Yes, the game day arrived… Grey Cup Sunday was in two parts as usual. My long time friend and colleague (who has been at every Grey Cup with me since 2007) and I always attend the local Presbyterian church (we both are elders – he much more active than I). As he was not in attendance this year I decided I would go to St. Mark’s in Moose Jaw. Not quite forty years ago (while working on a project in Saskatchewan) this congregation along with its sister church, Knox Briercrest became vacant when their minister was called to First Presbyterian in Edmonton. I was then asked to be an interim lay supply minister until a new minister could be called. I often had close to, if not more than, one hundred in the congregation and choir at St. Mark’s (Knox was a rural church but often had forty to fifty in attendance).
I thought it would be interesting to sit in the pews of St. Mark’s even though I wasn’t sure any one there would remember me. On this point I would be proven quite right. The oldest member of the congregation had arrived some five years after my time there. The minister has been there for some time and is a good preacher. Unfortunately he did not have many listening – well, I’m not sure how many might have been tuning in to the streamed service, but there were only ten of us in the church. While I was excited to know that those two congregations are still going (when many of the ones I preached in throughout the first half of the 80’s are now shuttered), I was somewhat saddened to realize that even in a city like Moose Jaw the denomination is all but extinct.
After church I went back to the hotel to the hotel and changed attire – I had actually worn a suit! As the temperature was climbing towards zero I figured I had best not overdress, but still make sure I had sufficient protection against the elements as I did not know where my seat was viz. the wind that was still prevalent. Once I put on my regular clothes, I then covered everything with a sweat suit including a hoodie, a Grey Cup jersey (from 2014) and my 2007 leather Grey Cup jacket. For good measure I took a pair of lined gloves and leather mittens. Off I drove to Regina. I parked near a TacoTime and while I waited for a shuttle, I had a burrito. Then the bus game and took me to the stadium.
As it was still several hours before kick-off, I decided to drop in on the indoor tailgate party. It was loud, energetic, noisy and full of fans from all over the spectrum. The musicians were fine but loud – perhaps they thought everyone was over 80 and needed the volume so they could hear. The irony, the age mix was fairly evenly split from early twenties to certainly the seventies. After an hour or so, I had had enough and decided to walk the zillion metres back past the bus stops to the stadium.
The action was already starting with preliminary warmups including the officials. After a fair length of time the players all returned to their locker rooms while a stage was wheeled out and a country artist and his band (with a female drummer who sang beautiful back-up harmonies) presented a short show. It was quite good. Then the players returned for more formal warmups. This was quite short, punctuated by an appearance by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. Welcomes then came from both Treat Six (I think) and the Métis Nation followed by an excellent Aboriginal singer who sang the national anthem in English, en français and Cree. By now the sun was down and it was getting a wee bit cold. As the coin toss was set up with the head of the Assembly of First Nations doing the honours, the Snowbirds came back again. All in all a nice set up for the game itself
You already know about the game and the number of unique moments. All I can say is that had Winnipeg played that way the week before, BC Lions would have been in the Grey Cup. Or if we had a single league the quarter finals would have seen Calgary play Hamilton with a probable Calgary win, and Montréal vs Toronto game with TO winning. The semi-finals would have had Calgary play BC (BC winning) and Winnipeg playing the Argos in a somewhat less pressure packed game (which I think the Blue Bombers would have won) setting up a Winnipeg vs BC final which would have been spectacular. But none of that happened: instead we were treated to an interesting and eventually very Canadian conclusion – two blocked field goals in the last minute. And an upset victory to the Argonauts (now Winnipeg knows how Calgary felt at the 2017 Grey Cup).
While I was sad for the Blue Bombers, I was happy for Andrew Harris, Henoc Muamba and Bethel-Thompson. But due to the need to catch a shuttle to my car, get from there to my hotel in Moose Jaw and be back to YQR by 5:00 a.m. to catch a flight back to BC, I did not stay for the trophy presentations. For that I was punished – the next morning I forgot to turn in the rental car keys so when I arrived in Penticton I had to go to Purolator and ship them back!!
Oh well – now I can look forward to next season and hopefully one of the teams in the Grey Cup (in Hamilton) will be mine!!
p.s. there is one sidebar I must mention — the half-time show was bizarre: even though Florida-Georgia Line had broken up, the two feature singers came along with a more local country singer. The result was a show with no theme, and rather mixed presentations. As the people sitting beside me said — trust us Saskatchewan folk to screw this up, even though we had three years to get ready and have back-up plans! Now I know why they didn`t know if they even had a show!