Grey Cup: This is what Toronto's been waiting for

Toronto mayor Rob Ford and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi talk about their Grey Cup wager at Nathan...

Toronto mayor Rob Ford and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi talk about their Grey Cup wager at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 24, 2012. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI Agency)

JOE WARMINGTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:30 PM ET

TORONTO - Now it’s time for the big show.

The back ribs are ready and the horse has been fed.

Football time. The 100th Grey Cup is set to kick off.

Win or lose, Toronto needed this week.

It has been eight years since the Argos won the Grey Cup which does not seem all that long ago when you put in perspective it has been twenty years since the Blue Jays won their first of back to back World Series titles and more than 45 years since the Maple Leafs drank from the Stanley Cup.

But you consider the Leafs have not played in a playoff game since May 4, 2004, NHL hockey is in lockout, the TFC soccer club rarely wins and the basketball Raptors haven’t been contending for a decade, you can see why fans are parched for a winner.

But, for Toronto, it’s more than that.

For example, it’s great to see all of this pandemonium on the very place the authorities blocked off from the public for the 2010 G20 meeting. The sting and stench of that dark weekend still resonates for some but is starting to fade in favour of more positive events.

We are living in a big city in transition, a city that is trying to figure out just who and what we are.

Strangely, a 130-year-old football franchise, more than anything else, is helping it define just that.

The Argos are the everyman’s team. Affordable, approachable, affable, available and sometimes adorable. What other sports franchise would have its legends like Pinball Clemons, Damon Allen and Nick Volpe basically hang out with the fans?

The Argos fans are interesting, too. Although they invade downtown Toronto, a lot of them are from Oshawa, Whitby, Oakville, Mississauga, Vaughan and Barrie. It’s really the GTA Argos. Their fans are a special breed because they are not just with the Argos when they are sexy.

They don’t mind having Justin Bieber perform at the halftime show but they wouldn’t mind if it was Canadian rockers Trooper or a high school marching band either.

Half time is for hotdogs and beer.

There is a contingent of 25,000 or so Double Blue faithful that are with them no matter what. Some of them are 90-year-old fans and some are 13-year-olds such as Luke Hempel.

“It’s just something special about CFL players,” he said.

He is right. They don’t have an entourage or fancy cars either. They are working-class athletes.

“They are very good people who don’t forget your name,” Luke said.

He doesn’t forget them either and can name every Argo without a program.

There are not many compatible to CFL athletes or fans elsewhere in professional sports.

But for all the gritty good about the league there is also the stuff that seems to get lost in the not-quite-ready for global supremacy CFL, too.

An example is the snub of the 1952 Grey Cup champion Argonauts team. They should somehow be a part of this 100th game. There are still a dozen players remaining — many in walkers and perhaps not sales worthy. But they are proud people who are part of the team’s storied history.

Names like Nobby Wirkowski, Ulysses Curtis, Zeke O’Connor, Les Ascott, Bill Bass, Dougie Pyzer, Royal Copeland, Nick Volpe, Rod Smylie and John Fedosoff don’t seem to be known by the current day fans.

But they sure were back then.

Here’s a test for you. Have you heard of the name Jack Wedley?

Well, he played on seven Grey Cup winners, from 1937 until 1950 — six with the Boatmen. He is not even in the CFL Hall of Fame. “He was a proud man and never really wanted any type of acknowledgement for his victories or career as an Argonaut,” said daughter Joanne.

All those old CFLers are like that. And it seems, because of that humility, they don’t get the acknowledgment the deserve.

You’d think it would have been obvious to have a luncheon for the players of thay era during Grey Cup week. But as one of the players told me, he agrees the focus should be in this game Sunday rather than on one 60 years ago.

So that’s where are focus now goes.

It’s been a great week but now it’s time for the Toronto Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders to decide 100th Grey Cup Champion on the Rogers Centre turf.

The game kicks off at 6 p.m. EST.


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