2005 Grey Cup Review

As the game drew to a close Sunday night, a game soon to be called one of the best Grey Cups ever; I was left with mixed feelings. An emptiness and unsatisfying feeling over Edmonton’s umpteenth win in my lifetime. A satisfaction that the game was competitive and went into overtime for the first time in 44 years. A bitter taste over the shootout overtime format used in a Grey Cup. All of these feelings but another as well; a sick feeling that the game would be decided essentially by an innocent mistake by a QB with 10 years experience in the league.

Now, after some time to reflect, here are my thoughts regarding Grey Cup week and festivities, the broadcast and the game itself.

Grey Cup Week and Festivities

When Vancouver was announced as the host city for the 2005 Grey Cup many prepared for another dismal failure. Despite the Lions competitiveness Vancouverite disinterest was expected to be rampant. Even with an appearance by the home town club, empty seats could be expected. Then a sell out was announced 2 months prior to the game. A Lion 11-game win streak didn’t hurt, nor did the good work of the Lion front office to make the Lions a hot ticket. The real catalyst was the Grey Cup committee, who brought the awareness and interest in the festivities and game to the greater Vancouver area.

From afar it seems that events were well attended, new events and activities were introduced and the population was excited about the week. The Grey Cup Parade was back, and with a format that seemed a little more hip than usual from what I saw. Celebrities and dignitaries were plentiful. By the testimonials of those I saw interviewed, Vancouver 2005 has set the bar for future Grey Cups, one that will be hard to meet except in Canada’s largest three cities.

From all accounts the festivities were great, and a large metropolitan area being a hard place to pull people together in support of an event, I will give the organizers an A+.

The Broadcast

As usual, CBC outdid itself in terms of having so much to offer and delivering so little. First there was basically no coverage on Saturday. The Grey Cup Parade was broadcast on Sunday despite taking place Saturday morning. It was dubious enough to leave viewers wondering if this was a live parade on Sunday.

I have to precursor the next parts of my review with the confession I did not sit in front of the TV and watch all of the pregame show or game for that matter. There was only so much I could take. To lead off the Sunday coverage Walby’s Warriors VII had two things going for it. First it was only a half hour. Second, I only caught about 10 minutes of it. It is so sad a knockoff has stayed on the air this long. Chris Walby, I know John Madden. I’ve watched John Madden. I’ve played John Madden Football. You sir are no John Madden. Try innovation instead of poor imitation.

Next came the pregame show — 2 hours of pointless drivel. More offensive than their regular season coverage, this is why the CBC must not be renewed as the playoff broadcaster for the CFL. A pregame show which attracts more than a million viewers (more than the CBC gets in an average week, total), and the CBC still hasn’t considered expanding it. Good for the fans I guess, since they would all be asleep before the game started.

Brian Williams doesn’t know sports broadcasting from a hole in the wall. Don’t try to find negative stories about the CFL Brian. Finding a way to call the CFL bush league over the supposed Edmonton-Hamilton trade was low. In previous years when all the news was good he would just bring up that there was no negative news like past years. Go cover some Olympic drug scandals, the CFL doesn’t need you.

Any analysis I saw was pretty weak, even the usually strong Eric Tillman wasn’t very good. It seems everyone was trying to find a way to be controversial in their standard analysis while still trying not to offend anyone as they may work in this league again.

The broadcast of the game was no better. Mark Lee is Don Wittman’s love child. His play-by-play is his stronger suit, but that was generally uneven as usual through the whole game. Where he really gets into trouble is with his commentary. “He’s the stir that makes this defence go… err the straw that stirs this defence” is one of my all time favourites. Stay away from the clichéd metaphors if you can’t get them right. Lee’s gaffe, crediting DL James “Quick” Parker with a 74 yard kick-off return over the much older Jackie Parker also showed a weakness in understanding the CFL and its history.

Flubs, incoherent statements and inane comments ruled the day for Chris Walby. While his attack on the English language was minimized he provided little additional observation on plays, making no acknowledgement of missed penalties or calling dropped passes the QB’s fault. And for the biggest game of the year why can’t the CBC get two commentators in the booth. Sure the speed of the CFL game limits the amount of time to talk between plays, but anything to break the agony of listening to Walby for 60 minutes.

The new technology was handled like someone experimenting with their new camcorder for the first time — “I wonder what this will look like?”. In pregame talks about the new technology to be used in the game, CBC stated the CableCam would be used for replays only except for live plays such as converts or kick-offs. While it started out promising it seemed by the second half they were using it for live plays more often than replays and the viewpoint for live plays was disorientating and confusing. As the camera operator and producer were just learning the technology this was certainly not the best that could be done, but can one hardly expect more next year when it is dragged out again? This is a network whose regular camera operators still get faked out at least once a game, even in the Grey Cup when Anthony Calvillo pulls the ball out on a naked bootleg at the goal line. As for the other new technology, I did not view the HDTV broadcast. Sources tell me it was good, the same broadcast except in the HDTV wide-ratio signal. It’s about time CBC caught up with HD broadcasts when all other networks started broadcasting regular season games in HD over two years ago.

