Yes, it’s that time again. The biggest annual sporting event takes place tonight at the NRG Stadium in Houston. This year, the Conference champions decided are the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. It promises to be a tight game. It also promises to be a big event.
I don’t need to go into the history of the Super Bowl this time around. I did that in last year’s Super Bowl blog. For those who want to read it, click here. Although this will be Super Bowl LI, its 50th anniversary was three weeks ago. But whatever. It’s time to get on with the show.
Stars of the Broadway musical Hamilton will sing America The Beautiful before the game. The Star Spangled Banner will be sung by country singer Luke Bryan. Former president and former first lady George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush will do the coin toss and Lady Gaga will do the half-time show.
Of course there are those one-of-a-kind Super Bowl ads. Ads will cost $5 million for a 30-second airing. Snickers will present a live commercial during the game. Nintendo will introduce its Nintendo Switch video game console. However an ad Budweiser planned on showing during the Super Bowl garnered controversy. It showcased Adolphus Busch immigrating to the U. S. and partnering with Eberhart Anheuser. Many people, especially conservatives, suspected this ad was a pot shot to Donald Trump and his recent restrictive immigration policies.
Yes, the match. The NRG Stadium in Houston is expected to seat 80,000 for the game. The game is expected to be witnessed on television by billions worldwide and have 38 different cameras around the stadium highlighting the players’ plays. For all its hype, the match features two top contenders: the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
New England Patriots
The Patriots come in as the favorite for the Super Bowl. They had the best results in the whole of the NFL regular season with 14 wins and two losses. They also played excellently during the conference matches too. The Patriots are no strangers to the Super Bowl as they’ve won their AFC championship nine times including this year and won the Super Bowl four times before: the most recent being 2014.
This year the Patriots have shown a lot of consistency but it’s not without controversy. We all know about Tom Brady and ‘Deflategate.’ It would not surprise me if many want the Patriots to lose because of that. Tom Brady still ranks as one of the top quarterbacks of the NFL and he will be very tough for the Falcons and their defense to bring him down. However the Falcons have excelled in scoring so they will give the Patriots a good fight.
The Falcons are the underdogs. Not just because they don’t have the same win-loss stats as the Patriots but because previous games have exposed their weaknesses. They are the top team of the NFL in terms of scoring but they finished the regular season second in the NFC.
If there’s one thing, the Falcons really came back in the playoffs. They won their Divisional Final against the Seahawks whom they lost to in regular season and they played brilliantly in their Conference Final against the Green Bay Packers. The Super Bowl will prove to be an interesting rivalry as the Patriots have the better defense but the Falcons are the better team at scoring. Also New England may have Tom Brady but Atlanta has Matt Ryan. This year, Ryan set a Falcons single-game record for throwing 503 yards and four touchdowns while teammate Julio Jones caught a team-record 300 yards and a touchdown and a win against the Panthers. So the Falcons know how to arrive.
Okay, one team has been to the Super Bowl many times while this is the second time for the other. One team played the best in the NFL in regular season and continues its brilliance. The other didn’t compare to the other in regular season but has played better than ever in the playoffs. In fact both teams performed brilliantly in their Conference Final wins.
So I predict the win to go to the New England Patriots. I predict the score to be 30-27 and I expect the Falcons to lead temporarily.
So there you have it. There’s my preview of Super Bowl LI. Kickoff to start at 5:30pm Texas time.
DISCLAIMER: Seeing all the hits made in the past week to my Super Bowl blog from last year prompted me to publish my pre-Super Bowl blog earlier than expected. Just to let you know my prediction could change in the days leading up to the Bowl.
Can you believe this will be the 50th Super Bowl? For some who are old enough to remember the first, it would be hard to believe. Nevertheless this American ritual will be having its 50th on Sunday February 7th at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. This year it’s the AFC’s Denver Broncos versus the NFC’s Carolina Panthers.
THE START OF AN AMERICAN TRADITION
The Super Bowl actually came out of a league rivalry. The NFL began in 1920 but there was an AFL, the American Football League, that formed in 1960 and it provided some heated rivalry with the NFL. In 1966, a merger was worked out between the NFL and the AFL in which would take full effect in 1970. In the meantime, both league’s top teams would compete in a ‘World Championship’ event.
