I have been a fan of the Canadian Football League since as long as I can remember. Growing up in Ottawa back in the days before cable television, it really was my only choice. I knew the Americans played football, but had no idea who the teams were. In my time there were only nine teams that mattered. We played football in the parks and in our backyards and traded cards with the likes of Angelo Mosca, Russ Jackson and Joe Zuger on them. Back then all games were played outside and on real grass, not hiding from the elements with carpet trying to pass for turf. But over the years something happened.
It seems that Canadian football fell out of fashion and everyone began watching the “important” teams from south of the border. You know, those guys who play on a smaller field and need an extra down to try to make 10 yards. The CFL, by nature of being Canadian, seemed to be somehow less, especially in southern Ontario, which despite the lessons of the War of 1812, often draws its cultural identity from our celebrity neighbour. This year, things changed. The CFL managed to get Canadians excited about a big number, the 100th playing of the Grey Cup, a championship that many Canadians often don’t even remember who won.
By now readers know that Canada Post rolled out a pile of stamp issues around the event: two stamps for each team, a stamp for the cup, and a post-game commemorative for the winning team. If this were anything but the CFL, I’d be saying it was overkill. As it sits now, the program has probably been able to offer something for almost everyone. No matter which team you like, there is a stamp, and even if you don’t like the Argos, and most of us don’t, we can honour their victory this year. I have no doubt that this program made sense. This is one year that I have actually heard Canadian news media talk about the game in advance. A whole whack of my friends, who haven’t watched a CFL game in years, set time aside for this great Canadian tradition.
Now Canada Post wasn’t alone. The Royal Canadian Mint brought out a coin for the event, and even Tim Hortons got on the bandwagon with special cups proclaiming its product as the official coffee of the game. Yep, nothing beats a cup of coffee while sitting in an outdoor stadium on a November evening. My whole point, which I am making in my typical meandering manner, is that this year, because of the anniversary, the CFL was cool once again. Canada Post did the right thing by making itself a part of this special moment in history. My real hope is that all of this has some long-term benefit. It would be nice to think that a few years from now there will be more Canadian fans of Canadian football as a result of this year. While we’re at it, a few more Canadian stamp collectors wouldn’t be a bad thing either.