BOB'S BLOG: Grey Cup memories –suburb startled by reveller firing shotgun
My hometown team is in the Grey Cup this year.
As a kid, when I first became interested in the Canadian Football League, I thought the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were in the “Annual Classic” every year.
That was because from my earliest memory of the CFL they were. I’m pretty sure the first game I watched was the ‘57 affair – the first of three where the Cats tangled with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Cats took this one but the Bombers won the next two.
This seven-year-old watched the Ti-Cat victory from my grandparents’ home, as my parents were out at a Grey Cup party. Weren’t all parents out at a Grey Cup parties in those days?
Of course, the Tiger-Cats weren’t, in fact, in the game every year, missing out with a feeble 4-10 record in 1960. They returned in 1961, though, where they lost to Winnipeg again. Strangely, perhaps, I remember less of this one than the Eastern Final conference played over two games in the lead-up to the championship. (My memory is assisted with my well-thumbed copy of Football Today and Yesterday penned by Tony Allan, former sports editor of the Winnipeg Tribune.)
In front of a record crowd of 33,161 fans at the Canadian Exhibition, my team had been badly beaten in the first game by the hated Argos. In those days, the Eastern Championship was decided in a two-game total-point home and home series. The Cats needed to overcome this 18-point deficit in the second match. They had actually done that by the third quarter.
But then, with one minute to go, the Argos tied it up. Hamilton was stuck deep in its own end. Bernie Faloney (a first round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers who had come to Canada for better pay) was intercepted.
”All the Argos had to do was boot the ball to the dead-line, which was in with easy range for a kicker like Dave Mann –and it is was in the bag,” wrote Allen.
Instead, the Argos chose to kill time and actually lost 15 yards.
Mann, who had a punting average of 48 yards that season, then put the ball into the end zone. It was returned by Ti-Cats kicker Don Sutherin. Mann kicked it back and Bernie Faloney had the ball in his hands.
“This time Faloney brought it out to safety and then with illegal blocks being thrown all over the place (blocks on punts were illegal in those days) raced the length of the field with it,” wrote Allen in 1962.
At this point, my family was startled as our neighbour in excitement and inebriation ran out of his house and discharged his shotgun. Such behaviour was not a regular occurrence in the evolving suburban, semi-rural Burlington of 1961.
It was all sorted out, at the game, that is. Faloney’s run didn’t count. The Ti-Cats prevailed in overtime. You can imagine that the Grey Cup was a bit of an anti-climax for me that year.
The 1972 game in Hamilton (Ti-Cats 13- Saskatchewan 10) was the most memorable from my perspective. I was at this one. One of the game’s stars, Ti-Cat QB Chuck Ealey, was 22 that year as was your blogger. I’ve written about the game and its sociological implications HERE.
My keen interest, however, waned after this game partly as a result of an unnerving incident when my young girlfriend (now, she’s my long-suffering wife of nearly 40 years) and I were leaving Ivor Wynne Stadium. A bottle, hurled irresponsibly from the north stands, struck and injured someone on the street quite close to us. From then on, football spectating seemed like less fun.
I was back again in 1989 though. Tony Champion had a terrific game in the Hamilton’s 43-40 loss to the Green Riders. You’ll remember this catch. See #3 highlight here:
I had a minor involvement in the post-game “near victory” parade. At the time, I was working in a small feminist-oriented social service agency in downtown Hamilton. I was the only male staff on duty the day of the parade. Earlier, my female colleagues had been clear about their lack of interest in the game in particular and North American professional sports more generally.
The parade was being marshalled a short block from our office when I returned from visiting a client at his home. My K-car was stuck behind the last float – Tony Champion’s open convertible. I followed slowly, immediately behind the Champion car. As the end of the motorcade passed in front of the office, I was surprised to see my previously disinterested colleagues lined up at the window. Pretending to be part of the parade, I waved, as heroes do. They laughed.
No Grey Cup Party this year for this parent. I’ll be potatoing on the couch, witnessing a certain Ti-Cat victory while sharing the experience with my Twitter friends.
Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who has built a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie. He is on Twitter at @timberwood24.