The Epistle of Q — Chapter Fifty-Six (C)

And there’s more?

Of course…Grey Cup lasts from before Thursday through to Sunday night (and in some cases, beyond!!)

Saturday was another busy day, although the appearance of rain somewhat mitigated an improvement in temperature on the positive side of freezing. It was “team walk-through” practice day. I was there at the stadium a bit early, only to discover that Security had no idea that the group of us who were part of the founding of the Grey Cup Club at the Winnipeg-hosted Grey Cup in 2015 would be showing up. The security guard insisted I should stand out in the rain. I decided to walk around the block and enter at the real Gate 1 and at least I would find shelter from the storm (actually I think I have slid into quoting from a Bob Dylan song, because while the rain was wet, it was not that bad…).

Eventually, after a host of Grey Cup Club’rs had arrived, a CFL official came and although it took a few minutes, he was able to lead us past the security guard and into the endzone stands to watch the Calgary Stampeders work out… it was not a vigorous workout, but nevertheless it was interesting. Several different drills were part of the process accompanied by some exercises and different play-calls. Then while players broke off to their own group workouts, we were blessed in our part of the stadium with the offensive linemen. They went through an agility drill that was actually quite fascinating… they had two footballs and some one would start the process by tossing one to one player and another to another. Each person was to catch the ball and then immediately toss it to another. Whenever someone missed the toss, there was extensive derision rained upon him from his team-mates and he would try hard then to make two others miss. The athleticism was amazing; most guys who able to move very quickly to get the ball and most (not always the same most) were able to toss the ball rapidly and in any direction. On some occasions players would actually catch two balls at once. I really enjoyed watching this exercise more than the larger, full-team practice…

Before I left the stadium, I had the honour of meeting Ashley Stapleton, sister to the young middle linebacker who plays for Calgary. If you don’t know this lady, I’d suggest you go to and link on the CFL section and then look for a reference to “about Ashley”. Watch that video. It is an interesting story about two siblings — both competitive: she, though, has Downs Syndrome and has won numerous medals and trophies over the years. We had a good visit although most of the conversation was with an other sibling who also is very football savvy. It was a delightful moment in the weekend and one that made me glad I had seen the special video during half time of the Western Final and then had the opportunity to meet her. She is a special person.

By the time the morning event was over I was getting a bit hungry. I wandered to a couple of places and then realized I’d left my wallet at the townhouse. I walked back there, retrieved the wallet, and then headed for a pub for some late lunch…the afternoon was sort of lazy… enjoying the ambiance of the weekend, while awaiting more of the teams’ party spots to open. The capital is an okay place to walk around downtown and the rain had diminished so it was a good afternoon. Later I went to the Lions’ Den but this year it ominously reflected the Lions’ season. It was somewhat loud but not that energetic so it seemed more worthwhile to wander over to the RNation party in the Aberdeen Building at Lansdowne Park (near the stadium). Remember that young woman I mentioned earlier who’s on the GC Committee? Well she had VIP passes to that party and so we all were able to sit on elevated sofas while we watched/listened to the entertainment. Another delightful moment in the weekend. Afterwards, after a late dinner at another fine food locale on the Festival grounds, it was more scotch back at the townhouse (along with some superb shortbread!!). {You may wonder why I was not at a special event in the afternoon — there was one but it was “Gals and the Gridiron” so words to that effect. The Grey Cup Committee made an innovation this year that I hope becomes a staple of future GC weekends. They had a special just for women and it was well-attended. Moreover, talking to participants later, they said it was interesting and quite educational. They had lots of fun, had some wine, met some talented athletes and in the end, really felt more a part of the game that is played on the field. A concentrated version of the Edmonton Esks’ Football 101…and they each received a picture with them in a helmet and looking as fierce as Solly from the Lions!!}

