Sunday, November 28, 2010
98 Reasons, and a look at the Grey Cup
98 Reasons I love the CFL
98 - Seats on the 55-yard line.
97 - $8 beer in hand.
96 - The fact that Pilsners were sold out before kickoff at last year's Grey Cup.
95 - The Legend of Doug Flutie.
94 - Lui Passaglia's kick to beat the Baltimore Stallions.
93 - Nik Lewis' hurdle earlier this season.
92 - "Frito Ray with Pringle in the backfield" - The old Eskimo chips!
91 - Watching ESPN Classic and counting the number of different uniforms you'll see on Damon Allen.
90 - Fireworks in the uprights that go off after touchdowns.
89 - The Riders' 2007 Grey Cup finally allowed the fanbase to shelve their old, smelly, full-of-holes '89 Champions' apparel.
88 - I guess I can't reference the '89 game without referencing Dave Ridgway.
87 - Linemen tweeting what they had for breakfast. I just read in awe of their appetites.
86 - In the CFL, any quarterback can be a running quarterback.
85 - Former CFL players succeeding in the NFL.
84 - To a lesser extend, former CFL players succeeding in the UFL.
83 - Those "so-bad-its-good" gold Winnipeg jerseys.
82 - Jason Clermont, 245 pounds of Saskatchewan beef!
81 - Geroy Simon. I was lucky enough to be a fan of one of the all-time great CFL players during his prime.
80 - As soon as TSN took over broadcast rights, the coverage got impressively better.
79 - Do we really need five hours of pre-game, though? Of course we do.
78 - I mean, the Molson isn't going to drink itself.
77 - I do miss Chris Walby, however.
76 - The 1976 Grey Cup, where the Rough Riders beat the Roughriders 23-20.
75 - The endless replay of Tony Gabriel's touchdown catch from that game.
74 - The season starts with the Grey Cup rematch.
73 - The longevity of Anthony Calvillo.
72 - When the Lions broke the Grey Cup after winning in 2006.
71 - The sly smile on Ron Lancaster's face when Hamilton won their first game of the 2005 season after losing eight straight.
70 - Oskie Wee Wee! Oskie Waa Waa! Holy Mackinaw!
69 - The 1969 Grey Cup, where the Rough Riders beat the Roughriders 29-11.
68 - Archaic rules that were never abolished from the rugby codes.
67 - Grainy video stills from the fog bowl.
66 - The 1966 Grey Cup, where the Roughriders beat the Rough Riders 29-14.
65 - The "Lions", named after the twin peaks that watch over Vancouver.
64 - The "Eskimos", named so because it's more alliterative than 'Edmonton Inuit' or 'Edmonton Politically Corrects'.
63 - The "Blue Bombers" having a beer named after them.
62 - The "Argonauts" thankfully never having a great player named 'Jason'.
61 - The "Roughriders" named after
60 - The "Alouettes" named because it sounds better in French than English (Larks)
59 - Est-ce que je suis censé à repété tous les lignes au sujet des Alouettes en Français?
58 - The "Stampeders", named so because it what locals would love to do to pretentious, cowboy-hat wearing tourists in early July.
57 - The "Tiger-Cats" named because the only available uniforms upon the teams' founding were striped yellow and black.
56 - The nickname 'Baltimore CFLs'.
55 - Did I mention the 55-yard line? (UPDATE: As CdnSportsFan mentions in the comments, it's about this time I should mention the larger endzones, keeping the playbooks open in the redzone.)
54 - The 'Las Vegas Posse' will never, ever again grace a CFL scoreboard.
53 - Same for the Birmingham Barracudas.
52 - I liked the Shreveport Pirates, however.
51 - The Montreal team had the sense to take the classic name 'Alouette' over 'Concordes', in time for July 2000's Flight 4590 crash.
50 - Even though the league is small, the Grey Cup is still an elusive, historic trophy that's hard to win.
49 - Seriously; just ask Milt Stegall.
48 - On the topic of Milt--his 100-yard reception in the last second a few years ago.
47 - Those old Gibsons commercials where the linebackers tackled lawn bowlers and tennis players.
46 - A small building like McMahon, Molson or Mosaic has more personality than a behemoth superstadium like Skydome, BC Place or The Big O.
45 - Every time a punter comes near recovering his own kick.
44 - I was once at a game where the halftime show was a karate school. The master cut a watermelon in half off a guy's bare chest with a huge sword.
43 - There wasn't a drop of blood on the guy, but the watermelon was cut cleanly in half.
42 - The arbitrary nature of no-yards calls.
41 - Eddie Johnson can grow a better mustache than me.
40 - Any CFL player can grow a better mustache than me.
39 - So can half of the CIS.
38 - So can Andrew Bucholtz, Yahoo's CFL blogger. What does he feed that thing?
37 - The proximity of the bleachers to the field of play at Ivor Wynne.
36 - The feeling you get walking through the tunnel and seeing the field for the first time each game you attend.
35 - Winnipeg is somehow an Eastern team.
34 - The Labour Day classic, kicking off the stretch run.
33 - The peanut man at my only visit ever to Percival Molson Stadium.
32 - Actually, all of my trip to Percival Molson. A great little building.
31 - "One... Two... Three... Move those yard sticks!"
30 - Shutting off the NFL for two weeks during Division Finals Week, and Grey Cup Sundays.
