Talk about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ensuring their dynasty status with a third-straight Grey Cup victory — and that talk would certainly have been expanded upon in this space —was short-circuited by the Toronto Argonauts at Mosaic Stadium in Regina Nov. 21, bringing to an end quite an eventful Canadian Football League season.
The Bombers, dominant all season and 33-7 in the last three years, counting playoff games, are still the model teams strive to emulate, but a blocked field goal by the Argos in the dying seconds gave Toronto a 24-23 victory in an exciting season finale.
Argos’ backup QB Chad Kelly replaced McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the second half and was pin-point sharp in his passing and evasive while on the run.
Highlight for the Bombers was a 102-yard punt return for a TD by Janarion Grant.
Having the Argonauts win the Grey Cup is a positive for the CFL, which needs all the attention it can get from Canada’s largest city, where the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors dominate the sporting scene.
Still, with Toronto-based TSN having rights to every CFL game, one would think the promotion by the network would be excessive. Sadly, it’s not, as TSN tends to go overboard on promoting the National Football League, shunting the CFL to the lower shelf.
However, the CFL appears to be on the rise. Remember the 2021 talk about Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson spearheading a group which wanted to incorporate the CFL into a proposed XFL? That didn’t fly, thankfully, and the CFL has done quite well on its own, thank you very much.
While Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros and the Bombers dominated the regular season, the biggest story of 2022 was written by a quarterback from Ontario, Nathan Rourke, who almost overnight became the face of the league. Rourke — a rarity, a Canadian QB — was named starting quarterback of the B.C. Lions after Michael Reilly retired at the end of last season, and almost immediately became a folk hero — in B.C. at least.
The Lions, who were 5-9 and 5-13 in their two previous seasons (2020 was wiped out), posted an 8-1 record in their first nine games (the Lions surpassed the 40-point mark in four of those wins) before Rourke suffered a foot injury in a game against Saskatchewan on Aug. 19. He missed two months before starting the last regular-season game of the year.
Rourke still finished with 28 touchdown passes and rushed for 329 yards (8.1 yards per carry) and was named the league’s Top Canadian player.
As a Canadian by birth but schooled in football at Ohio University, Rourke has garnered more than a little interest by NFL teams. He reportedly worked out with a couple of them in November and while CFL fans would love to see him succeed at the highest level, they’d also love to see him perform his magic for the next few years north of the border.
Taking a shot at beer quality, Late Show host Stephen Colbert, on the Budweiser announcement that its warehouse full of beer, after the Qatar government banned stadium suds’ sales, would go to the winning country: “Now why would you ruin their celebration like that?”
• Headline at the British newspaper iSport, after England and the U.S. played to a 0-0 World Cup tie: “Football 0 Soccer 0”
• Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “Happy Thanksgiving. This year I’m thankful for the Indiana, Rutgers and North Dakota football programs or else the Nebraska Cornhuskers would be about to finish 0-12.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “At the World Cup, I don’t want to say the FIFA referees are corrupt, but they wear a coin machine on their belts to make correct change for on-field bribes.”
• Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Do you think Abraham Lincoln would have declared Thanksgiving a national holiday if he had known it would mean the Lions play every year?”
• Columnist Norman Chad, on Twitter: “If Gisele had filed for divorce from Tom Brady during a Buccaneers game, she would’ve gotten flagged for roughing the passer.”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Winnipeg kicker Marc Liegghio missed his last convert in the Grey Cup, which the Blue Bombers lost by one point. Note to the Bombers: Liegghio … Let him go.”
• Headline at theonion.com: “British World Cup Attendees Accused Of Smuggling Alcohol Into Stadium Through Bloodstreams”
• Headline at fark.com: “Ronaldo becomes first man to score in five World Cups. He also scored a goal in each of them.”
• Another fark.com offering: “England vs. U.S.A. World Cup match is serious business. The loser has to keep James Corden.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The U.S. men played to 1-1 (Wales) and 0-0 (England) ties in World Cup pool play. Hey, if at first you don’t succeed, tie, tie again.” Care to comment? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
by Bruce Penton