Cold, cloudy November weekends remind me of many things long lost in my life. As a kid and teen, growing up and making sense of the world through my father's values, November was, above all else, the time for Canadian football playoffs. My father arrived in Canada in 1952 and for reasons lost in the mists of time soon became a Toronto Argonauts fan. It was his team and his sport even though he had never played the game as a kid. He cared deeply about his Argos' chances and the culmination of the season was bundling up and heading to the stadium to cheer and survive the lakeside outdoors on a bleak November day.
I truly wish that November still meant bundling up and heading down to the lake to cheer like thermally insulated fools at Toronto playoff games. Just substitute Toronto FC for Toronto Argos and I am happy. Why my loyalty switched from Canadian football to soccer would be the topic for another blog post. If Toronto FC ever manages to make a habit of qualifying for playoff games I am ever hopeful that our late autumn traditions can be rekindled.
So it made a lot of November sense for my wife and I to go to the Yates Cup semi-final at Guelph Alumni Stadium, Guelph hosting Queen's Gaels. Our son attends University of Guelph and I have been bugging him for years to take us to a football game. He happily bought the tickets for this one.
Walking to the stadium, on a perfect football weather day, I was wondering why it had taken us so long to do this. Alumni Stadium is in a wonderful location, tucked into a valley at the north end of the campus.
You can read better sportswriter accounts of the game (here and here and here, for example), but it is hard to capture the emotional side of the game. It was a fairly even match for most of the first half and then Queen's took advantage of some Guelph mistakes and the halftime score was 24-14. The chances of the home team coming back looked slim, but it was a great afternoon to be outside and we were enjoying ourselves.
The second half began and Queen's seemed unstoppable. With 10 minutes left in the game, Queen's was ahead 36 -14 and Guelph could not do anything right. I admit I thought about leaving, figuring my son could study or rest before Saturday night dragged him out again. I am sure I was not the only one in the crowed who thought it was hopeless for the home team to win.
Then the tough Gryphon's defence blocked a punt and ran it in for a touchdown. Shortly after the Gryphons qb had an improbable 80 yard run for a touchdown. Guelph ended up having to score a touchdown and a two point conversion in the final seconds to tie the game and they did.
Queen's had to settle for a field goal in their overtime turn with the ball. The first Guelph overtime play was a hand off that went nowhere. Things were looking grim. Then a short pass was completed and even though two defenders were within reach, the Gryphon burst out and headed to the endzone. Touchdown and the overtime, come from behind win was complete. The people in the stadium went crazy. It felt as if we were part of a Hollywood movie production.