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The 12 Months of Football
– Continued (July)
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Monday, August 1, 2005
In an effort to prove that "football season" never ends, I am setting
out to attend at least one football game every month this year. Between January
and June, I have already attended a game every month, thirteen to be exact. Nine
Arena football games, one college football spring game, one United Indoor
Football game, one Atlantic Indoor Football League game and one National
Women’s Football Association playoff game. The month of July saw my sons and I
travel north of the border (actually, it was east of Michigan) to Toronto,
Canada for yet another variation on the game of football!
But this was not my first encounter with the
Canadian Football League.
I was in Las Vegas for a two-week deployment to Nellis Air Force Base with my
Air National Guard unit from Michigan. The CFL was in its second season of
trying to expand into the U.S. and the Las Vegas Posse was in its inaugural
season. The team was practicing on a makeshift field set up behind one of the
casinos on The Strip. I spent some time one afternoon sitting in the stands and
watched them practice in the 100 + degree weather. The Posse was only in
existence for that one season and the most recognizable player on the team to me
at the time was Tamarack Vanover, a rookie from Florida State. The following
year, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Vanover in the third round of the NFL
Just a few months after seeing the Posse practice in Las Vegas, I traveled to
Canada and saw the Toronto Argonauts play host to quarterback Doug Flutie and
the visiting Calgary Stampeders at the Toronto Skydome. I had a great time while
I was in Toronto. At the time, my kids were too small to go with me, so I went
all by myself. Maybe that’s why I had such a good time!
Seeing the Skydome alone was worth the trip. I marveled at the way the roof
opened and closed. There were hotel rooms and restaurants in the stadium that
overlooked the field, gift shops filled with CFL merchandise and right next door
to the stadium was the CN Tower, a huge observation tower that, on a clear day,
allows you to see all the way to Niagara Falls.
I stayed at the stadium hotel and was even lucky enough to have one of the 70
rooms that overlooked the field! Even so, I bought a ticket to the game and sat
in the stands with the rest of the fans during the game. It was a little strange
hearing Oh, Canada sung before the game instead of The Star Spangled Banner,
but, hey, it was all part of the CFL experience.
During halftime of the game, ushers handed out flyers on the main concourse to
anyone who wanted one that contained the halftime stats. It was also the first
time I had ever seen a mini McDonald’s restaurant inside a stadium as a
concession stand. What a cool place to watch a football game!
By the fourth quarter, the game was a blowout in favor of Calgary so Flutie was
pulled and they put in the backup quarterback. Flutie spent the rest of the game
signing autographs for fans who were sitting in the front row of the stands
behind the Calgary bench. Calgary won the game 52-3.
After Flutie was benched, I returned to my room and watched the rest of the game
from my hotel window. I had the TV on to catch the replays, but the volume
wouldn’t go loud enough to hear the TV announcers over the crowd noise coming
in through the open window. I had to tune the radio in to the game in order to
hear the play-by-play.
When I returned home, I brought a plastic toy model of the Skydome for the kids.
The roof of the toy opened and closed, just like the real one. The toy got
broken and was thrown away many years ago, but to this day we still have a
magnet on our refrigerator with a picture of the Skydome and the CN Tower that I
also brought home from that trip. I also still have a videotape that I bought in
Toronto with highlights from the 1991 Argonauts season when Rocket Ismail was on
the team and Toronto won the Grey Cup.
I have wanted my sons to see the Skydome (sorry, I mean the Rogers Centre, as
it’s now known) for several years now. The fact that Rampage quarterback
Michael Bishop was the backup quarterback of the Argonauts helped make the
decision to go this year an easy one. Bishop’s only playing time up to that
point in the young CFL season had been in one of Toronto’s two preseason
games. He threw two touchdowns in a game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats,
including the game winner. He did not play in either of the first two regular
season games in June. The Argonauts were playing the Saskatchewan Roughriders on
July 9, the third game of the CFL regular season, and I decided that the time
had come for me to expose the boys to the Canadian version of the game.
Bishop is number two on the Argos depth chart behind 42-year old quarterback
Damon Allen, who is playing in his 21st season in the CFL! Allen is the older
brother of NFL Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen, who played for the Los
Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.
The boys and I crossed the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit into Canada on
Thursday night (July 7) and we spent the night in the town of Chatham, Ontario,
which is about an hour’s drive east of the bridge. After we checked into a
hotel, we found a CFL game on TV between the Calgary Stampeders and the Winnipeg
Blue Bombers. (As it turns out, we would see Canadian football all three nights
that we were in Canada)
Friday morning we drove to the campus of the University of Toronto at
Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, and watched the team go through their final
walkthrough on an outdoor practice field in preparation for their Saturday night
game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. We got to meet with Bishop after the
team practice and I interviewed him for an article that was posted on the
Rampage team website.
