As a Canadian, you have a few innate responsibilities. In April you pay your taxes, in November you buy a poppy, in January you watch the World Juniors, and when the Grey Cup comes around, you watch it. Even if your team isn't in it. Even if you're not a CFL fan. The Grey Cup is a transcendent, once-a-year television event that Canadians are expected to watch. To paraphrase Abe Simpson, "if I don't support this thing, it might not make it!"
Last year, 11.5 million Canadians, or roughly a third of the population of Canada, tuned in to watch Saskatchewan beat Hamilton. (Just for perspective, Hamilton has a population of 500,000, while Regina, SK boasts around 180,000.)
The CFL themselves probably did a better job of explaining just what the Grey Cup means. Watch the video below, tastefully scored to the Tragically Hip (natch), and tell me you don't feel a little warmth in your heart.
Now that I've gotten you all pumped up, let's all watch the Grey Cup together.
STADIUM: BC Place, Vancouver
TIME: Right Now
TV: TSN, ESPN2
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9-9) vs. Calgary Stampeders (15-3)
What To Watch For: The Stampeders
The Stampeders are a down-and-dirty, run-based team. They led the league in rushing this season, with star running back (and best Canadian player in the league) Jon Cornish able to not only blow past defenses, but also present himself as a receiving threat.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, despite having a name like a guy who makes his own moonshine, is the young 24-year-old quarterback who'll be starting in his first Grey Cup after an outstanding season. The All-American and Walter Payton Award winner at Eastern Washington has shown a knack for making big plays, like the trick play shown to your left, where they make the Argos defense look like a kids' soccer game.
All in all, the Stampeders are a good team. They should win this game.
They also run a horse up and down the field when they score a touchdown, which is cute.
What To Watch For: The Ti-Cats
The Tiger-Cats had a middling season, but in the lackluster East Division, "middling" is enough to look like the goddamn '72 Dolphins.
Seriously, if you haven't been following the CFL this season, the disparity between West and East was out of control. You could make an argument that every team in the West was better than any given team in the East - the 9-9 Ti-Cats and Als had the advantage of a schedule padded against the lackluster Argos and expansion Redblacks. Meanwhile the West featured easily the four best teams in the league with Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and BC, and a not-that-bad Winnipeg squad that went 5-3 against Eastern opponents.
Still, the Ti-Cats match up fairly well against the Stamps. Most people are still banking on a Calgary win, but the Stamps are a team that likes to keep the ball on the ground, and the Ti-Cats boast strong run-stopping defense.
As the long-time whipping boy of the East, Hamilton is now flying high with their second straight Grey Cup appearance. They haven't won the big once since 1999 though, which is appropriate, since most Hamiltonians still dress like it's 1999.
The Ti-Cats are led by a young unheralded quarterback of their own, 26-year-old Zach Collaros. In my pre-season guide to the East I mentioned the three-way quarterback controversy in Hamilton, but Collaros has settled in well, and will also be making his first Grey Cup start. This Collaros-Mitchell matchup represents a bit of a changing of the guard - after years of the league being dominated by the same old aging veterans (Anthony Calvillo, Henry Burris, Ricky Ray) this next generation of young quarterbacks might represent the faces of the "New" CFL, as the league ventures into an uncertain future with a new Commissioner.
If the Ti-Cats stand a chance, it may very well hinge on special teams. In the East Final, the Ti-Cats had an exciting win over the Als that featured return specialist Brandon Banks (formerly of the Redskins) taking back two punt returns for touchdowns, with a third touchdown return called back because of a flag.
Feel-good storyline bonus: Peter Dyakowski, Ti-Cats offensive lineman and former Jeopardy contestant who last year was crowned Canada's Smartest Person in a CBC contest where he beat out physicists and biologists at trivia, has been out all season. He was lying in bed in pain one night but refusing to go to the hospital, only to find out he had a goddamn collapsed lung. He's back to mostly-healthy status and he played a few snaps on field goals in the East Final, so it'll be nice to see if he gets some time to play in the Grey Cup.
If Hamilton does manage an upset in this game, I'm sure the city will burn tonight! I mean, it would also be burning on any other given night. Hamilton is a gigantic dumpster fire of a town.
PREDICTION: Calgary 27, Hamilton 20, Canadian Pride ∞