I didn’t see much of the post game awards or commentary. It seemed standard fare to me.

Overall I give the broadcast a D. CBC is very close to a failing grade; only an effort to improve the technology saves them from an F.

The Game

Best game ever? No, not in my opinion. A good game though and ranks up there in the top games since 1980. What kept it from becoming the best game ever? Well the first half was quite boring. Neither offence really moved the ball and lacked any tension for someone who had no allegiance to either team. A good game needs plenty of lead changes and back and forth all game so you are sick to your stomach at halftime, wondering what will happen next.

After half time though the Alouettes put the game on track. Coming back with two quick touchdowns got them in the lead while the Eskimos continued to struggle. Then Tony Tompkins returned the ensuing kick-off for a touchdown, throwing the Eskimos back in the lead. A back and forth fourth quarter ending with Montreal settling for a field goal on the last play to tie the game fuelled the excitement going into overtime.

The overtime was OK, although I don’t find the shootout format the best to solve ties in playoff games. The reason being is that it can be very anti-climatic like this year’s finish. In the first possession, Montreal scored a touchdown, forcing Edmonton to score a major to continue. They did and fans were still on the edges of their seats and many Eskimo supporters relieved. In the second possession Edmonton went first and managed a field goal. In the Alouettes possession, a freak play that decided the game lead to the anti-climatic finish. Calvillo had the pass batted back to him as he stepped up to throw the ball. With the ball back in his hands, he forgoes running the ball for possibly a short gain to a first down to throw the ball to the end zone to a wide open Kerry Watkins who dropped the ball. All for not anyway since Calvillo was properly flagged for an illegal second forward pass. I don’t begrudge the call, but I wish he hadn’t thrown the ball, and many others yelling at their screens felt the same way. You don’t want to see a team lose that way, on an error rather than a good play.

The Alouettes are now hard pressed to match the field goal and I feel the game is slipping away. The next down, faced with 1 and 20 from the 45, Calvillo was sacked for an 11 yard loss. Now faced with 2 and 31 the game is essentially over. Yes, a completion without a first down can still put the Alouettes into field goal range for the tying score. An Eskimo defence can easily defend this and an incomplete pass puts the Alouettes in situation requiring a miracle. Third and 31 from their own 54 yard line, needing to get to the 25 yard line to gain another down and try a tying field goal, the Alouettes were eliminated and all those watching live and at home knew it. In a final last gasp Calvillo scrambled and punted the ball from the sidelines to the Edmonton 31. The ball is fallen upon and the game is over. Edmonton 38 Montreal 35 (OT).

Some may say that regular overtime would not have made the finish any better as timed finishes can be anti-climatic as well as teams down the ball. That is true. In this case it was the decision by Calvillo to throw the ball twice (albeit to a wide open receiver in the end zone) on one play cost them at least extending the overtime. Timing overtime gives the defence a chance to get the ball back for their offence, after all football is this type of fluid game for 60 minutes where possessions aren’t even and don’t always start at the oppositions 35 yard line.

If I can take an aside for a moment and argue my perspective on the overtime format in the CFL, I would like to see the following changes made. For regular season games, continue the shootout format. If you must continue to start from the 35 yard line, then move the ball back 10 yards for each subsequent possession. This will help separate the wheat from the chaff instead of the possibility of a team not being able to move the ball but still equalling the other in field goals.

For playoff games and the Grey Cup, I would advocate the return to timed overtime. In fact until last year’s playoffs I was unaware that the shootout playoff format change encompassed the playoffs. My comparison argument is would the NHL institute the shootout to decide playoff games? No, the shootout is fine for the regular season, but for the NHL sudden death timed playoffs provide the entertainment value fans want. Of course sudden death doesn’t really work for football, the CFL especially. I would suggest a pair of 5:00, 7:30 or 10:00 minute halves in overtime at which time if still tied a shootout format could be held, with the increasing scrimmage line on each set of possessions. Of course overtime happens so rarely in the CFL, we are lucky to see it twice in the playoffs the last two years. I realize I am in the minority here so I would settle for at least the increasing the scrimmage line on each set of possessions.

Overall I give the game an A-/B+. A slow first half, and an unfortunate way to decide things in overtime is what brings it down in my books.

Miscellaneous

I have some other miscellaneous things to comment on. Wasn’t that the funniest thing when Danny Maciocia started celebrating after the Alouettes incomplete pass on second down in overtime? It’s 3 down football Danny. The broadcasters didn’t say anything at the time, but I am glad some other media called him on it after the game in highlights and the papers.

I was also disappointed with the newspaper coverage. National and Toronto based papers gave CBC high marks for the commentators, the technology and broadcast in general. Then pointed on some of the same things I did, but gave an A grade to the broadcast. While they poke some fun at Chris Walby, don’t they understand they need to be vocal in their criticism with the fans behind them so the CBC will seriously consider replacing him? I don’t understand the reasoning here. Am I really that bitter and negative and the general feeling is it was a good job?

