Sunday, November 27, 2005

Grey Cup Preview

The Esks are in the Grey Cup. Again. This is what I love and hate about the CFL - it seems like every other year your team gets to challenge for the championship. But then after a while it becomes somewhat anti-climatic. If the Oil were in the Stanley Cup finals, I'd be lying in the corner having heart palpitations, frothing at the mouth in a state of abject befuddlement. In otherwords, I'd be so overcome I wouldn't know what to do with myself.

Don't get me wrong; I'm excited for the game. But all of the other writers on this blog could pretty much care less. Despite being true Edmontonians, none of them bleed green and gold, and I wouldn't be surprised if none of them watched the Grey Cup. To which I say, for shame. Just once commit the apostasy of foresaking the big tent circus of the NFL for the kitch glories of your hometown product.

The Grey Cup has a cultural significance beyond the quality of the game. I've been to the event in the past and the week leading up to it is like a beer soaked cheerleader convention, full of random interactions with hilarious enthusiasts from various corners of the nation. But for me the Grey Cup has an iconic status as a family event that introduced me to the true joys of (semi-)professional sport. One day each year the families of three old friends who left their neighboring farms in Ireland to immigrate to this fair land would get together, the ladies would lay down a feast, everyone would catch-up on the times old and new, and we'd watch some arial three-down football. My first ever sporting pool was the Grey Cup grid with ten numbers along the X and Y axis for both the East and West, with payouts from the pot coming at the end of each quarter based on the last digits of the score for each side. The thrill of taking the pot home as a twelve year old almost tempted me into the life of a professional roulette player. But it was Ray Elgaard's shot through the uprights to take it for Saskatchewan with the clock running out in the 1989 Grey Cup that made me a sports fan. I'd revelled in the glories of the Oilers dynasty but the thrill of a tight run-and-gun CFL contest was hard to beat for pure, gripping nail-biting sporting action. What happened to those Grey Cup parties? Eventually the boyhood friends from the Old Sod had their own children, and they started their own Grey Cup traditions. Ours carries on tonight with Dad visiting from the nursing home to sit in his old chair, sip on a glass of Jameson's, and watch the Eskies bring it home.

As for today's game itself, the only question surrounds the starting pivots. Should the Esks go with one-time golden boy turned inconsistent Rickey Ray, or game-breaker and bow-hunting enthusiast Jason Maas? The answer as I see it is simple. In the past two games the Esks started Ray and finished with Maas. They won both games. So expect Ray to start and Maas to finish, again. To say that Ray didn't get the job done, that he had to endure the shame of being yanked twice, is an oversimplification. In the Lions game he got the Esks firmly on top only to see his lead dwindle through no fault of his own. He played the short game, marched the field and got the ugly points on the board. In the Stamps game, on the other hand, he was like Mr. Glass crumbling at the drop of a feather at their blitz. Maas came in both times extra pumped given the situation the team found itself in, and served as a sparkplug. He threw the critical bullet TD to put the Lions down that Ray couldn't supply, but ultimately capped off Ray's workmanlike effort. Maas' role in the Stamps game was far more critical, as he was clearly better suited to fending off the Stamps' badboy D-Line.

As for Montreal, I can't say that I've seen them play this year. I know their team well from my years in Montreal, when they dominated the league and put on one of the best fan experiences in the country with each game at McGill Stadium (second only to any Oilers playoff game). While they have lost some of their lustre since then, they still have the better defence and Don Matthews is as good as they get among the merry-go-round fraternity of interchangeable CFL coaches. Newbie Danny Maciocia of the Esks could luck out by porting away the Grey Cup in his choppy rookie coaching season, but Matthews gives the Als an edge.

Everyone in Edmonton is holding it to be a fait accompli that the Green and Gold will sip champagne tonight. I'm going to buck the trend and predict a Montreal win, as much as my heart pleads otherwise, with an astronomical scoreline of 38-30. Expect some messy Canadian football at its finest.


At 3:55 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Sounds about right.

And it was Dave Ridgeway (not Ray Elgaard, a great slotback) who was the kicker for the GoRiders! back in 89.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Alex said...

I am so watching the Grey Cup. My prediction: Edmonton 31 Montreal 28. MVP: Ed Hervey, Best Canadian: The Kicker. Most Entertaining Accessory: Don Matthews' Handlebar Mustache.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

My God, did you say Ray Elgaard was a kicker? Abboud is going to lose it. Next you will be saying Donald Narcisse was a running back, or start making fun of those orange gloves he used to wear.

I also grew up a Esks fan. We had season tickets as a kid, and I was witness to one of the great dynasties of professional sports (i.e. the Warren Moon era). My favorite parts of this piece concern the family and the Grey Cup tradition. Our family gathered in the same way, and it warms my Canadian heart to know that others did the same.

That being said, the product is awful. Other than the Grey Cup-which I admit is always good-the Canadian game blows. Substandard athletes, nine teams, three downs and getting points for MISSING a field goal just don't do it for me. In all honesty, I am more excited about the Seahawks-Giants game this afternoon, and that is saying alot. You want to watch the greatest offence in the history of football? Watch the Colts dismantle the Steelers tomorrow. Now THAT is football.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

3-1, Edmonton over Montreal, at the end of 1. Is that a NHL or CFL score?

1 point. Pfft.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Kevin Kimmis said...

Grabia, I'm with you. While I did watch the fourth quarter and overtime, and slid back and forth between the Seahawks/Giants game and le Coupe Grey at various points, the half-time score summed it up: 10-1. Sounds like the final score in a Golden Bears/Bisons hockey game (or if you prefer, a BC/Maine hockey game) more than a football game at the half.

As for not playing Maas in the fourth quarter, the idiots on Prime Time Sports have a theory that sounds as plausible as it is obvious ... which I will save for another post. (And no abbouding this one, I promise.)


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