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Saturday, November 24, 2012

GREY CUP NOTES

TORONTO - Back in the day, football halftime shows were marching bands and faded stars. But in 1991 the Super Bowl switched it up, booking a chart-topping boy band. Since then, step by step, halftime shows for the Super Bowl and the Grey Cup have become pop culture events in their own rights, drawing huge TV audiences and commensurate commercial revenue.

Think you know your Grey Cup and Super Bowl halftime trivia? Game on!

1. Which Boston-born phenoms rocked the 1991 Super Bowl halftime?

2. Who headlined the Grey Cup's 1991 halftime show? (Hint: Like Madonna, this one-named star frequently wore gloves.)

3. Only two musical acts have played both the Grey Cup and Super Bowl halftime shows. And only one - hailing from Canada - claimed the honour in a single football season. Not impressed much? Well then, name the act - and the song performed at both shows.

4. The other performers to pump it at both halftime shows played the Grey Cup in 2005 and the Super Bowl in 2011. Who are they?

5. What Canadian rock 'n' roll legend has headlined two Grey Cup halftime shows, with different bands? Name the artist and the bands.

6. Non-Canadian acts are rare in Grey Cup halftime history; and Canadians have been rare in Super Bowl shows. Name two Canadian performers who've taken centre stage at the Super Bowl. (Hint: Think crop-tops and Coneheads.)

7. Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction at the end of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime. Which iconic Canadian band had no sartorial situations and managed to stay fully and completely clothed at the 2004 Grey Cup halftime show?

Answers: 1. New Kids On The Block. 2. Luba. 3. Shania Twain; "Up''. 4. The Black Eyed Peas. 5. Randy Bachman; The Guess Who (2000) and Bachman & Turner (2010). 6. Shania Twain and Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, 1997). 7. The Tragically Hip.

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TORONTO - They are two boys from Ontario, who grew up about 300 kilometres from each other.

But the distance is galactic between the two acts that will bookend the Grey Cup halftime show Sunday - grizzled folk rocker Gordon Lightfoot and baby-faced former moptopper Justin Bieber.

Some CFL fans aren't feeling the love for Bieber, who typically draws an audience far too young for the beer that is a staple of Grey Cup celebrations.

Comment sections on news websites suggest that even with the roof closed for Sunday's game, the welcome at the Rogers Centre may not be all that warm for the mega-star from Stratford, Ont.

But league executives are delighted with their headliner, knowing full well a demographic that would never otherwise tune into the CFL's season finale may now be planning their day around the halftime show.

"Yes, we want to get new people watching it, we want to get young people watching it,'' CFL commissioner Mark Cohon says of the show's lineup.

The halftime show will also feature the band Marianas Trench and Mission, B.C., pop sensation Carly Rae Jepsen, whose `"Call Me Maybe'' is the ear worm song of the year.

"People ask me if the decision on the halftime show was your 6 1/2-year-old daughter and I will say, 'No.' But the decision was strategic to making sure we get young people to think about the next 100 years, that this is about getting a new audience to get into the Grey Cup and the CFL.''

The 15-minute halftime show will be a tight production, the CFL promises, performed on a stage that will be lowered from the stadium's rafters.

It will open with Lightfoot, a Bob Dylan contemporary and Canadian music icon. In fact, Lightfoot, 74, personified CanCon before former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's policy of reserving space on Canadian airwaves for home-grown music laid the foundation for the waves of Canadian music megastars that followed.

There may be some interplay of performers - Bieber has boosted Jepsen's career and she's handing off to him. But don't expect to see Lightfoot leaning in to provide backing vocals on "Baby'' or Bieber, 18, trilling along to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.'' (For the record, the CFL isn't releasing the official song lineup in advance.)

"That's not going to happen, no,'' says Sara Moore, the league's vice-president of marketing. "I think both artists on their own make such a strong statement, and have their own fans, and have such iconic songs in the case of Gordon Lightfoot and really fun pop songs to sing along with Justin Bieber that I think we showcase them both so much better by letting them sing on their own.''

Getting Bieber is a major coup, Moore admits. She won't reveal how the star was landed, but says he's a fan of the game.

"He grew up in Ontario. He's a fan of Canadian football. And he was actually ... I mean, I don't want to make it sound easy, but it was a great match. And I think he saw that,'' she says.

"He's touring right now. He's got a very successful tour. It's in Canada right now, which makes it easier than it might have been, had he been in Asia or Europe to get him to come back. So I think all of the stars aligned, so to speak, to make this happen this weekend.''

The league has heard from fans that don't think Bieber and the Grey Cup are a great match, she admits. But with tickets for the 100th edition of the CFL championship sold out months before the halftime show came together, there's no risk for the league in plowing ahead anyway.

And in fact, there may be more risk for Canadian football if it doesn't bring Bieber fans and their demographic on board.

"Anything that makes it to a hundred has to keep reinventing itself to some extent. Has to keep being fresh and new,'' Moore says.

"We've been really focused on using the opportunity of the 100th milestone to celebrate the past but really focus everybody's attention on the great position the league is in now and what the future is for our league.

