Grey Cup is losing its lustre

Should I be embarrassed that I chose to watch the Indianapolis Colts square off against the San Diego Chargers over the Grey Cup on Sunday night?
Should I be handing over my Canadian citizenship—and banning myself from any future consumption of Canadian-made beer?
Should I burn all my toques, and give away my Team Canada hockey jersey?
I don’t think so.
The Calgary Stampeders’ 22-14 win over the Montreal Alouettes was, for all intents and purposes, a snooze fest.
Unfortunately for the crowd of 66,308 on hand at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, the CFL’s marquee game didn’t deliver on what had the makings of a barn-burner with league Most Outstanding Player nominees Anthony Calvillo and Henry Burris going head-to-head.
Instead, the two combined for just two passing touchdowns sandwiched between a whole lot of field goals and a single.
Regardless of the game’s entertainment value, however, the CFL is alive and well with or without a wild championship game—and that is a very good thing.
No longer are there teams facing bankruptcy every season in the eight-team circuit. And though parity on the field isn’t really there (only one team from the East finished above .500), the revenue streams seem to be high despite economic uncertainty and the NFL’s Buffalo Bills set to play a regular-season game in Toronto next month.
TSN broadcasts every CFL game during the season, and does a good job keeping the Grey Cup on the radar during a busy time for sports with the NFL, NHL, and NBA seasons all underway in full force.
Thankfully, though, the CFL doesn’t need the Grey Cup to be a high-scoring affair to bring the country together and rekindle interest in its uniquely Canadian league anymore. With or without a snowstorm or a 50-49 score, the league will go on now.
We couldn’t be nearly as confident in that statement circa 2000.
The Grey Cup final has been a social event for millions of Canadians across the country. Whether they are paying big bucks to sit in the cheap seats or attending house parties centered around the game, we support it year-in and year-out.
Even non-sports fans go to the parties just to take part, and cheer and jeer for one team or another.
The Grey Cup used to hold the league afloat as fans drove up TV ratings for the big game and poured money into the host team’s coffers with large consumptions of beer.
But now television numbers suggest an increase throughout the season, with a renewed interest among younger audiences over the past half-dozen years that had been lost for some time.
Young Winnipeggers, for example, paint their faces in blue-and-gold and hop on buses bound for Regina every Labour Day—only to watch their Bombers lose to the Roughriders in hostile territory. Of course, the extra-curricular activities surely make it worth the trip each time, regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard.
But the best part about the CFL is the opportunity it gives for Canadian players to compete on a national stage.
Alouettes’ receiver Ben Cahoon, a Canadian, figured prominently in Montreal’s offence with 95 receiving yards on Sunday while another Canadian, Sandro DeAngelis, converted five field goals, including a 50-yarder late in the game, to seal the win for the Stampeders—also taking the nod as the top Canadian in the game.
We’ll continue to support the CFL because it’s one of the few things left in our connected world that we, as Canadians, can call our own, and that’s what makes the long-standing Grey Cup so great.

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