Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Crushing Blow

Montréalers aren’t used to losing in the Eastern final, less than 24 hours after their Alouettes were eliminated from the Grey Cup derby the fifth quarter commentators were being heard from. From an Unprepared Back up to a coach who is to stubborn to change his battle plans, the Alouette’s faithful digested the horror of losing to the Argonauts.

The Als season ended as surely as Anthony Calvillo’s shoulder suddenly stopped working in the third quarter. Crushed to the ground a telltale “pop” signalled the end of the Alouettes bid to return to the Grey Cup and some unfinished business.

With Calvillo trundling off to the Alouette dressing room for some pain relief, the assembled 51,000 quickly began to realize that despite the best record in the CFL this year, the season was about to come to a sudden end. With the generally untested Ted White in the line up the Als could not generate enough offence to lay claim to the Eastern title. With the clock ticking down in the fourth the Argos would find themselves 26-18 victors and making plans to inflict more Torontonians on the fine people of Ottawa. Somehow you get the feeling that Damon Allen relishes the chance to meet his old team mates in a winner takes all Championship game. Discarded by the Lions when Dave Dickenson became available the old warhorse Allen is ready to leave it all on the field next Sunday.

For Pinball Clemons the win finally puts him into the Grey Cup as a head coach, taking his team from bankruptcy a year ago to a bankable franchise 365 days later it’s a story that gives all CFL fans a reason to cheer. Universally respected by all football people across the country, Clemons is the embodiment of the players coach, you really do get the feeling that his players would do whatever they had to for their coach. Fortunately Pinball uses his powers for good and not evil.

Back in Montreal the role of Dr. Evil will be played by Don Matthews, who has consistently built up powerful Montreal teams only to see things go awry late in the season. Last year it was a loss to the Eskimos in the Grey Cup, this year an early exit at the hands of Toronto. This will make for a long season for the Don, never one to be on the best of terms with the media he will be under the glare of their spotlight for a longer period this time.

The Toronto win is certainly a win for the league, a reward for the new ownership and a major chance to recapture the vital Southern Ontario market. Their talking football in Toronto again, the Argo buzz getting louder day by day. The team a collection of players dedicated to their coach and starting to realize they’re sitting at the start of what could be great run in the city.

The match up next week should bring yet another great sixty minutes of football to the nations television sets, the 51,000 gathered at Frank Clair to see two teams hungry to prove to their fans that their affections are warranted.

Two of the most popular coaches in the league, two teams that have been battling back from the big city apathy that plagued them the last few seasons. And most importantly two teams that match up well on the field. For the CFL it couldn’t be a better marquee match up, the two largest markets possible for the Grey Cup, two teams with lots of drama on their own sidelines to keep the writers busy all week.

For a league that has put out more than its fair share of fires, this should be one of the most rewarding Grey Cup weeks in a long time. The attendance has been magnificent, the TV ratings astounding and the product on the field never better. Most importantly this week all the talk will be about football, the teams, the coaches and the players. No floundering franchises threatening to expire at midnight, no nightmarish stories of bouncing cheques.

Instead we’ll hear about QB controversies, coaching strategies, player match ups, special team preparations and who is favoured to take home Lord Grey’s mug. It’s been a long time coming, but the CFL sees a lot of open field now, the goal line is just in sight and those goalposts aren’t moving. Bring on the fans and bring on the Football, its Grey Cup week and the league looks pretty good right now!

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