The first Super Bowl which was actually called the ‘First AFL-NFL World Championship Game’ was held on January 15, 1967 in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The NFL team was the Green Bay Packers led by Vince Lombardi. The AFL team was the Kansas City Chiefs. NBC had the rights to broadcast NFL games while CBS had the rights to broadcast AFL games which meant both networks could show the first Super Bowl: the only Super Bowl which was telecasted by two networks at once.
There was a halftime show but it wasn’t the show as we know it. The show featured trumpeter Al Hirt with the marching bands of the University of Arizona and Grambling State University followed by the release of 300 pigeons and 10,000 balloons and a flying demonstration by the Bell Rocket Air Men. There was also pregame entertainment and performances after each quarter from the Los Angeles Rammettes. The game was held on a sunny day with 22º Celsius (or 73º Fahrenheit) weather and the game was won by the Packers 35-10. Interesting fact: the players of the winning team the Packers were each paid $15,000 and each player of the Chiefs were paid $7,500. Oh yeah, the cost of airing a 30-second commercial was $42,000.
Over time the Super Bowl would grow in both ratings and stature. The Packers’ win in the second Super Bowl, which would be the first Super Bowl by name, would add to the legend of coach Vince Lombardi. Ratings would grow considerably, the cost of airing a 30-second commercial would also grow hugely, marching band performances during the Halftime show would eventually be replaced over time first in 1976 by the ensemble Up With People–the first of four Super Bowl appearances for the ensemble– and would follow with performances by Disney, Michael Jackson, New Kids On The Block, Aerosmith and of course the infamous duo of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. The Super Bowl is now watched over 100 million Americans. In fact last year’s game amassed a record US audience of 114.4 million viewers. It’s even attracted viewers worldwide with a total worldwide audience of 160 million last year.
Okay. So what does this year’s Super Bowl have planned? For starters, let’s focus on the stadium. The host venue will be the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, the home venue for the San Francisco 49ers and the newest stadium of the NFL. It took over two years of construction to complete at an expense of $2 billion. It has a regular capacity of 68,500 that can be expanded to 75,000 which will of course happen Super Bowl Sunday. As of press time, it has not been decided who will sing the national anthem.
Oh yes, the half-time show. Two months ago it was revealed that ‘multiple acts’ will perform in the show. Remember the alleged financial fiasco last year that led Coldplay and Rihanna from balking out of last year’s show? Well Coldplay agreed back in December to perform this year and be the headlining act. Two headlining acts from past Super Bowls Beyonce from Super Bowl XLVII and Bruno Mars from Super Bowl XLVIII, have been confirmed by Pepsi that they will also be performing.
AND NOW A WORD…
Yes, the Super Bowl ads. Every Super Bowl provides us with memorable ads like Mean Joe Greene’s Coke And A Smile, Apple’s 1984, McDonald’s Jordan/Bird hoops showdown, the Budweiser frogs, Mr. Old Spice and Volkswagen’s Darth Vader ad. Last year is most memorable for a commercial remembered for worse thanks to Nationwide Insurance. That commercial about the boy who died in the car accident sparked a social media outrage because most felt it interfered with their enjoyment. Nationwide responded they did the ad to start conversation.
Much to many people’s relief, Nationwide does not appear to back advertising this year. Advertising for a 30-second spot will come at the expense of $5 million. Surprisingly this will be the last year Anheuser-Busch will be advertising multiple ads during the game at a steep discount as part of their contract. This is also the tenth and last year Doritos will have their ‘Crash The Super Bowl’ contest to allow viewers to air their ads. The Pokemon Company will be airing an ad to celebrate their 20th anniversary and QuickBooks is sponsoring a contest to allow ten businesses to air their commercial during the game. Also expect a lot of movie companies to plug their upcoming releases.
THE LOW DOWN
Now enough of the hype. Let’s get down to the game. One thing about this Super Bowl is that with it being the 50th, it will be known as Super Bowl 50 instead of Super Bowl L. Also with it being the 50th, the winning team will not only hold the Super Bowl all year but will also receive an honorary 18-karat gold-plated 50 weighing 66 lbs. The game will pit the AFC winner Denver Broncos against the NFC winner Carolina Panthers. So how do they fare?
