We went ice-skating last Sunday at one of the indoor rinks, and once the post-skate ritual of hot chocolate and cookies was over, we went shopping. The store was fairly busy, and every so often one of the staff would make an announcement regarding the current score in the football game. I wasn’t really paying any heed to it, since what I know about Canadian Football could be written on the back of a stamp, and so it wasn’t until we got home that we realised that the game had been a huge deal. The Saskatchewan Roughriders had beaten the Calgary Stampeders and secured themselves a spot in the final of the 101st Grey Cup. This takes place on Sunday in Mosaic Stadium in Regina, so the excitement of reaching the final has been magnified a thousandfold by the face that it is being hosted in Saskatchewan.
Our neighbours and friends were all a-flutter, planning their Grey Cup parties and hastily rescheduling any conflicting events. A woman in Ottawa resigned from her job and began driving the thousands of miles west to see the game. Government business was diverted by the passionate speeches given by the MPs of Saskatchewan and Ontario regarding the desired outcome of the game. The Saskatchewan Premier declared today to be Green Day, and lamented the fact that it was outside his remit to grant a public holiday. The mayors of Regina and Hamilton have a bet on the the result of the game; the loser will have to sport the jersey of the winning team to a City Council meeting and fly the winning team’s flag at City Hall. The losing mayor will also have to donate the combined weight of both mayors to the winning team’s local Foodbank.
The Grey Cup has been won by the Saskatchewan Roughriders three times in their 100 year history, and the fact that they are both hosting and playing in the Final is a dream scenario. Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan, had started poking fun at other teams in the Canadian Football League earlier in the year, when he posted this banjo-playing video as a jibe against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
This week, he’s been a running a competition for best-decorated office.
The news websites and television channels have been dominated by Grey Cup fever all week. Yesterday was Green Day in school, as the children have today off for parent-teacher meetings. I arrived in to help out in the pre-school yesterday morning, after crunching through snow and temperatures in the minus thirties, to find children dressed in green, with green wigs and face-paint, decked out in Roughriders jerseys. The teachers had mostly followed suit, and the principal, Tony Bairos, was stalking the corridors in a green Roughriders cape. I stripped Rebecca out of her layers of snow gear, struggled out of mine, and morning prayer began.
We prayed that the Roughriders would win. We prayed for all the members of the team. We gave a passing nod to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (but only in an obligatory Christian way). There were prayers for the fans; we prayed that it wouldn’t be too cold for them during the game and that they would all have safe journeys. There was a rousing rendition of the Roughriders anthem, followed by the usual belting-out of “O, Canada”. The final flourish was the declaration that “Remember, GOD WEARS GREEN! GO RIDERS!”. It was the most memorable morning prayers ever. I bumped into Tony later on last night, when we were at the school for parent-teacher meetings. ”You do realise,” I said sweetly, “that the reason God wears green is not because He’s a Riders fan, but because he’s Irish?”
So we have about 48 hours to go. I can’t imagine what will happen if we win, but I’m fairly sure it will be reminiscent of when Ireland beat Romania on penalties in the World Cup. We have no idea of the rules or anything else about the game, but we’ve been told that it’s about three hours long, and so I’m sure we’ll cast an eye on some of it on Sunday evening. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the various quirky news stories, the anxious weather forecasts and the political banter that seems to go hand-in-hand with the Grey Cup. You gotta love Saskatchewan.
In other political news of the week, I just have to give a shout-out to Rob Ford, the embattled Mayor of Toronto, who has admitted to smoking crack cocaine, (“probably in one of my drunken stupors”), smoking marijuana, and various other eye-popping misdemeanors. His eight-second pause when asked directly if he had purchased illegal substances is comedy gold.
However, he has denied sexual harassment, albeit it in the most spectacularly jaw-dropping fashion.
I’m sure his wife was just thrilled. The ongoing saga is providing endless fuel for late-night chat shows, with Jay Leno thanking Canada for the rich source of fodder – “God bless Canada, what a gift the Canadians have given us” – and Jimmy Kimmel comparing him to a drunken uncle that your parents don’t like – “Rob Ford is like your drunk uncle that is fun, but you’re just getting old enough to realize why your parents don’t let him take you anywhere by himself”. Jon Stewart skewered him in a six-minute commentary on the Daily Show.
Given Mayor Ford’s refusal to resign, there’s plenty of mileage left in this saga. My beloved friend, Elfriede, a Torontonian to her shoelaces, is squirming with horror at every revelation, as are most of the city’s inhabitants, while the rest of Canada watches in awed disbelief.
And finally, I can confirm that winter has arrived in Saskatchewan. We have snow. We have ice and frost. We have watched the temperatures hit the minus thirties. Our winter tyres are on the cars; the snow gear is in constant use; the daily litany of lost hats/gloves/scarves is in full swing and the hall is full of winter boots. Our only hope is that it will only last until March this time around