The vast majority of those millions who will tune in to watch the 97th Grey Cup on TV won’t know a single player’s name on either team prior to the kickoff. But that’s not the point. Sure, Anthony Calvillo of the Alouettes has been a stalwart CFL quarterback for many seasons and his Roughrider counterpart Darian Durant has emerged as a bona fide star to deliver Saskatchewan to the cusp of gridiron glory yet again.
However, neither of these personalities, nor any of those who will take the field at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium can come close to eclipsing the magnetism of their respective squads.
It’s what makes the Grey Cup different and gives it heightened drama.
The team is paramount and the success of the November spectacle will rest upon a tale woven by helmeted representatives of vastly different communities that co-exist in a big country.
The Roughriders are the perennial long shots.
They are football’s version of a Prairie David to the Goliaths of Eastern Canada. The club from Saskatchewan is publicly owned and its many investors have much more than an imaginary stake in the outcome of every match. Only three times in 17 tries have the Green Riders captured the coveted chalice.
Then again, the role of underdog charmingly adds to their mystique.
Meanwhile, Montreal’s football team draws its nickname from a bird in Quebecois folklore.
The Alouettes, like the mythical Phoenix, have risen from the ashes to ward off extinction and make the CFL strong again in French-speaking Canada. Along with an agonizing absence from 1987-96 and a subsequent rise to power, the Als hatched a huge interest in collegiate and community football in the province. They have repaid their followers with consistent competitiveness if not Grey Cup championships — just five victories in 16 tries.
So who to root for? Perhaps the answer is both teams. After all, that’s the lure of the Grey Cup isn’t it? It’s all about a game, which has the ability to soar above rudimentary statistical analysis and a handful of star players who play for multimillion-dollar contracts.
The magic to be found in the Grey Cup has to do with valiant teams and the contribution they make to this country’s fabled, football history.