The 2007 Grey Cup — Prairie Throw Down

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: November 24, 2007

95th Grey Cup

PHILADELPHIA — The 95th Edition of Canada’s professional football championship will become a match-up of prairie protagonists in Toronto’s Sky Dome this Sunday.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders became Western Conference champions after upsetting the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, 26-17. For Saskatchewan, the appearance will provide their first chance to bring home the Cup since 1997.

A favorable omen for the Green Riders could be head coach Kent Austin’s return to the scene of his greatest triumph, quarterbacking the ‘Riders to a 43-40 Grey Cup win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1989.

Quarterback Kerry Joseph led his team to the upset and continued his fantastic season with more accolades during Grey Cup Week. Joseph was named to the CFL all-star team Friday, a day after being named the league’s outstanding player for 2007.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference champs are grappling with issues that severely compromise their chance at the Cup.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who spoiled the plans for the host Toronto Argonauts, 19-9, gained the big stage but lost their most important component in pivot Kevin Glenn, who sustained a broken arm in the East Final’s upset victory.

Glenn, the Eastern Conference representative for Most Outstanding Player, was the only passer in the CFL to throw for more than 5000 yards this year and the seventh year pro from Illinois State was having a breakout season of his own.

The job of bombing the Green Riders now goes to Ryan Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie, a second year man out of Boise State, saw limited action but will now have to man up and face one of the CFL’s best defenses.

Winnipeg‘s last Grey Cup appearance was in 2001, but hasn’t won it all since 1990.

Location, Location, Location

Being in the middle of the country has kept Winnipeg in a state of flux in the CFL grand scheme of things. A longtime member of the Western Conference, the Blue Bombers have been kept conference hopping ever since the 1990s when expansion problems, coupled with lack of support in Ottawa for their teams, the Ottawa Rough Riders, (yep, same name different inflection) who were later reformed as the Ottawa Renegades in 2002, shifted Winnipeg to the East to maintain a balance among the remaining eight teams.

The provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan sit side by side on the Canadian prairie like Eugene Field’s gingham dog and calico cat; and their teams play with the delicious contempt that familiar foes seem to always bring out in each other.

However, because of the juggling of the ‘Bombers, this will actually be the first time in Grey Cup history the prairie pals will be able to get it on with nothing standing in the way but the Cup.

Three Minute Warning

Over 60,000 are expected at Sky Dome for this year’s championship game.

Rocker Lenny Kravitz will perform at halftime, and no sooner will Grey Cup 2007 end than Coupe Grey 2008 planning will begin as Montreal will be the host city for the 96th edition of Canada’s football championship.

Congratulations also to Coach Brian Dobie and the University of Manitoba Bisons, winners of the Vanier Cup, signifying the championship of Canadian college football. The Bisons defeated Saint Mary’s University ( Nova Scotia) 28 – 14.

What could be the most ominous sound since Canada started screaming about NAFTA could be coming from the lips of CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon.

“All the tea leaves are indicating that it’s shifting,” Cohon said Friday in his state of the league address during Grey Cup week in Toronto. “You have guys like Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum and Phil Lind, very powerful Canadians who are interested, you have an owner Ralph Wilson in Buffalo who has said, ‘When I die, my estate will sell the franchise,’ [and] you have the Bills interested in marking Toronto as part of their territory.”

What’s not being said is the fact that President George Bush and his army of arrogant and accipitrine acolytes have so weakened the American dollar to such a degree that the Canadian dollar now has some serious muscle behind it.

In spite of the fact the NFL could weaken CFL interest, Cohon’s approach seems pragmatic. “I’m not sticking my head in the sand. That would be the worst thing for the CFL commissioner to do. So I think there’s a real potential.”

Finally, it’s prediction time. Although the injury to Glenn hurts Winnipeg’s chances, I didn’t expect the Blue Bombers to be here; however, I did expect Saskatchewan to be here. So, I could be wrong, but…

All hail the Green Riders of the Western Plains — the 2007 Grey Cup Champions!

Pick: Saskatchewan 38, Winnipeg 18.