Monday, September 12, 2016
#MicroblogMondays: Are you ready for some football?
My grandfather would watch all kinds of sports with equal ferocity -- football, baseball, basketball, hockey. I knew the Minnesota Vikings were the team to cheer for when I was growing up, lol, but that was about the extent of my awareness of the NFL for many, many years. I was far more familiar with our Canadian Football League, and its championship game, the Grey Cup, long before I'd ever heard of the Super Bowl. (Which is not surprising, since we only had ONE (count 'em) TV channel -- the CBC -- until I was 14 & we moved closer to a major city and to the U.S. border.) Dh & his brother, and many people here in southern Ontario, who grew up watching American TV from Buffalo, prefer NFL football -- but if I have to watch football, I still prefer the CFL variety. (Someone has to cheer for the poor Toronto Argonauts, lol.) (Although the Winnipeg Blue Bombers remain "my" team -- and I still have a soft spot for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, dating back to childhood.) Which doesn't mean I watch games with any regularity. I usually watch the Grey Cup in late November, but that's the only game I will sit through in its entirety. I kind of consider it my patriotic duty, lol.
I got my love of the CFL (such as it is) from my dad and his side of the family, all of them Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans. My first Grey Cup memory was of my dad pointing to our TV screen (black & white) & telling us to watch and see if we could see our aunt, his younger sister, in the crowd. My sister & I dutifully peered at the TV, but sadly could not see our aunt. This was in the late 1960s. We lived in Saskatchewan at the time, and my aunt was then a young single woman in her early 20s, living and working in Winnipeg. Back in those days, the cross-Canada passenger rail service was much more robust than it is now, and there would be a train designated "the Grey Cup special" that would start in Vancouver on the west coast & pick up fans in cities and towns all along the way to the game city. (A similar train would start from Halifax in the east and work its way west.) In this case, the game was being played in Toronto. My auntie's trip has become the stuff of family legend. I asked her about it once, years later and her eyes lit up with enthusiasm as she described how much fun she'd had over that one very hectic weekend. She left work, caught the train with her girlfriend, partied all the way to Toronto, got off the train, went to the game, and then then basically got back on the train & partied all the way home again -- and then went to work, lol. Didn't even book a hotel (probably couldn't afford it). She still watches football regularly. (My mother has taken the train from Winnipeg to Toronto several times over the years. The route may have changed since the 1960s, but it takes her something like 30-35 hours -- one way -- depending on whether the train is running on time. Driving the same general route this past summer took us between 25 & 30 hours total. I can't imagine making that round trip over a weekend!!)
College football is a non-entity in Canada. Perhaps it's a little more popular at some schools than others, but by that, I mean the games will attract a few thousand people. I see the U.S. college football games on TV where the stadiums can -- and regularly do -- hold something like 100,000 people, all going crazy and wearing school colours, and I just can't relate. The football team at the university where I did my undergrad regularly gave away tickets to their games to the students in the dorms. I took the free tickets and went a couple of times with some of the girls from my floor, and the crowds were, at best, a few hundred people. Most university stadiums hold between 5-10,000 people at the most. The biggest crowd in Canadian college football history was at the 2012 Vanier Cup championship game at the SkyDome in Toronto -- 37,000 people. The game was held the day before that year's Grey Cup in the same stadium -- and the attendance was probably as large as it was only because people who bought Grey Cup packages and were in town for the weekend anyway would get Vanier Cup tickets thrown in for free or at a hefty discount. Different countries, different cultures, I guess...!
Are you a football fan? NFL, CFL, college or otherwise?
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.