check out the replay.” Because the video footage of those final, critical moments raises an interesting question: If Armstead is the goat, why was he on the field not just for the first, penalized play, but for both of Montreal’s field goal attempts?
That’s right. Look closely at TSN’s pictures of Duval’s second kick, and you’ll see Armstead still in the Roughriders’ end zone (at 1:22 of the clip, directly behind the official on the right hand side). Surely if he was supposed to be on the line of scrimmage—or off the field entirely—he would have been gone from the end zone for the Mulligan.
Yes, the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox makes a good point about the redundancy of having a returner in the end zone if conceding a single point wouldn’t have cost Saskatchewan the game. But it’s possible the Rider coaches worried that something would go wrong with their attempt to block Duval’s kick. Montreal might somehow recover the ball in the air after it had been blocked, in which case having one last man to prevent an Alouette ball-carrier from entering the end zone might have come in handy.
And look at the CFL Rulebook’s section on scoring: if the ball goes into the end zone “as a direct result of a kick from scrimmage being blocked in the field of play or goal area,” it says, and the player in possession takes a knee, the result is not single point, but a safety touch, which is worth two points. Two points would have tied the game.
Would a tipped ball that wound up in the end zone qualify as a “direct result” of a block? Hard to know. The rule was likely written for scenarios where a team is punting from deep within its own territory yet gets stuffed by defenders.
In the end, the Saskatchewan coaches might simply have made a big mistake, putting a man in the end zone when they didn’t need to. But put him there they did. Twice. Which suggests their heads fit the goat horns about as well as Armstead’s—if not nearly as well as the mystery player who stayed on the field when he was supposed to come off.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, September 18, 2008 at 3:03 PM - 0 Comments
CFL legend Ron Lancaster has died of lung cancer at 69. As a quarterback,…
CFL legend Ron Lancaster has died of lung cancer at 69. As a quarterback, he was a true lion, turning the Saskatchewan Roughriders into a perennial contender and leading the team to a Grey Cup championship in 1966. As a coach in Edmonton, he was equally formidable, compiling an 83-42 record with the Eskies. He also saw Canadian football through some of its darkest days, never shrinking from a challenge: in 1998, he signed on with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats despite their chronic financial instability, and coached them into two Grey Cup games, winning in 1999.
The tributes are already popping up everywhere—many of them from people with longer memories than mine. As a former Eskies season-ticket holder, I’ll always think of Lancaster as coach who could adjust his game on the fly. A two-TD half-time lead was never secure against Edmonton, because he would read the opposition’s defence; by the third quarter, he’d have his boys back in the game. Lancaster also understood quarterbacks intuitively, having played the position. “I know how stubborn they can be,” he once remarked in an indirect reference to the ageless Danny McManus, one of many players who profited from Lancaster’s unwavering support. This may explain why Discount Dan, a QB of limited physical gifts, became one of the most prolific passers in league history. Continue…
By Charlie Gillis - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 5:17 PM - 0 Comments
**CCTED version (see comments below)
The Banjo Bowl, Saskatchewan’s annual tilt against the Winnipeg…
**CCTED version (see comments below)
The Banjo Bowl, Saskatchewan’s annual tilt against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers , is normally worth the trip from Dauphin to Winnipeg, or the deck to the couch. This year, however, both it and its Labour Day prequel in Regina looked to be a bust. The Bombers had stink-stank-stunk all season, while the Roughriders seemed every bit the Grey Cup champs. Sure, they’d lost both head coach Kent Austin (to the U.S. college ranks) and starting quarterback Kerry Joseph (to the salary cap). But they were seriously cruising, stuffing opposing rushers and eating up ground yards like a combine harvester. If you’d roused me from my torpor in late July, I’d have told you the Bombers were sure to be the Bomb-ees in the battle Troy Westwood gave us. Better to watch the Antiques Road Show.
No more. The ground has shifted. The stars have re-aligned. The CFL funhouse has come back to life, as it always does in the fall. And if Winnipeg remains the longshot both this weekend and next, the game itself has implications for the rest of the season. Here’s why: as fans will recall, Kerry Joseph landed in Toronto after Regina decided he would cost them too much, which in turn ignited a QB controversy that almost had Bay Streeters paying attention to the CFL. Michael Bishop, a journeyman who sometimes seems capable of greatness, was supposed to be the Argos’ top pivot, having begun the previous season with an 11-1 record. Suddenly he was fighting for his job, and the soap opera dragged on all summer. Finally, last week, the Argos decided Joseph had won the bake-off. And just where did they find a home for our boy, Bish? … (remember, this is the CFL…) You got it. Saskatchewan. Continue…