The Toronto Argonauts owned the Rogers Centre during Sunday night’s Grey Cup like they owned the Calgary Stampeders. They had the crowd on their side even before the Stamps came out of the tunnel with their insufferable, Ray Lewis Lite dance routines during player introductions.
You’d think CFL teams would know by now: if you are being quarterbacked by Kevin Glenn in a big game, the wise thing to do is just sneak in and hope nobody notices.
It was different when the Argos came on to the field. More focused and ultimately much more disciplined – at least in the eyes of the officials working the game – they shredded conventional wisdom with a 17-point second quarter, by which point Ricky Foley had noticed something special, something he’d dreamed of growing up and also likely dreamed of in the week leading up to the Grey Cup.
“The best thing as a player,” the York University product said Sunday, fighting tears and sweat as he stood on the field, “is to point to the fans and have them just bring it. To point to them when you’re dog-tired and 50,000 of them start cheering for you … it is unreal.”
Now, let’s see if it sells tickets for the 2013 regular season. Now, let’s see if it’s enough so that the CFL doesn’t need to hand out a league welfare cheque to the team in the country’s biggest city.
The last time a professional Toronto team won a league title of significance on home turf was 1993, when Joe Carter touched ’em all to win the World Series. So this is some kind of thirst that was slaked with that 35-22 win over the Stampeders, although there will be those who are too cool for school who will wonder just how big a deal it is to win a title in an eight-team league.
For the Argos, reality is no different this morning than it was before a surprisingly partisan crowd brayed and yelled and forced Glenn into a time-count violation on the fourth play of the game.
“They couldn’t hear anything,” said Foley, chosen the game’s top Canadian. “They had to go silent count.”
The Argos will never be big-time enough for Toronto, especially young, hip, Toronto. But there ought to be a niche for them, in much the same way as the Montreal Alouettes have carved one out in Canada’s sexiest city.
It’s all down to their stadium, and that is an unfortunate thing because previous ownership lacked the financial and political savvy to get in on BMO Field, or find common cause with York University or the University of Toronto or even the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. No franchise has spent as much time chasing down blind alleys.
But for 2012, at least, they’ve done what they needed to do on the field. The acquisition of quarterback Ricky Ray remains one of the most fortuitous transactions in CFL history, and started a chain of events that has seen the football gods smile on this franchise in a way no other sports god smiles on the other teams in Toronto: three playoff games indoors, tailor-made for the Argonauts’ fast-track offence, and what might generously be described as benign officiating in the league championship game.
The Argos, the most penalized team in the regular season, were not whistled for an infraction in the first half.
And that was despite a head-high tackle on Nik Lewis by Jordan Younger with five minutes left in the first half and a 50-50 ball on a Hail Mary pass on the half’s final play. There is holding on every play in football, but the Argos weren’t called for a penalty until a pass-interference call on Evan McCollogh six minutes into the third quarter.
“It was kind of weird how it worked out,” Foley said. “We got Ricky from Edmonton – first round of the playoffs, we play Edmonton. We got [head coach] Scott Milanovich from Montreal. Second round of the playoffs we play Montreal. We got [defensive co-ordinator] Chris Jones in from Calgary … and in the Grey Cup we play Calgary. So, I mean, it couldn’t have been a better or more perfect script.”
You can wonder what happened to Burton Cummings when he fumbled the national anthem.
You can debate the choice of Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber for a half-time show designed for boozy adults. But for one night, at least, the script worked to perfection for the Argos and the CFL.