Is it home-field disadvantage at Grey Cup?
By IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency
|The Stampeders' Larry Taylor isn't certain being the home team in a Grey Cup is an advantage. He lost the big game as a member of the Alouettes in 2008 at Olympic Stadium. (QMI AGENCY/FILES)
TORONTO - Larry Taylor remembers vividly what it was like having the home crowd on his side during the Grey Cup.
There were 66,308 fans at Olympic Stadium in Montreal back on Nov. 23, 2008. Lots of noise, lots of Alouettes fans, lots of pressure.
"I didn't realize it at the time," said the Calgary Stampeders return specialist. "You could feel it building through the week.
"Come game time, you are trying so hard to win for the city and the crowd. It basically becomes storybook. It's exhausting."
Sunday at Rogers Centre, the Argonauts are the home team playing in their own Grey Cup.
Over the past 35 years, only one franchise has been able to figure out how to overcome this 'advantage' and win their hometown championship game.
That team, the B.C. Lions, were the ones whose season the Stampeders put to bed last Sunday.
The 100th Grey Cup took over the city of Toronto early this week and it heated up over the weekend. The streets are filled with revellers in downtown Big Smoke.
Which ever team that managed the excitement, got the most rest and is both physically and mentally ready Sunday at kickoff will be the one that could jump out front.
Stampeders defensive end Anwar Stewart is used to Grey Cup week, seeing as this one is his ninth, and he doesn't have fond memories of 2008. The Alouettes couldn't handle the pressure at home, and they ended up losing 22-14 to these same Stampeders.
"If you play a Grey Cup at home, you have the fans and your family. You have requests. Your phone is blowing up," Stewart said. "It's a lot to deal with. You are exhausted going into that game.
"We averaged 30 points that year on offence and we only got field goals and one touchdown. Even then, defensively we played pretty well. They had one touchdown at the end of the half and five field goals throughout.
"It was a good game. This game is about who can adapt to change. Who can go in and make corrections and come out and execute. The first half is a chess match. You go into halftime and make changes, then adjust and see what happens."
For some fans in the building, the most excitement Sunday won't come from the game but from the halftime entertainment. There will be a certain part of the crowd that won't care about whether the Argos win as much as they want to see Justin Bieber sing his latest hit (we have no idea what that would be, by the way).
Even heading into this game, which was sold out before the Argos qualified for it, the home team isn't confident it has an edge.
"We would like to think it's an advantage, but it's easy to fall into a trap thinking we're at home and we have the home-field advantage," CFL most outstanding player Chad Owens said.
"I'm not looking at it that way. We have to prepare the same as if we're on the road. There are fans from across the league here, so you need to be prepared. We're happy we're at home in front of the city of Toronto. It's good our fans get to see us play. We still have to go in and execute."
The Argos might want to treat this like a road game anyway. They did stay in a hotel this week, so maybe that will help, but they did have the worst home record this season (4-5).
The Stamps tied for the best road record, plus they have just come off beating the defending Grey Cup champions in their home park.
Taylor has enjoyed this Grey Cup much more than he did back in 2008. He has his wife in town, but the kids have stayed at home in Florida. The distractions are fewer.
"It's chaos and stressful at the same time when you are at home in your backyard," Taylor said. "You don't think about it, and you try to block it out but there is pressure that comes with it.
"That's why there is a good percentage on why home teams come out on the wrong end of the stick."
Home teams in Grey Cup (since 1955; all prior games were played in Toronto or Southern Ontario)
Year Home team Result
2011 B.C. W
2008 Montreal L
2002 Edmonton L
1994 B.C. W
1983 B.C. L
1982 Toronto L
1979 Montreal L
1977 Montreal W
1972 Hamilton W
1963 B.C. L