Volume 91, Issue 45

Wednesday, November 19, 1997




Ignoring air raids

If the late game heroics of both the Churchill and Atlantic Bowls can't spark a frenzy for this weekend's Vanier Cup, Canadian university sports fans should have their pulses checked to ensure they aren't as comatose as their support seems to show.

In two of the most exciting games of this year's CIAU season, the British Columbia Thunderbirds and Ottawa Gee-Gee's secured themselves a spot in what is sure to be an explosive end to the gridiron campaign – the 33rd annual Vanier Cup on Saturday in Toronto.

Both playoff games were true to their Canadian heritage – high-scoring contests highlighted by aerial attacks, proving the CIAU is just as exciting as any football league on the continent.

In the Atlantic Bowl, the Thunderbirds beat the hometown Mount Allison Mounties 34-29, surviving a late fourth-quarter surge. Down by 12 with 1:29 to go, Mountie quarterback and London Catholic Central High graduate Dan Capone threw a 40-yard touchdown strike that pulled his club within five points. After recovering the ensuing onside kick, the Mounties had a last-minute shot at victory, but were held off by the UBC defence.

Although the first playoff contest seemed to be a tough act to follow, the combatants of the Churchill Bowl provided an equally thrilling show and eventually the Waterloo Warriors were ousted by the Ottawa Gee-Gees 44-37. It was a game that counted 10 majors with three on punt returns and only the CFL can compete with such a tally.

In light of last weekend's varsity playoff action, it's shocking Canadians have yet to realize what a great game they have. Although a lack of funds makes it impossible for CIAU teams to market their product on as large a scale as in the U.S., it seems odd fans are unable to justly support the CIAU's exciting brand of football in at least a similar fashion to the way college ball is supported down south.

TSN made a valiant effort with its coverage of the games this weekend to increase interest in the league and to preserve a degree of Canadian culture in their programming. Yet equally disheartening is that the network only chooses to broadcast the last three games of the season, while entirely ignoring quality football which is played in the regular season and in the Yates Cup, for example. OnTV may pick up the feed, but it doesn't have a national audience, nor is it even available on a province-wide basis.

Even though the excitement of the two CIAU Bowl games should generate a rush to SkyDome ticket booths, sadly, ticket sales will be minimal. The truth of the matter is the SkyDome will not be filled to capacity on Saturday and a week after the game, people will be more apt to reciting NFL scores from the weekend rather than the final score of the CIAU final.

It seems almost fashionable in Canada to put down our sporting culture, made obvious by the pathetic Grey Cup celebration on Yonge Street, which reportedly had more police than revellers.

No, this is not U.S. College football, with tens of thousands of fans and million dollar sponsorship deals, but it is Canadian – and that alone should have the drawing power to attract 30,000 people to the Vanier.

For the CIAU faithful, I recommend they equip their armchairs with both seat-belts, as well as an air-bag, to prepare for the battle between this season's top two clubs. For those that don't, I hope while flipping the channels between American college games, you might inadvertently stop on TSN. If so, you will realize that short of the glitter, the CIAU is just as exciting as American college football. Hope your necks aren't too sore after getting a taste of some real football action. Don't tell me I didn't warn you.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997