Final thoughts on Grey Cup C — ‘C’ being the Roman numeral for 100. (This is one of those rare times when using a Roman numeral doesn’t make an event seem more important).
Let’s just forget about the game. It was overall a dud, lacking in exciting and/or controversial moments. The Argos just dominated from the beginning, and Calgary looked entirely out of synch. How a team could come up for flat for the biggest game of the year is beyond me.
TSN’s coverage of the game, and all the surrounding hoopla, was unusually professional. My complaint with the CFL on TSN is that the telecasts are often so poor that it lessens the on-field product when compared to the hyper-glossy coverage of the NFL on American TV. I’m not expecting TSN to match the resources that CBS or Fox or ESPN throws at football, but there’s no reason why they can’t direct a game with a certain amount of crispness and originality. A regular feature of TSN telecasts is the agonizingly long close-up of a player sitting on the sidelines. These close ups, which can go on for 30 seconds to a minute (which seems like 30 minutes), are embarrassing for everyone involved. Just try staring at someone for 30 seconds and see how uncomfortable it is. But on Grey Cup Sunday, those close-ups were kept to a minimum. The overhead cable-cam provided a great view, and there were reverse angles that gave us interesting looks at the game. I liked Paul LaPolice’s commentary during the game, using some unusually sophisticated technology that allowed him to move the players around the field, like chess pieces. And, glory of glories, TSN actually discovered super-slow motion, a technology that is at least 10 years old that TSN still hasn’t invested in. I have no faith that TSN will actually bring super-slow motion in for next year, being that they still do everything on the cheap, but it was nice to see for once. And as for Glen Suitor, he was his usual self, spewing his verbal diarrhea far and wide.
The pregame packages were all pretty good, if predictable (player devoting himself to his dead mother/brother/sister/father, crawling his way out of the ‘projects’, that sort of thing). The best item was a feature on a guy who filmed hundreds of hours of Canadian football games, often while hanging from a telephone pole in brutal weather conditions. On the 100th anniversary of the first game, and TSN made the most of it, digging up plenty of vintage footage.
And as for the half-time show, the less said the better. But I’ll say something anyway.
I can understand the CFL’s decision to give Justin Bieber centre stage. For whatever reason, the scrawny twerp (memo to Biebs: if you’re going to wear a sleeveless shirt, go to the gym first) is the biggest star in the world right now, and Canadian to boot, so it was a coup for the league to land such a big star. On the other hand, his music couldn’t have been less appropriate for a football game. It’s unlistenable to any ears that have been around for more than, say, 17 years, and are not female. The same holds true for the other headliners, Carly Rae Jepson (she of the summer hit, Call Me Maybe) and Marianas Trench (they of… who the hell are they?). They all perform lightweight, forgettable pop, which does not go down well with mostly male, mostly middle-aged football fans. A better choice of headliner would have been the pre-game star, semi-country superstar Johnny Reid. This guy is a huge, huge star in Canadian country music, and his super upbeat set would have been a much better fit than Bieber’s dreadful pap. Gordon Lightfoot, on the other hand, deserved to be there. He performed just the one acoustic song, and although his voice was rather weak, he’s still has more of a presence than the other three performers combined. (And there’s no truth to the rumour that he performed at the first Grey Cup game.)
Where the CFL really dropped the ball was in a complete lack of French entertainment. On the 100th anniversary of the first Grey Cup, and all this talk of how unifying the game is, how did they not find one, single French-Canadian star to perform? Surely they could have found whoever the top pop star in Quebec is, and given him/her/them a national stage for the benefit of francophone viewers. Quebec is Canada’s hotbed of football, and having virtually no French was really a mystifying miscalculation.
Overall, however, the Grey Cup weekend gets a B+. The game sucked, but the rest of it was a pretty decent show that even Toronto couldn’t ignore.