In the week leading up to the Super Bowl – any Super Bowl – I can walk into my local supermarket and find a wide variety of party items geared toward the big game.
Super Bowl cakes and Super Bowl cookies are already baked and decorated in team colors, meaning I can grab them and go.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, though – by the time most of you celebrate your Super Sunday, mine will have already come and gone. And any cakes to mark the occasion will have long since been eaten (and special ordered).
When it comes to tackle football, the Grey Cup has become my favorite single event, and this weekend it’ll be played for the 107th time when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – the team I root for – meet the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium.
I’m quite sure there won’t be any premade goodies to snatch up at the nearest grocer. In fact, I’m guessing many of the people who work there have no idea the Grey Cup is even going on.
But that’s OK. For me, the championship of the Canadian Football League has almost always been a party for one.
It’s especially festive this season because the Ticats haven’t won the league crown since 1999 and are favored to break their 20-year drought.
I won’t bore you with my CFL back story – I’ve shared it more times than I can count and if you care, you already know it. I will say, though, that with each passing year I grow to like it much more than the NFL. I find it – for lack of a better word – cozy.
There are only nine CFL franchises and except for the ill-fated “American experiment” (which peaked at 13 teams in 1995), that’s as large as it’s ever gotten.
By NFL and Power 5 college standards, attendance is modest – and that’s a generous description.
The single game high in 2019 was 40,113 for a clash between Calgary and Edmonton at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on September 7, and the average per game attendance was 22,917.
Bottom line, if you want a ticket to a CFL regular season game, you won’t have much trouble getting one.
But the fans who do show up show off, and I see them as my kindred spirits even though our relationship is through social media more than social interaction.
I love how they love their teams, and the players on those teams seem to truly appreciate them. The CFL gives off a working class vibe and part of that reason is because guys don’t pull down NFL money.
People relate to that.
I like that Canadian kids can grow up to star in a league that’s very much part of their culture, and American kids can make their pro dreams come true even if those dreams blossom in another country.
There’s plenty of brawn on either side of the line in any given game, but there is also a place for small, fast guys.
As someone who is small (and used to be fast), this makes me very happy.
And while some might scoff at rules that feature three downs to make 10 yards, conceded points and end zones that are 20 yards deep, I fully embrace them.
For me, the Canadian Football League isn’t a novelty – it’s grown into my favorite version of the gridiron game.
So while most of the football fans around me will be watching the end of the Dallas Cowboys-New England Patriots game at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday and gearing up for the upcoming showdown between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, I’ll be tuned into ESPN2 for the Grey Cup.
Shoot, I might even order a cake.
I’ll be the only one at the party, but hopefully I can party like it’s 1999.