The Broncos are no strangers to the Super Bowl. This Super Bowl makes them the fourth team ever to make a record eight Super Bowl appearances. They’ve only won twice, back-to-back in 1997 and 1998. Hey, there was a big long AFC dry-spell which the Broncos broke.
This year the Broncos were one of three teams in the AFC including the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots that had a 12 win-4 loss season this year. The Broncos came out on top because of less points conceded. The season started with a new head coach in Gary Kubiak and John Elway, who helped the Broncos win both Bowls, continuing as general manager. There were 15 departures and more than 30 signings and three trades and eight signed in the NFL draft.
The Broncos started their regular season on a stellar note winning their first seven games. Their only losses came against the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers. During the AFC playoffs, they were able to avenge their loss to the Steelers by winning 23-16 and won the championship against the New England Patriots 20-18.
This has been an excellent year for the Broncos. No doubt about it Peyton Manning is still on even after a tear in his foot back in November and the defense is the admiration of the league. However I saw the AFC game and I saw both the Broncos and the Patriots commit a lot of fumbles and clumsy errors. I was tempted to think neither of them deserved to qualify for the Bowl. Whatever the situation, the Broncos will have to get their game on for the big day.
While the Broncos know how to play in a Super Bowl, the Panthers are almost like rookies. They’ve only played in the Super Bowl once and it was back during Super Bowl XXXVIII where they lost to the Patriots. This year they deliver what could be their best team ever. Heck if there’s one team that could truly call this year their year, it’s the Panthers. Winning their first thirteen games, they set an NFC record for best start of a season and one of only three teams in the NFL’s history to have a 13-0 start. Their only loss of their regular season games came from the Atlanta Falcons. On top of it, this was Cam Newton’s year as he became the first quarterback to throw 30 touchdowns and rush for 10 in a single season. As for playoffs, they faced a stiff challenge from the Seattle Seahawks but won 31-24. However it was their NFC Championship game where they really put on a show by beating the Arizona Cardinals 49-15.
If you saw that game against the Cardinals, you could tell that the Panthers were on fire. They committed few errors and delivered team play like no other team. On top of that Cam Newton looked like the player of the year. However they have not played the Denver Broncos so they might know what type of defense they have. As for Panthers’ defense, they faced a setback in Sunday’s game as Thomas Davis broke his arm. Even though he’s undergoing rehab and plans to play in the Super Bowl, it’s still a question if he’ll be healed in time to play.
MY PREDICTION FOR THE WIN
This is not going to be easy. One’s experienced in Super Bowl play while one is more eager than ever. The Broncos have the top defense but the Panthers have the offensive edge. This could be a game where Peyton Manning ads to his legacy or the game where a new legend by the name of Cam Newton arrives. Sure, the Broncos won in clumsy fashion on Sunday while the Panthers were brilliant but that was one day. Super Bowl Sunday could tell a different story. So I will predict that Super Bowl 50 will be won by the Carolina Panthers 25-20. Plus it’s always a delight to see a team win a Super Bowl for the first time ever.
And there you have it. My thoughts on Super Bowl 50. Should be a delightful game. The entertainment both on the field and during commercial time should also be memorable and hopefully very entertaining. Both teams’ fates will be decided Sunday February 7th.
This Sunday will feature the 103rd Grey Cup. The best of the CFL have been narrowed down to two teams and it will all take place in Winnipeg’s Investor’s Group Field. Lots of excitement is planning to happen. As well as a tight showdown expected.
This will be the fourth time ever the city of Winnipeg has hosted the Grey Cup. In each of the three previous times, it was held in Winnipeg Stadium later to be renamed CanadInns Stadium. This marks the first Grey Cup contested in Winnipeg that will be held in the Investors Group field. Just two and a half years since it hosted its first event, the Field is now hosting its first-ever Grey Cup. This would be a far trek for most Grey Cup fans who used to have an easier time traveling to Winnipeg Stadium as it was located close to the city centre. Investor’s Group Field is located inside the University of Manitoba lands in the south of the city. Quite a longer distance for those staying in downtown hotels or even at hotels close to the airport.