References:
CBC crew a runaway winner
How the Grey Cup was won

What did you think of any of these aspects of the game or of my commentary? Am I out to lunch or is the rest of the country?

4 Responses to “2005 Grey Cup Review”

  1. Cindy Says:

    I cannot stand Walby. I cannot understand how he ever got a job in broadcasting. There have to be better ex-players out there that could do a better job.

    I didn’t actually sit down and watch the game. It was on and I went back and forth. It seemed like Vancouver did a good job hosting, I heard good things.

    I found the first half boring, didn’t care for the halftime show, the second half entertaining and was surprised to see sudden death for the overtime. After Calvillo’s mistake (did he not understand the rules or did he not think the 1st throw was a forward pass) I realized the game was over, which was unfortunate.

    I thought that was hilarious when Danny Maciocia ran out on the field. I realize he is excited, but really. And I thought it was odd that no one commented on it. What are the announcers problem these days, they don’t want to embarrass anyone? If that is the case they should have the camera cut away after every play is finished and show the ads while we listen to drivel.

    I don’t have much else to comment on since my intake of the coverage was limited.

  2. Gord Says:

    I didn’t watch the game, caught about 5 minute of the pre-game…about all I could stand. Got home with 6 minute to go in the game and I have to admit, it was a thrilling finish. But they CFL has to change the OT format in the playoffs. As Jon said, it would be like deciding the Stanley Cup on a shoot-out. It is not a true indication of the two teams playing. If they want have the posession starting at the 35 for both teams, they should say no field goals or singles. TD’s win the game.

    So, while it was an exciting finish, it left a bit of a empty feeling…sort of like when Canada settled for silver at the Olympics in 94, and for the same reason. The second posession for both teams OT wasn’t two teams playing football, it was playing for field position.

    I am hoping RD will have CBC HD next year, it might actually get me to sit down for an entire game. Otherwise, forget it unless the green and white are there. Which I highly doubt is possible with the current regime. They are too happy strutting their stuff about going 9-9.

    As far as the CBC coverage, at least the Whitless Wonder wasn’t doing the play-by-play, but Mark Lee/Chris Walby are butal with a capital B. Maybe the CBC should do a contest and allow fans who actually have a comprehension of the english language compte to see who gets to do the game! I would call it ‘Making the Sound Cut’. Now that would be exciting!

  3. Jon Says:

    A couple of things I left out of the main post:

    First I didn’t know where to put the half-time show and the Black Eyed Peas. Were they part of the festivities, the broadcast or the game? Eventually I forgot them and left them out. So after the game Vancouver took some bashing from some commentators saying “Why wasn’t there a Canadian act?” While the sentiment is nice, I wonder about the timing. The Black Eyed Peas were announced as the half-time show 2-3 months before the game, were heavily advertised and yet you don’t make any objections until after the game? The time to speak up about it to have any affect is at the announcement. I didn’t here a peep from commentators then.

    As for the performance, it’s not my kind of music, but it is nice to see the CFL get a younger act. After they’ve done Shania Twain and The Tragically Hip, Sam Roberts with Bryan Adams plus other Canadian acts what do you have left? Celine Dion for $1 million dollars to leave Vegas isn’t exactly to a football crowds taste. I do think Winnipeg in 2006 and other smaller centres in the future will have a tough time competing with these recent acts without repeating. I mean who is Winnipeg going to have, a Guess Who reunion again? Or will it be BTO this time? That is why Vancouver went to the Black Eyed Peas, they don’t really have a hot local act except Bryan Adams who was done.

    But I had a hard time remembering who performed at previous Grey Cup half-times. I mean I had to look up who was at the 2003 Grey Cup and I was there. Maybe they could repeat. I wonder if they couldn’t go away from the Super Bowl influenced half-time shows anyway. They are for the people in the stadium supposedly, but are shown on TV in lieu of highlights and analysis. I can tell you that the people in a cold Taylor Field or Winnipeg Stadium would rather get on with the game in 15 minutes rather than take a half-hour half-time. Maybe we should take back half-times like we all remember 25 years ago. You don’t see entertainment during intermissions during they Stanley Cup playoffs. After all the NFL has to attract viewers with the entertainment and spectacle factor and commercials. The CFL can rest on it’s game.

    Second, to follow up on overtime. What I was trying to put my finger on regarding overtime shootouts in the playoffs is that you can end up with quite long and high scoring overtimes before a decision is made. In a timed event, you know how long it will last, but the tensions still remains, with opportunity always there, instead of just given to you in series. In shootout overtime there could be 7 — 14 — 21 points put up by both teams in minutes, outscoring what they did previously in single quarters or halves of the game, until someone wins it. While scoring is encouraged, for me it is too saccharine, too artificial to be truly admired compared to regular play.

  4. Jon Says:

    So Gord, you have a big screen TV and HD receiver? But only on RD cable? Lay out your setup for us and explain why a HD broadcast would make you more likely to watch? Are you that spoiled (only HDTV for me)?

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