Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Football! Football! Football!

Now that all of the little kiddies have gone back to school, we have come to the realization that fall can’t be too far away. There will be a World Series of baseball soon, the puck will drop in earnest, and hoopsters will be dunking their hearts out.

For the moment, however, the action on the gridiron takes precedent.

Three different leagues are heating up in this area of the country.

Last weekend, the University of Toronto Blues came from behind to defeat the Waterloo Warriors 18-17. How important is that victory to U of T? It just happens to be the first game that they have won in almost ten years! They had lost 49 straight games prior to the Labour Day weekend game.

There are many U of T alumni lurking in the shadows who now may hoist a blue and white flag to celebrate the win. The streak was the longest in Canadian University Football history. A field goal with 26 seconds left by rookie kicker Andrew Lomasney provided the Blues with the victory.

In Kingston, the Golden Gaels celebrated their first victory of the season over the McMaster Marauders.
There are no greater rivalries in the Canadian Football League than those interprovincial ones: Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, and Hamilton and Toronto in Ontario. These rivalries are not matched in any other sport. The Habs-Leafs conflict has lost its lustre. The Blue Jays hosted the Expos for an annual Lester B. Pearson Trophy game each year, but you will not witness that happening again for quite some time.

The fans get stoked long before opening kickoff for both of those Labour Day games. This year, the Western game preceded the Eastern tilt, and the Eskies laid a thumping on the Stamps.

Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray was sharp in Calgary, completing 26 of 38 passes. He has now moved into second place on the list of Eskimo quarterbacks as far as touchdown tosses, trailing Warren Moon by one strike. He threw three strikes for paydirt in the game. These two teams complete a home and home series this weekend.

The Ticats had only won two games this season prior to the weekend, both against the Argos. Hopes were high in Steeltown, as the double blue from “Hollywood North” arrived at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Bryan Crawford, a fourth year player out of Queen’s University, had spent part of his bye week holiday in Belleville at the Ribfest. The Argos brought their road show with cheerleaders and free tickets to Zwick’s Park. Chris Malette is the venerable curmudgeon from The Intelligencer who keeps politicians and those who would like to be politicians on their tippy toes in Belleville. He won the media title for tossing the football through the hole, with the capable assistance of one of the cheerleaders. He was almost humble in victory.

Crawford hails from Hamilton, and grew up a Ticat fan. “But now I am with the Argos, and all of that has changed,” he told me. A most personable player, he entertained old and young alike for several hours along with teammate # 80 Steve Schmidt. In an article on the Argos web site, Crawford summed up his feelings on the game: “Playing in a Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne is like playing in a homecoming game at Richardson Stadium (in Kingston).”

Crawford is a special teams player. This means, unfortunately, that he rarely gets on the field; kickoffs, punts, field goals---that’s about it. So when he got the call from Coach Stubler to go in for a key play in the fourth quarter, he was pumped. Quarterback Kerry Joseph faked a hand off up the middle, stepped back, and slipped the ball to Crawford scooting around the left end. The Ticats were caught completely off guard.

Crawford’s touchdown, his first career score, put the Argos ahead 27-26. They continued to seize the lead, then cough it up until the final gun blessed them with a 34-31 victory in Hamilton., completing the first half of the season.

The National Football league gets under way Thursday night, with the Superbowl Champion Giants taking on the Washington Redskins. Because of our proximity to the United States, many football fans save their energy for the NFL, and for the Buffalo Bills. I know a few who concentrate more on the Buffalo Jills, but that is another story!

The Bills played one pre-season game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto against the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving the local fans licking their chops for more. They will play one more game this year in Toronto, against the Miami Dolphins. In an interesting turn of events, the Dolphins are now led by Chad Pennington. He was usurped in his job at quarterback with the Jets by Brett Farve. Farve flew the coop in Green Bay, and humbly accepted several million dollars from the Jets to come out of non-retirement retirement.

The Dolphins play their first game against the Jets. Great scheduling! The Bills open Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo against the Seattle Seahawks. On the meteorological front, Hurricane Gustav failed to deter the New Orleans Saints from opening their season at the SuperDome in The Big Easy. Chalk up a small victory in the battle of man against nature.

Crack a few cold ones, get out the chips and dip. Cheer on your team. Even in Wellington there are still few Cowboy fans!

James Hurst

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