The national anthem is to be sung by 26 year-old Quebec singer Bobby Bazini and halftime-show will feature another non-Canadian act this year: Chicago band Fall Out Boy. The game itself will pit the East team of the Ottawa RedBlacks versus the West team of the Edmonton Eskimos. One won their last Grey Cup ten years ago, one will hope to win their city’s first Grey Cup in almost forty years. How do they fare?
Ottawa has been one city that has struggled to keep a team as part of the CFL. The Ottawa RoughRiders were formed in 1876, were part of the founding of the CFL back in 1958 until their demise in 1996. They won eight Grey Cup: five since the founding of the CFL. Their last Grey Cup appearance was back in 1981. Ottawa attempted a return to the CFL in 2002 with the Renegades but they only lasted four seasons. That was mostly because of the shotty conditions of the Frank Clair Stadium that was showing its age. A major reconstruction that started in 2008 would pave the way for Ottawa to have a better stadium and a return to the CFL.
Last year Ottawa returned back to the CFL with their new team the RedBlacks. As what should be expected, they came in last. This year marked a major turn around as they came in the top of the East Division winning 14 of their 20 games. Interestingly enough, it was coached by Rick Campbell, the same coach that coached them during their debut season last year. Their success is not only due to better coaching from Campbell but also due to a trade of one player and the acquisition of four new players through free agency. Back at this year’s CFL draft in May, they were also able to make six selections from the seven-round draft.
Their season actually started off slow as they lost four of their first ten games. their second ten games resulted in only two losses. The only three teams they lost to this year were Edmonton, Toronto and Calgary. By being first in the East, they just had to play the divisional semifinal against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to qualify for the Cup. The RedBlacks’ last two games of the regular season were against the Ti_cats and they won both 12-6 and 44-28 respectively. In the division final, they repeated their dominance over the Ti-Cats by winning 35-28.
Their improvement in a single year has definitely been the talk of the CFL. Even if they don’t win the Cup, their qualification alone is already considered a victory. However of course the RedBlacks will want to win. This is a big question mark because the RedBlacks lost to the Eskimos in both of their regular season games. However both games were held in July and the RedBlacks have changed a lot over the period of four months. Sure, there’s the talk of the Eskimos’ defense but Ottawa’s Henry Burris/Jason Maas offense is what gave Ottawa their success this year. We’llsee if Ottawa can pull the biggest upset of the CFL in a long time.
This is Edmonton’s first time in the Grey Cup final since they won back in 2005. They have a total of 13 Grey Cup wins and 11 losses. Many are predicting this to be Grey Cup #14 for them and with good reason. The Eskimos were the top team of the CFL winning sixteen of their twenty games. Their losses came to Toronto, BC, Hamilton and Calgary but none of their losses happened in Commonwealth Stadium this year. The Eskimos have been lucky to win against all eight of the other teams this year in at least one occasion. Qualifying for the Cup was relatively simple as they just had to win the Division Final to qualify. Their rival were the defending Cup champions the Calgary Stampeders whom the Eskimos lost to on one occasion in regular season but won the second occasion. In the final held in Commonwealth Stadium, it was Edmonton’s for the taking with an early big lead which Calgary couldn’t recover from. The final score: Edmonton 45 – Calgary 31.
This year’s team of the Eskimos acquired five players in the CFL Draft, traded one before the CFL season began and traded four more during the season’s play. The talk of Edmonton is their defense, the best in the CFL with Chris Jones leading the pack. Even though Ottawa has a better offense, Mike Reilly is capable of pulling off a top offense. However we shouldn’t simply dismiss the Grey Cup as Edmonton’s to take. Sure, the Eskimos beat the RedBlacks in both of their regular season meetings, that was four months ago and the RedBlacks have improved big-time. Even Ottawa dominating possession could be a big boost to their offense and deliver an upset to Edmonton. Not even the best team is unbeatable. It could be possible Ottawa can deliver a surprise.
THE BIG GAME AND MY PREDICTION
Thinking about it, I will have to predict the Edmonton Eskimos will win 28-18. Sure, Ottawa’s boost from last to Grey Cup finalist may be the talk of the CFL but I think their Cinderella Story will end here. Edmonton is that stronger of a team and they have some of the best performers of the CFL this year to deliver the win.
