The Grey Cup has gone uptown.
The biggest change to Grey Cup week has been lost on the thinned-out media horde in Montreal. TSN having the game has meant the loss of those last-night Grey Cup classics that the CBC used to air for three-down devotees.
Those broadcasts were a rip, more as a museum piece than for the actual games. Look! The Alouettes coach is smoking a cigarette on the sideline. There's federal sports minister Iona Campagnolo in the stands, bundled up in a fur coat. You would never see that today -- a national TV audience actually being expected to know who was Canada's federal sports minister, never mind the fur coat or the coach ... (takes drag on cigarette) "watch the tight end!" (exhales).
It was pure Canadiana, almost compelling in its lameness, but back then, we owned it. It was also unique to us and anything but America-lite that the Grey Cup reflects nowadays. CFL commissioner Mark Cohon or TSN president Phil King have no time for such nostalgia. It's too bad, really. They could cover it off with one simple act -- hire Loverboy as the halftime entertainment.
Alas, Theory of a Deadman will be playing at halftime of Sunday's Alouettes-Stampeders clash. Going in reverse chronological order, the halftime entertainment the past three years has been Lenny Kravitz, Nelly Furtado and The Black-Eyed Peas. No disrespect, but my Canadian Football League does not include the wherewithal to land A-list entertainment. You're supposed to end up watching Colin James or the pre-Styx Lawrence Gowan, alternating between thumbs in ears and fingers down throat, saying to yourself "Why do I support this league again?"
It indulged the most Canadian of traits, the right to eternal self-flagellation. (Thank god Canadian Interuniversity Sport, by its inaction, gets this.)
The first preference for the halftime show should go to a band that is well past it. These eyes will never forget the sight of a middle-aged Burton Cummings banging on the piano in a pair of fingerless gloves while The Guess Who performed in minus-25C temperatures during the 2000 championship game in Calgary. Failing that, it should be a group which has simply hung on long enough to have become imbued with something that miguided souls confer respectability. That must be why Loverboy is being honoured at next year's Junos.
It's not like this would be lacking in synergy. Loverboy has an album to promote in its own right and goodness knows, since the CFL's audience does skew more toward the middle-aged, there might be a certain sadistic appeal in seeing that time and fevers have robbed Mike Reno of the ability to squeeze into a pair of red leather pants (but at least he could once).
At the very least, this simple act of charity (toward fans, not Mike Reno) would remind us that the CFL hasn't lost its -- well, not soul, it's highly dubious to claim Canada has ever had that -- but has not totally shed its old skin. It is neither here nor there that rock and roll "has been sliding towards extinction since 1980, when Loverboy released its first album," as some wiseacre wrote a few years ago while doubling as his paper's music reviewer.
Point being, Loverboy rocks, in their way. Commissioner Cohon can tout the CFL's financial stability, its improved TV ratings, the increased scoring this season and its firm grasp of its market share as it deals with the NFL's inexorable advance on Southern Ontario all he wants. The CFL is in, as much as it goes against the grain to actually praise a Canadian institution, is in a pretty good place, enough to start talking about going back to Ottawa.
Strangely enough, that is almost odd and off-putting to someone who came in an age when the league was rough around the edges, not slick and corporate. The CFL was sometimes almost entertaining when the entire lot of it seemed to have one foot on a banana peel and the other kicking the latest commissioner in the arse on his way out the door.
Those days are thankfully gone, but don't deserve to be dropped entirely as the league moves onward and upward (OK, maybe they do). Commissioner Cohon, do the right thing and give Mike Reno a call, first thing today.
No panic for CFL during economic uncertainty; There's a quiet confidence here that certainly hasn't been a hallmark of all Grey Cups (Stephen Brunt, globesports.com)
Expect the unexpected when Grey Cup game is in Montreal (John MacKinnon, Canwest News Service)
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