If you are talking about the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Grey Cup this week (and let's face it, who isn't), it would be prudent to consider the age of the person you are talking to. Lots of the younger folks seem to think in terms of Rider Nation and the Sea of Green and if not actually getting to the Grey Cup game every couple of years, at least being in contention each season. We slightly older folks know just how rare these opportunities can be.
I was born in 1966, and that speaks volumes about my experience with the Green and White. Too young to remember Our Only Win (at the time), or even our First Golden Age with George, Ronnie and Hugh, my first Grey Cup memory was that dismal ending in 1976, where I learned about the Post Pattern, and Tony Gabriel, and Tom Clements, and 23 seconds. I was a sad little boy that day, but at least CBC was kind enough to show that play every season for the next 35 years so I wouldn't forget it.
Then came the lean years. Losing season after losing season. Rider Pride. Green is the Colour. Remember when they first introduced us to Gainer the Gopher? And when that wasn't enough, Cousin Leonard? Telethons to sell season tickets? The Flame? God I loved The Flame. At least it kept my mind off the standings.
By the time I had reached the age where I wanted to experience the Grey Cup myself, the Riders still hadn't figured out how to win. It was 1985, the Cup was in Montreal, and my buddy Tim and I were in University but not really thrilled with it. Did I mention it was in Montreal? City of bars for 18 year olds, lots of french girls, and our beloved Canadiens? We caught a hockey game in the old Forum, where the attendees lustily booed the Miss Grey Cup nominees because their introduction delayed the start of the game. We finagled free drinks in every small bar we could find along Rue St. Catherine (we flew 2000 miles for a football game and our team wasn't in it?!?!) We were in the Grey Cup Parade! And we even stayed awake long enough to make it to the Big O for the football game. Hamilton played BC. I think BC won.
And then there was 1989. Tony Champion's amazing catch. Mark Guy. The Kick. It was the day I became a football watching man. I was a huge Tom Burgess fan and never did like that other guy (you know, the one who's banner hangs 10 stories high outside Taylor Field) but I wasn't going to complain when he led our boys down the field for that last drive. Best Western Final ever and Best Grey Cup Game ever. Our Second Win. Wow.
A bunch of us went downtown to see if anything was going on and we were shocked at all the people at Victoria and Albert. We sang and danced and hugged everyone then got in the car and honked the horn for an hour. Then we went to Taylor Field and climbed the short wall and sat in our seats in Section 28 and were very, very happy.
And then we said, hell, if we can win the thing maybe we can host it. Regina grew up a bit in 1995. We put on a party like no other, back when there wasn't the corporate sponsors to just buy the thing. Volunteer run, volunteer organized. The Saskatchewan Way. The sun even came out for the Parade on Saturday. And it was the High School Reunion I never had in the beer garden at the Agribition Building.
My new in-laws bought tickets for Cindy and me as an early Christmas gift and we froze ourselves stiff in the wind. I've never been so cold before or since. I never could figure out who to cheer for. The Baltimore Stallions? Baltimore?? And there's no way I'm going to cheer for that guy Flutie. If an American franchise had to win to keep the Cup out of Flutie's hands, so be it. Baltimore won and I was weirdly OK with that.
And then there was 1997 in Edmonton. The weekend I was Batman. A toddler and a baby at home when the Rider's shocked everyone and won the Western Final. My best friend Kirby was flying to Edmonton from Toronto. My best friend Greg lived in Edmonton. I hemmed and hawed and on Thursday night Cindy said "just go already!" I called Greg to book his couch, borrowed my in-law's car and drove up Friday morning. After Greg's fiance told me there was no chance I'd ever get a game ticket, I calmly asked two nice ladies at the hospitality booth "Is this where we get the tickets?" and bought their spare 35 yard line ticket for face value. Found the rest of my crew at the Grey Cup parade and had an amazing weekend. It was never in doubt.
Too bad about the Riders that year. There was no magic ending with that Grey Cup game. It was effectively over by half time. I'll never forget the class Pinball Clemons showed by running out of bounds rather than running up the score in the 4th quarter. I'm not the "Bleeding Green" type so much any more. Things like raising two awesome kids, opening this crazy bakery and repaying Cindy for 1997 take priority. I watched Our Third Win in 2007 but that was the only game that year.
I still keep an eye on things though, and I'm quietly excited about this week. As you may have noticed, exceptional Grey Cup games seem to coincide with exceptional events in my life. Maybe Grey Cup 2013 is a sign that this whole bakery thing is really a good idea. If the Rider's win on Sunday, maybe Orange Boot will be OK in the end.
And if they don't win? Don't worry. We'll still be open Tuesday. I think.
- If you're planning a Grey Cup party, we'd love to play our part. We'll have extra bread and buns for your pot luck on Saturday, but orders are piling up so please call ahead to ensure you get what you need.