CFL still biggest game in some towns

I’m a really big fan of the new Canadian Football League stamps. I grew up in Ottawa a long time ago, when the Riders were the only professional sports team in the city, and there wasn’t even cable TV. Weather permitting, we played football in backyards, inventing ways to play two-on-one, or even two-on-three, running the length of the yard for a down, then turning around and running the other way for a touchdown. For me, life was simple and Russ Jackson was the king. Then, over the years, something happened.

When I moved to southern Ontario I discovered that the most populated part of Canada, star-struck by the drawing power of our neighbours to the south, was enamoured with the National Football League. What’s your favourite team? was more likely to bring a response such as Miami or Buffalo, instead of Ottawa or Hamilton. One day, a friend of mine remarked, “They will hold a Grey Cup game in Toronto and nobody in the city will notice.” I’ve seen that happen twice. Yet in parts of Canada, particularly the west, the CFL remains the biggest game in town. I like the CFL, although it is often dominated by players from the United States, it is still a distinctly different game, and much more unpredictable.

My real complaint is that Ottawa no longer has a team. I suspect I may not be the only Canadian who remembers when our football was part of our national identity. I’m talking about the days when we had no official flag, or health care, and still called the May 24 holiday Victoria Day. Back then, we played hockey better than anyone else, and played a distinct kind of football that Americans never quite understood. Sort of like having a nine-team league and then giving two teams nearly identical names. These stamps are long over due, I may want a strip or two for my personal mailings. Well forget that, I only saw one Rider stamp and it was the wrong one. I’m going back to definitives.

On a lighter note, I just returned from a lightning trip to Edmonton, where I attended this year’s convention of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada. Royals, as they are known, are travelling events, which change each year, so I long ago learned that it is not fair to compare any one Royal to the others. I believe that the organizers should put their effort into putting on the best event they can, and not compete against the past for future venues. The folks in Edmonton did that to a T. From start to finish the show was well-managed and ran smoothly. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I saw a large number of volunteers at work; having the local club involved and active is a sign that stamp collecting remains strong in the Edmonton area. I also have to give a big shout out to columnist Peter Fleck, who was a big help at our booth, and a fun dinner companion.

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