29 - SJ Green's catch in the opening day game this year.
28 - Jaime Stein, showing us that just because you work for the league doesn't mean you can't also be a big fan of the league.
27 - That horse that runs around after touchdowns in Calgary.
26 - Wondering what would happened if the Argos used a giant boat when they score.
25 - Matt Dunnigan constantly comparing young quarterbacks to Matt Dunnigan.
24 - The nickname 'Gizmo'
23 - Emmanuel Arceneaux's catch in the playoffs.
22 - The guy who kicked for a million.
21 - The determined opposition Canadians have to an NFL team moving to Toronto.
20 - 20 seconds to call a play.
19 - In Canada, we do it right with shootout overtime.
18 - Also in Canada, we have a college football playoff.
17 - Also in Canada, poutine while watching a game at the bar.
16 - Only a Canadian could respect a kicker's versatile talent.
15 - Taking the 'over' four times a week.
14 - The RBK re-designs of the jerseys for the 2005 season.
13 - "The 13th man is your worst enemy!"
12 - "How many Saskatchewan Roughriders does it take to win the Grey Cup?"
11 - "One less!"
10 - The soothing, familiar voice of Chris Cuthbert.
9 - When the calendar flips to November, and half the games are played in a blizzard, but they never stop passing.
8 - All eight teams are unique in their own way with tremendous history to their credits.
7 - Our balls are bigger.
6 - Hail Marys in the first quarter. At least one per series.
5 - My first live Grey Cup, a 38-35 double-overtime win for Edmonton.
4 - My second live Grey Cup, a 28-27 final second thriller.
3 - Only three downs to work with make for reckless entertainment.
2 - The passion of Saskatchewan Roughriders fans nationwide.
1 - The Grey Cup tradition. It's an excuse to load yourself up with food that's bad for you and stay inside on a perfectly good Sunday, for no other reason than it's your patriotic duty.
My widget says that Edmonton will be mostly sunny with a high of -2 and a low of -11. It doesn't seem that precipitation will be a factor, nor will biting cold. Last year's final was a pretty mild Alberta evening, and it looks like this year is pretty well the same.
Why the Montreal Alouettes will win
I've been referencing him in the lead-up to this game on Twitter, but Avon Cobourne, who was silent against the Riders this season. He was alive last week, running for 163 yards and is the defending Grey Cup MVP. The rest of the offense isn't anything that jumps off the page at you, but is silently effective; Anthony Calvillo should have won the Most Outstanding Player. He doesn't force throws, (just 8 INTs coming into the Grey Cup) but allows his receivers to make plays. Kerry Watkins and Ben Cahoon are the wise veterans, while SJ Green is the flashy rookie who will give you a highlight-reel catch.
The defense hits hard. Who can forget the 2nd down hit by Chip Cox on Rob Bagg in last year's title game? The team forced 24 fumbles this year, (by comparison, the Riders only forced 11) and don't give receivers a lot of room. They only allowed 55.3% of completions this year, good for 2nd in the league, and didn't let the opposition sustain long drives. This is all without mentioning the 25 team interceptions, spread around the team's backs, so on any given play, Durant will put the ball somewhere where an Als player has the ability to hit, pick or strip the ball and change the momentum.
Why the Saskatchewan Roughriders will win
Because the CFL wants them to.
Other than that, while I don't believe in karma, and as corny as it reads, I tend to believe that some things happen in sports because they were meant to happen. This group of Saskatchewan Roughriders was meant to win a Grey Cup and failed on one of the most bizarre of technicalities.
That being said, Saskatchewan knew they had a lot of work to do. They blew a 16-point fourth quarter lead last year and lost arguably their top two defensive players in John Chick and Stevie Baggs. Barrin Simpson picked up the slack and lead the league in tackles, even as an 11-year vet. Between him and James Patrick, who led the league in picks, the Riders have a hodge-podge of playmaking defenders.
That isn't their talent; they managed to upset the Stampeders in the Western Final despite being 2nd worst in points allowed, they are known for the Canadian Air Force, the group of receivers led by Andy Fantuz and Chris Getzlaf who helped Darian Durant lead the league in passing yards. While the Alouettes don't allow sustained pressure, the Riders have several weapons who can break open a big play and score in a hurry: Weston Dressler is one of the premier playmakers in the league, while Wes Cates broke off the longest run of the year, an 83-yarder.
The 13th man will play an important role (not as big as one last year) but force the Alouettes into a silent count offense where they aren't as effective. The Als have only played two games in front of a hostile crowd of more than 23,000 since the start of October and averaged just 12 points in those two. Last year they didn't get it going until the fourth, so all that's needed is the Riders to come out quick and knock the Als off their gameplan early with the quick scores they can provide.
It's an intriguing matchup, and Montreal is just so dominant on paper it's hard not to pick them. So I will. Give us 32-25 or something in that range. I think Saskatchewan will get out to the early lead, but the veteran Als will settle down and control the pace.
Use the comments to discuss how wrong I am, or to debate which songs BTO will play in the half-time show other than 'Takin Care of Business' and 'You ain't Seen Nothin Yet'.
Happy Grey Cup Sunday. I love you, Canada.
I guess I'll leave you of this picture I took at last year's Grey Cup. Count the 12 Riders in the frame. Not pictured: Jason Armstead, behind the goal posts: