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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grey Cup Weekend

This weekend is the Annual  National Canadian Weekend for football and partying.  Friday there will be the Vanier Cup the Canadian University Football Championship and Sunday is the Grey Cup game, the Canadian Professional Football Championship.. Both of these contests will be held in Toronto this year.  The partying actually begins up to a week before the  games.

This year is a special year for the Canadian Football League as it is the 100th awarding of the Grey Cup. This began is 1909. The math does not add up because for three years the cup was not awarded due to WWI.

Canadian Football is unique to Canada..  For my American friends it is different than American Football. The biggest difference is that it is Canada's game, all the teams that play it are located in Canada. Of all the professional sports, this is truly out OUR game. While hockey is the most popular  sport in Canada it is largely controlled by American teams, while Canada supplies the majority of the players.  Baseball and Basketball each have a token franchises in Canada., located in Toronto. Soccer is played on both sides of the border as is Lacrosse.

Canadian Football has real differences from American Football .Some of the most noticeable difference are the size of the field ( 10 feet longer and 12 feet wider that in the US) three downs rather than four, twelve players on the field rather than eleven and the single point . the rouge. Superficially it appears different and requires the fundamental skill sets such that American football players can adapt to the game. but it is a very different game. It is a freer game.  While American football  can be a grinding out ground game with the players gaining two to five yard a carry over  four downs the Canadian player must accomplish the task in three downs. The forward pass becomes so much more important to maintain possession of the ball.
I could go on but let me just say I think it is a more exciting and unpredictable game than the American Football game.

Canadian Football has a long history of exciting games and memorable players.  In the history of the Annual game for the Grey Cup  there have been well remembered games, largely due to the weather in Canada at this time of years. There was the Mud Bowl, when the field was so muddy a player almost drowned when he fell face down on the field. There was the  Fog Bowl when the fog rolled in off Lake Ontario such that the game was suspended and the final 11 minutes were played the next day.  There there are games played on snow, such as in Hamilton one years., and in the cold, when played in a western city where the temperature can be sub zero Fahrenheit.  You have to be tough to play this game. Even more so, you have to be tough to be a fan as the games were played in open stadiums, before the occasional covered facility such as the Rogers center (Skydome)

What is quite different about Canadian Football is the the Grey Cup is a national celebration. People from across Canada attend whether or not their city or provincial team is playing..Some come year after year.  During the years when Canadian Football was in decline and threatened to dissolve the Grey Cup Festival remained popular. The weekend is a celebration of the game and the fans that support is as much as a victory in winning the cup.
In desperation, a few years ago,  the Canadian Football League tried to expand into the US. I think there were those who thought it could compete with the National Football League.  The only city that embraced Canadian Football was Baltimore. There NFL team,  Baltimore Colts, had slipped away in the night like thieves in the night. They were hungry for football and supported the new Canadian  Football team in their city and even won the Grey Cup on year, the only foreign team to do so.  I am sure their enthusiasum help them get another NFL team.  This American expansion experiment was a harsh reality check for Canadian Football. It would never be able to compete with the NFL in the United States.  It was Canada's game and if it was going to succeed it would be in Canada.  With a multi-million dollar loan from the NFL and the love of the annual Grey Cup game the league slowly rebuilt its Canadian fan base to the relative high point it has reach today. where Ottawa will once again field a team and their is talk of expanding eastward to Quebec city or the Maritmes, Moncton or Halifax..  The future looks promising.

La Coupe Grey Cup

There was a time when Canadian Football could and did compete with American Football teams for players. In order to  not  be overrun with American players the league limited the number of players from south of the border than Canadian teams could import.   The salaries are no longer comparable.  Canadian players get salaries similar to skilled tradesmen or teachers, American rookie players get paid ten times or more than a Canadian player.  Star players make an even proportionally higher salary.  You have to love the game to play professional football in Canada.  To be realistic, you cannot make it the focus of your personal career.Many players work at other jobs during the off season.