"And if you look at young artists, like Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, and who their fans are, that is our future. That is the future of this league.''

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TORONTO - It has been quite a stretch run for Ricky Ray.

The Toronto quarterback has been outstanding his last four starts, a key reason why the Argonauts will face the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th Grey Cup on Sunday night at Rogers Centre.

The 33-year-old Ray has completed 95-of-130 passes (73 per cent) over that span for 1,326 yards. More importantly, he has thrown 11 touchdown strikes against just one interception since suffering a knee injury versus Montreal on Sept. 23 that forced him to miss three straight starts.

The Argos had high expectations of Ray when they acquired him in the blockbuster deal last December with the Edmonton Eskimos. Not only did Toronto acquire a nine-year CFL veteran, but they got a two-time Grey Cup champion with a reputation of being a pinpoint passer.

While the six-foot-three, 210-pound Ray struggled initially becoming acclimated with rookie head coach Scott Milanovich's offence, he did show a deft passing touch this season. Ray's 68.6-per-cent passing completion was tops among league starters this season and he surpassed the 4,000-yard passing plateau for the seventh time in his CFL career.

But Ray has been at his best since returning from his knee injury Oct. 19. He has looked very comfortable under centre and surpassed the 300-yard passing plateau in three of his last four starts, including a 399-yard performance in Toronto's 27-20 road win over Montreal in last weekend's East Division final at Olympic Stadium.

Toronto has fallen behind in both of its playoff games this year but been buoyed by the even-keel, no-panic approach of its quarterback who has twice successfully rallied his team from 10-0 deficits to post-season victories.

Ray's deft passing touch is a crucial element of a Toronto offence that relies heavily on the aerial game. The Argos were third overall in passing this season (285 yards per game) and last in rushing (89.6 yards per game).

It's also no accident that with Ray under centre, Toronto's Chad Owens was the CFL's top receiver this season with 94 catches for 1,328 yards and six TDs. The Flyin' Hawaiian _ named the CFL's outstanding player Thursday night _ seems to step up into another gear with Ray at the controls, registering eight catches for 52 yards and no TDs in the three games Ray missed with his knee injury.

On Sunday, by comparison, Owens had 11 receptions for a club playoff-record 207 yards against Montreal.

An effective Ray is also a big boost to Toronto's ground attack because he draws attention away from running back Chad Kackert. And that has made Kackert a dangerous weapon in the playoffs for the Argos.

The speedy running back had 88 yards rushing and a TD on 15 carries in Toronto's 42-26 East Division semifinal win over Edmonton before adding 139 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries against Montreal. The five-foot-nine, 198-pound Kackert could be the Argos' X-factor against Calgary.

Calgary counters with a pretty good offensive punch of its own, finishing tied with Montreal for TDs (51 each) and second overall in scoring (29.7 points per game). Quarterback Kevin Glenn is a veteran and guided the Stampeders to nine regular-season wins after starter Drew Tate's shoulder injury, then led the club past B.C. in the West Division final after Tate was diagnosed with a broken forearm.

Glenn accumulated more passing yards (4,220 to 4,059) and TDs (25 to 20) than Ray, but also had more interceptions (16 to 11). Calgary also boasted the better ground attack, anchored by CFL rushing leader Jon Cornish - the league's top Canadian this yet. Slotback Nik Lewis added a league-high 100 catches.

But Glenn is a very streaky player capable of great highs and the lowest of lows whereas Ray has been very consistent of late. Glenn is also appearing in his first Grey Cup game while Ray will be in his third and was the MVP of Edmonton's 38-35 overtime win over Montreal in the '05 CFL championship.

Toronto not only swept this year's season series with Calgary 2-0 but has won its last five head-to-head meetings. In both games this year, the Argos defence held Cornish under 100 yards rushing.

In the playoffs, Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones - who held that position last year with Calgary - has been a master of making adjustments on the fly to give Ray and Co. time to get on track. And Toronto's offence has been able to, scoring a CFL-record 31 points in the second quarter against Edmonton before taking control of the conference final by outscoring Montreal 14-0 in the third to erase a 17-10 deficit.

Calgary is a slight two-point favourite in the game, surprising given the Argos' record against the Stampeders and their having home-field advantage. But CFL teams are 6-6 overall as the Grey Cup host.

There's something about this Toronto team that creates the belief it's one of destiny, that the stars have all aligned this year for the CFL team with the most Grey Cup titles to add to its impressive total at home on the 100th anniversary of the iconic game.

If Toronto falls behind early, it will have the confidence to follow the lead of its quiet, unassuming offensive leader like it has the previous two weeks. And storming out to the lead in a one-game, winner-take-all affair will only serve to buoy the Argos' confidence, especially with a rabid Rogers Centre gathering exceeding 50,000 spectators.

Prediction - Toronto by three points.

© 2012 The Canadian Press

1 comment:

Mike from Vita said...

All 4 halftime acts will appeal to a select group, but not all. We could have someone that no one likes, so be happy!