After practice, we continued on to Toronto, checked into our hotel a few blocks
from Rogers Centre and spent the rest of the day taking in the sights around
downtown Toronto. We purchased tickets to the game at the stadium box office and
then took a guided tour of the stadium. We were shown a luxury suite, the
baseball press box and we were also shown samples of the different types of
artificial playing surfaces used for baseball and football. We then had dinner
at the Hard Rock Café that is part of the stadium and offers a terrific view of
the field. As we ate, we got to watch as stadium workers changed the artificial
field from baseball to football. (The Toronto Blue Jays had played a home game
their just the night before)
That evening at the hotel, there was a CFL double header on TV. The first game
was between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Montreal Alouettes, which featured an
incredible 125-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown by 5’ 4"
kick returner Ezra Landry of Montreal. The second game on TV that night was
between the Ottawa Renegades and British Columbia Lions.
On Saturday, we visited a sports memorabilia shop a few blocks from our hotel
where I bought three souvenir programs from past Grey Cup games. One was from
1995 when the Baltimore Stallions won the league championship. The Baltimore CFL
team played in 1994 and 1995 and became the first and, as it turns out, the only
American team to ever win the Grey Cup.
That evening, we walked to the game from our hotel. It was a beautiful evening
at the Sky…uh… Rogers Centre, and the retractable roof was open for the
game. When I was there in 1994, there was simply a team logo in the middle of
the field. This time, however, the team logo was nowhere to be found. Instead,
nine corporate logos dotted the playing field. My how things have changed.
Before the start of the game, the crowd was asked to observe a moment of silence
in memory of the victims and the families of those injured or killed in the
terrorist attacks in London, England, which occurred just two days before the
game on July 7.
The fact that there were 12 players on each team, or that they only had three
downs to make a first down, was hardly noticeable during the course of the game.
Football is still football. The most glaring differences to me were the 20-yard
end zones and the two 50-yard lines on the field! Some of the terminology is a
little different too. For example, a touchdown is sometimes referred to as a
major and a quarterback is sometimes called a pivot.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Argos trailed by 12 points, 26-14. It
was looking bad for the home team, but the Toronto defense shut out the
Roughriders in the final quarter and quarterback Damon Allen threw two touchdown
passes in the final four minutes of the game, the last one came with only 23
seconds left on the clock. Toronto escaped with a 27-26 win! A crowd of 26,218
was on hand that night and the Argos improved their record to 2-1. The
previously undefeated Roughriders lost their first game of the season and
dropped their record to 2-1.
After the game, fans were allowed to go down onto the field just like in the
Arena Football League. I’m told it’s something they started doing late last
season. We caught up with Bishop one last time on the field as he signed
autographs for the fans and then we returned to our hotel. It was surreal to
turn on the TV and watch the Canadian version of SportsCentre showing highlights
of the game we were just at!
Even though it had been 11 years since I had last attended a CFL game, I did
make a football related stop in Canada last summer. On our way to Niagara Falls
for a family vacation in August of 2004, we stopped by the Canadian Football
League Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario. It was a very small place, but they
had many interesting displays as well as the busts of all their inductees
including former NFL quarterback Warren Moon, who played for the Edmonton
Eskimos from 1978-83 and won five straight Grey Cup games and former Minnesota
Vikings head coach Bud Grant, who coached the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1958-63
and won four Grey Cups.
On our way home from Toronto the day after the Saskatchewan game, we drove right
past the city of Hamilton, so we decided to stop at the CFL Hall of Fame once
again. Unfortunately, when we got there, we discovered that it is closed on
If you live near the Canadian border, you might get to see CFL games on TV all
the time. But if you don’t, you might be surprised to find that your local
cable or satellite provider just might be carrying CFL games from time to time.
For example, the satellite system I have recently added Comcast SportsNet-Chicago,
which is one of several networks across the country carrying selected CFL games
this year. The CFL web site (www.cfl.ca) contains a U.S. Broadcast Schedule
under the heading of "The Game" on its home page. Some games are
broadcast live while others are tape delayed. Who knows, you might just
recognize some current or former players from the Arena league or af2 playing in
the snow north of the border come this November.
While the trip to Toronto was a great time for the boys and me, we didn’t
necessarily have to leave the country in order to catch a football game in July.
There was still af2, UIF, AIFL and NIFL games going on, among others. In fact,
two indoor football championship games took place on July 16. In the Atlantic
Indoor Football League, the Richmond Bandits beat the Erie Freeze 56-30.
Meanwhile, that same day in the American Professional Football League, the
Kansas Kyotes won the APFL championship for the third year in a row, beating the
Iowa Blackhawks, 26-24.
On July 30, two other football leagues crowned their champions. The National
Women’s Football Association championship game was played in Louisville, Ky.
And saw the Detroit Demolition win their third straight NWFA title by defeating
the Pensacola Power 74-0. The National Indoor Football League championship game
was played in Kennewick, WA and saw the Tri-Cities Fever defeat the visiting
Rome (Ga.) Renegades 47-31.
Anyway, I can now cross off July as yet another month this year where I attended
a football game. The Argos game was my 14th game of the year so far. What will
the month of August bring? Stay tuned.
Next Scheduled Game
August 29 – A preseason Monday Night Football game at Ford Field in Detroit
between the St. Louis Rams and the Detroit Lions. Also, the af2 and UIF seasons
come to an end the high school football season gets under way.
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