Sunday, November 14, 2004

Déjà vu all over again

Championship Sunday is going to bring back some memories of the halcyon days of Canadian football. With two highly anticipated matchups in two of the nations largest cities, the attendance for Sundays Eastern and Western Final will easily top the 100,000 mark.

The early game featuring the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the BC Lions kicks off at 1 pm PST (4pm EST) and will see nearly 60,000 fans packing BC Place for the first time since 1994’s Grey Cup Game. The buzz about the Lions and the attraction of the Roughriders has made this Sunday’s game the hot ticket of the year in BC. Ticket brokers are reportedly asking for double the face value of a ticket such is the demand for ducats for the Western Showdown. Some of that demand is coming from the amazingly loyal Saskatchewan Rider nation, who are making the pilgrimage to Vancouver in record numbers.

Back east the Alouettes and the Argos take to the field at 7 pm EST (4 pm PST) and it’s expected more than 50,000 will once again renew their acquaintances with the Big O, Alouette officials suspect that the late start for the game so as to give it prime time TV exposure will cost them a few seats in the stands as folks from Quebec City, Shawinigan, Trois Rivieres, Sherbrooke and points east and west choose to stay home and not make the four to five hour trek to Canada’s second largest city. Regardless, even with that minor shortfall it will prove to be a splendid day for football in Canada. And a most rewarding sight for Commissioner Tom Wright who has watched attendance and ratings climb this year as Canadians rediscover the gem that is the CFL.

The success at the gate this year has proven to be an exclamation point on an amazing rebirth for the league and a chance for Canadians to renew their affection for three down football with all its glory of the past.

Two solid matchups, four excellent teams, packed stadiums and over six hours for the CBC to make some money broadcasting a long standing Canadian tradition.

Best of all for the CFL it will prove to be just the appetizer for next weeks Grey Cup from Ottawa. No matter which of these teams advance, it’s a no lose situation for the CFL. Their three largest markets all have a chance to represent their cities for the right to compete for Lord Grey’s mug and the fourth is the team of all Canada.

Next Sunday another 50,000 or so will jam Frank Clair Stadium to take part in Canada’s longest running National festival. Canadians will sit down from coast to coast next Sunday and in the millions will watch East meet West, rebuilding upon a ritual that once defined Canadians very core. And now others are starting to notice that Canadian football is a most entertaining product! Hundreds of millions more around the world will have the chance to watch it on television from England to Saudi Arabia and points beyond.

Not bad for a league many said was on its last legs a short six or seven years ago. It’s been said that Canadian Football must be a truly great game to survive its various perils over the years. An Amazing season is carrying through right into the playoffs and leading us to the Grey Cup. Finally this frequently dismissed game is receiving some of the respect it so richly deserves.

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