Sunday started off very sunny, although a bit chilly. As has become a tradition with the aforementioned husband of the above-noted young RedBlack woman, I went to church. This year it was a no-brainer — we’d go to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian. He is now an elder there; earlier in the millennium I was on the Temporal Committee (i.e. the board of managers). St. Andrew’s is a stately church opposite the Supreme Court building. The minister (who is new since my time) is erudite and compelling; the organist is amazing with the ability to bring out the best in each musical selection. The congregants were not many — maybe forty for the early service — but the service was spiritually uplifting. We then went to brunch where we became engaged in a vigorous conversation on the future of the church, more specifically the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Some serious issues must be addressed (and I will look at some of them in a special series during Advent this year) and we did delve into them. We also had good food and in the midst of it all, at this point in time, agreed to disagree. I’m not sure it is an age issue — I think he may be more optimistic about the future of a church based solely on love — a love that I have seen so little of in the leadership of the church in recent years that I am fearful the current HQ gang are simply enamoured with fadism more than a serious attempt to maintain the reputation of “reformed and always reforming”… but for now let me say, Sunday brunch was a good one…

The afternoon was somewhat laid back — visiting the Festival Square activities and even heading for the Tail Gate Party… while it no doubt was potentially a big deal, the entertainment was somewhat middling and the sun had disappeared and there was no food…yet going outside to Timmies and a free pizza group meant that it would take over an hour to get back in. Outside won out, and we left whereupon Gordon Pitts (formerly of the Globe and Mail, and a recognized brilliant author of several books on Canadian business) joined up and three of us wandered about until eventually we found a rather classy little coffee emporium. While it’s kitchen had shut down (obviously to avoid a huge line-up and thus hurt its coffee dispensing) it was serving coffees, teas and steamed milk quickly. It also was a warm location which allowed us all to rejuvenate ourselves. We also tried to make contact with two additional people who were coming to the game — people I felt might never get a chance to come to a Grey Cup, so because I had had access to cheaper tickets early in the RedBlacks campaign to sell out the stadium, I had purchased their seats as gifts. We never did connect because it started to snow and we decided we would enter the stadium and get under cover. Later we did hear from them, and after the game they told me that it was a special moment beyond special moments — the young man took his Grey Cup ticket (on a lanyard) and a gazillion pictures to work today in Montreal to show his boss and workmates!!

Once inside the snow was quickly covering the stadium floor and you already know what I thought of the stadium’s preparedness. But the game itself was exciting with lots of goofed-up plays that made for laughs at times. At other moments there were spectacular accomplishments which were so special; I was glad just to be there to see them “live and in person”. I won’t comment on the game itself…that has been covered enough in the various sports media. There is no doubt in my mind that Calgary was by far the better team (and the statistics bear me out); but, as I learned one year in high school when we had by far the better basketball team and were playing for the eastern Ontario championship — that is no guarantee of victory. In the Grey Cup game many will point to the fumble on the one-yard line as the game changer… maybe, but the interception on the second last play prevented either a touchdown or at least a tying field goal. Moreover the defence was unable to stop either the drive for the go-ahead field goal or the two-point conversion. And, early in the game, the missed attempt at an interception which resulted in a 90 yard TD pass and run play certainly contributed to the victory. Toronto may have been lucky. Calgary may have been unlucky. But that is sport, and on the biggest stage of the CFL season, it plays out much larger… Calgary has a great team…they may well be back next year. Toronto has some incredible talent, especially their coach, GM and QB. If there may be any solace for Calgary supporters, perhaps this win will help ignite greater fan participation in the actual home games of the Argonauts in the 2018 season (the team deserves that as a reward for bringing the 17th Cup to the city in ’17).

For now, while I wished the Stampeders had won, it is only a game. No one died, no one tried to cancel an important trade agreement, no one rose up and tried to knock off a democratically elected leader. And it was a great evening of football — typical Canadian winter ball, with a better than okay half-time show. The players all tried hard, sometimes with surprising results. The stadium was full; fans were engaged; and yet there was a politeness, a respect for the other side. It was Canadian sport at its finest. Most of the athletes will now go to another job for a few months — these guys aren’t mega-millionaires — and maybe that’s why I love the league more that even the teams I support. This is closer to what I always thought professional sport should be — just a cut above the rest of us. Athletes who play with skill, ability, passion and tenacity and yet on any given play day can taste incredible victory or agonizing and painful loss. The people who didn’t lose on Sunday — the fans of great football, that which is played in the CFL.