In spite of this, Canada continues to attract exciting players from the United States, each of reason of their own other than money.  There was a time when black players were not welcome in the NFL, then when they were,certain positions were not open for black players. They were welcome in Canada. Some came to avoid  the racist atmosphere in parts of the United States.  Other come as a backdoor way into the NFL, a second chance to show off their talents.

There have been wonderful great black players who have come to Canada. I like the ones that came and stayed to make a life in Canada.  Years ago, a star player in the US, who may have been the best player of his era came to Canada after an ugly incident in a college game where  he as the star of his team was centered out and attacked and had his jaw broken., because he was black. This was Johnny Bright. He came to Canada and was a star player for many years, mostly in Edmonton where he played alongside Norman Kwong and Jackie Parker.  He stayed and raised his family and had a career in that city.even after he had chances to play in the US. He is remembered these days as much for his career as a teacher and principal as he is for playing football..  In more recent years,  Pinball Clemons came to Toronto to play for the Argonauts.  One of the reasons he came was that he would have been considered too small to play NFL football. In Canada, you could play it's style of game if you were relatively small. Even for Canada Clemons was small, He was only about 5' 6".tall. . He was an exciting running back and starred with the Toronto team. He also has a large personality.  When he finished his playing career  they asked him to be the coach. He continues to be prominent in the Toronto area as an inspirational speaker, and supporter of charities particularly with work for young people.  This is rooted in his evangelical Christianity and his memory of growing up poor.
There were many other black player who played in Canada with distinction. Some returned to the US to star in the NFL, best known would be Warren Moon.  There were many white players that starred in both leagues. There was Joe Theismann and  Doug Flutie.  Flutie was considered too small for the NFL and after a couple of disappointing years in that league came to Canada and had a long career to star in our league, perhaps one of the best  American players to master the Canadian style game.  He went on to return to the US and finally play as a star in that league.  I could go. This history of Canadian football is a wonderful story Full of characters, accomplishment, fan support and celebrations.

I had a high school teacher and football coach who had played for the Toronto Argonaut Football team,
Nick Volpe.  He at 86 still has some association with that team . He was the outstanding player in the famous Mud Bowl game. Nick Volpe was a link for us with the Toronto team and helped my generations be enthusiastic about Canadian football.  I remember my sister having Grey Cup Parties to watch the game on TV with her friends. in the early years after high school.

I hope that in the future the Canadian Football League remains strong, expands, and continues to be a unifying force within Canada.  There are those who would like to see the NFL come to Canada. They focus their eyes on the Toronto Market.  For a number of years the Buffalo Bills have played the occasional game in Toronto. I must say, during these days of the Grey Cup in Toronto I am offended with the ads for the annual Buffalo Bills game in Toronto,   "Your Toronto team, The Buffalo Bills."  We could live without the NFL in Canada.

The Statue "Touchdown" outside The Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario

The Grey Cup Train crossed Canada with an exhibit about the Canadian Football game.  It stopped as many towns and cities  to have people go through the exhibit and  celebrate the game and the year of the 100th awarding of the Grey  Cup.  Here is a map of the route of the train.  I have not found out why it did not stop anywhere in Northern Ontario.  I know a lot of Canadians think no one lives here but they are wrong.. There are even some lovely cities: Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury,  (River Valley), North Bay, Timmins, or even Parry Sound, or Huntsville..  Someone owes us an apology.

Below is a typical stop at Moose Jaw

Oh Yes! It was an exciting weekend in Toronto. They even played some football.  The Vanier Cup was won by Laval University 37 to 14 over McMaster University  and the Grey Cup was won by Toronto  35 to 22 over Calgary.


At 4:23 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

The Fog Bowl was the year that we oved from Montreal to Cooksville. Kenny Ploen and the Blue Bombers defeated Bernie Faloney and the TiCats. At least that's my memory, and I don't want to know if I'm wrong. I used to be quite a fan, but I don't know when I last bothered to watch a game -- probably the Grey Cup three years ago and then only in part.

BTW the man in motion (real motion) is unique to Canadian Football. If you mentioedn it, I missed it.


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