Canada’s answer to the Super Bowl, the Grey Cup is the championship of the two best CFL (Canadian Football League) teams. But where the Super Bowl always looks like a perfect, professionally-run show, the Grey Cup is smaller and less formal, with a thousand stories to tell.
Weather is an integral part of the Canadian psyche, so it’s no wonder that the history of Grey Cup games includes all kinds of strange weather occurrences. The 1962 game between Winnipeg and Hamilton is fondly referred to as the Fog Bowl. Spectators at Exhibition Stadium had no idea what was happening, because the fog was so thick they couldn’t see the field. Even more unfortunately, neither could the announcers. The game was eventually suspended, and the remaining nine minutes played the following day.
Stranger still was the 1950 Mud Bowl, in which players competed on a quagmire of a field at Varsity Stadium. Even cleats were of little help as a snowfall followed by a thaw turned the field into a swamp. One injured player nearly asphyxiated lying face down on the field before a referee pulled him to safety.
Lest this game sound like a quaint rivalry between gentlemanly players, let me share the story of two fierce rivals. Angelo Mosca of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Joe Kapp of the B.C. Lions, had feuded since 1963, due to a controversial hit in that year's Grey Cup game. Last year they appeared together at a CFL fundraiser, the intention being to bury the hatchet. But it soon became obvious that the bad blood lingered, as the 74-year old Mosca hit Kapp with his cane, which was followed by Kapp punching Mosca in the jaw.
This year’s Grey Cup returns to Toronto for its 100th anniversary, and the big scandal was whether Marty the horse – Calgary’s unofficial Grey Cup mascot – would be allowed to parade through Toronto’s Royal York hotel. Although Marty was originally denied entry, the Royal York backed down and allowed him into the lobby, thereby recreating a famous moment from the 1948 pre-game festivities.
I am making up none of this.
Closer to home, Andrew remembers watching the 1971 Grey Cup with his father, the first televised sporting event he ever watched. Painful memories of Leon McQuay fumbling the ball with less than two minutes left to play precluded him from sharing more details of that game.
CFL players don’t earn much money, and some even take part-time jobs in the off-season. It’s probably no surprise, then, that it they are some of the most down-to-earth and likable athletes you’ll ever meet. Andrew’s best friend Ross once saw Pinball Clemens – perhaps the best-loved Toronto Argonaut ever – in a Florida airport. Ross went over to introduce himself and tell him how much he enjoyed watching him play. Their conversation continued as Clemens helped Ross carry his luggage off the conveyor and out of the airport.
Later today, we’ll be cheering on the hometown Argos as they vie for the championship against the mighty Calgary Stampeders. The game may not be as flashy as the Super Bowl. But it’s as Canadian as hockey, bad weather and butter tarts, and we wouldn’t miss it for anything.
If you’re looking for the ultimate comfort food to enjoy while you’re watching football, you couldn’t do better than old-fashioned, homemade macaroni and cheese. I’ve made this recipe in individual ramekins (pictured here) and also in a big casserole. Whether you’re rooting for the Argos or the Stampeders, Green Bay or the Giants, or any team in any sport, nothing will cheer you more than piping hot mac and cheese.
Macaroni and Cheese
(adapted from Company’s Coming: Casseroles)
2 1/2 to 3 cups raw macaroni
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheese (I use aged cheddar)
Additional salt (optional)
Additional shredded cheese (optional)
Cook macaroni as directed on package. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in flour and salt. Add milk slowly, then cook and stir until sauce thickens. Add cheese and stir to melt. Combine with macaroni, and add salt to taste. Pour into a 2-quart casserole or individual ramekins. If you like, cover with extra shredded cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly (25 – 30 minutes if cooking in a casserole, 15 minutes if cooking in ramekins). Enjoy with your favourite fans.