by Sarah Millin
Last Sunday I watched as quarterback Henry Burris threw a 93 yard touchdown reception to drive Ottawa to their first Grey Cup in 30 years.
No one really expected Ottawa to win. Henry Burris at age 40 was dumped by his last team as too old. The Red Blacks are a new team and had an appalling season last year.
As I watched them win I remembered “The Catch”
I watched almost 30 Grey Cup games with my dad over the years. I was very young and barely remember when Ottawa won in 1973.
But the first Grey Cup I really remember was the all Rough Rider 1976 game which is still remembered for The Catch. We lived in Ottawa at the time and we were cheering for the home team.
The heavily favoured Saskatchewan Roughriders were leading the Ottawa Rough Riders by four points with 30 seconds to go. People were already leaving the stadium assuming that Saskatchewan won. Rookie quarterback Tom Clemons threw a 24 yard touchdown pass to Tony Gabriel to win. It’s still considered one of the best Grey Cups ever played.
I wasn’t involved in playing sports at school and I don’t think my dad was either. Being small in stature guarantees being picked last for the team until someone starts a garden gnome league. In the 70s football and hockey were exclusively for men. I went to a high school where boys played football (and they still showed the grainy video of the last time the school won the city championship at least once a year at assembly) and girls played volleyball (more regular city champs and provincial champs but no video).
My dad moved to Vancouver with his second wife and I joined them in 1983. Now we were B.C. Lions fans. For the first time since the 60s B.C. had a great team, Vancouver had the first domed stadium, it was a good time to be a fan. Lions won their first Grey Cup in 20 years in 1985.
We developed a routine while watching the Grey Cup in these years. We imitated the announcers’ more silly commentary. “They’re in the shadow of goal line”. My dad and I talked about players from the past. Nothing could elicit evil giggles from my dad better than reminding him about the Alouette linebacker who rejoiced in the name “Randy Rhino”.
My dad was travelling when the 77th Grey Cup was played. So he missed the epic battle between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Hamilton was heavily favoured to win that game and Saskatchewan put on a show. The Roughriders’ Dave Cutler kicked the winning field goal with seconds to spare.
That Grey Cup converted me to being a closeted Saskatchewan fan. When I finally come out to my dad about rooting for the Riders it was a big deal.
“Who is this Shania Twain?” my dad asked before the 90th Grey Cup. His third wife, his girlfriend, and I all laughed and said you’ll see. The half time show was when we usually filled up on booze and Dad’s favourite potato chips. Normally the TV sound was turned way down for that part. That’s the only Grey Cup where I remember the half time show better than the actual game.
They Came to Play
Usually late in the third quarter or somewhere in the fourth one of the announcers will intone very seriously “They came to play”.
I wonder how much of my attitude about sports and fitness come from my dad. For years his only exercise was running around on his wives and pushing vegetables around on his plate.
I’ve inherited his playfulness but somehow it doesn’t relate to sports. Is it genetic or learned? My aunt who was much more physically active (Tai Chi master) commented she also found it hard to develop that muscle memory you need so much in sports.
Third and Goal
My dad passed six years ago. I miss him especially at Grey Cup time. We watched other sports together: baseball, curling, NFL but the Grey Cup was always special. It didn’t matter what combination of wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, or ex-girlfriends were present over the years, that was time I shared with him.
Grey Cups are different now. The food is healthier (I’m planning a vegetarian Black Bean cassoulet instead of the chilli my dad usually made)and there will be no booze and l’ll probably go for a good walk during half time this Sunday.
And as we never, ever cheered for the Eskimos, it’s go Red Blacks!
About Sarah: When not watching football, I operate a small business technology support enterprise and write about technology (http://makeitworkcomputersolutions.ca/blog/ ).