And there you go. That’s my Grey Cup prediction. Maybe relying on sabermetrics is a good thing. Kickoff is 5pm Winnipeg time Sunday. Stay toond!
NOTE (Added Jan. 18/2016): Thank you to all the visitors to this post. I didn’t know I’d get so many all of a sudden. To thank you all for hitting this blog, I published my preview of Super Bowl 50 sooner than planned and it’s ready for you here.
Yes, Sunday February 1st will be Super Bowl Sunday. The game that’s both a major event for football fans and a media hype will feature the Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Here’s what’s expected:
The XLIX Super Bowl was originally planned to be held in Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. However this was reliant on the installation of a retractable roof dependent on two sales taxes up for vote. That became something the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and several civic and business groups voted against. It took until 2011 to decide the host site of the University of Phoenix Stadium with an expandable capacity of 72,000. Idina Menzel, or ‘Adela Nazim’ as John Travolta pronounced it, will sing the national anthem.
The halftime show was a bit of a struggle to assemble performers together. Their original choices for the show sponsored by Pepsi Cola were Coldplay, Katy Perry and Rihanna. However difficulties arose when league representatives asked their agent if they would provide financial compensation in the form of an up-front fee or a cut from their post-Super Bowl concert revenue. At least that’s what the wall Street Journal tells us, as was the ‘chilly’ response from those involved. And NFL spokeswoman denied this but Katy Perry was the only one of the three who has agreed to perform at the halftime show. She will be headlining the show along with special guests Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot.
AND NOW A WORD…
With the Super Bowl comes the tradition of their one-of-a-kind commercialfest. It’s been a buzz for three decades possibly starting with Apple’s 1984 ad. Airing a 30-second commercial will cost $4.5 million: $500,000 more than last year and the year before. Although it’s to be expected for auto advertisers to have much of the air time, there will be a lot more first-time Super Bowl advertisers like Skittles, Carnival Cruise Lines, Loctite, Morphie and Wix.com amongst the ten newbies. Movie previews will be another major advertising commodity as Paramount, Universal, Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate will be showcasing trailers for movies like Terminator Genesys, Jurassic World, Minions, The Fantastic Four and Tomorrowland.
One team is the last to win back-to-back championships back in 2005. One appears poised to become the first team since. Here’s how they fared this season:
New England Patriots
The Patriots began their regular season with a loss and ended with a loss. In between was an excellent season consisting of a total of twelve wins and four losses. That put them on par with the Denver Broncos on game stats but came out on top of the AFC because of point differentials. However they didn’t have as many decisive wins as the Seahawks did. Their playoffs started with a close 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens but their AFC Championship was a very decisive 45-7: their most decisive victory all year. That was enough to send a message to the Seahawks that they could just block their path to being repeat Super Bowl champions.
The Hawks were last year’s winners with the most decisive win since 1993. As for 2014, like the Patriots, the Seahawks had twelve wins and four losses. So did two other teams in the NFC but the Hawks came out on top because of point differentials, just like the Patriots. Their wins in the regular season have had wider margins than that of the Patriots. However things were different for the Hawks during playoff games. They had a 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers for the Divisional championships and a 28-22 win in overtime over the Packers for the NFC Championships. That could put the Seahawks consistency in question and have people wondering if their luck.
MY PREDICTION FOR THE WIN
I’ll admit this is hard. It’s not like the CFL where all the teams play each other at least twice during the regular season. This is the NFL that’s loaded with more teams and is most often the case that the two Super Bowl contenders never met during the season, just like this year.
This is often the case where I would have to do a lot of reading up to decide. One thing to take note of is that both teams have had some key losses of players. Seahawks have lost Percy Harvin to trades and both Brandon Mebane and Jordan Hill to injury. Their replacement players don’t have the same defensive tackle and that could hurt if the Patriots are strong in the offense. The Patriots lost Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley to injury but have backup players can fill their shoes. On top of it, LeGarrette Blount has returned to the Patriots, giving the team a much-needed boost. I will have to give the win to the New England Patriots but I believe it will be a tight game that could result in low scoring. I predict the score to be 15-12.
So there you have it. My thoughts on tomorrow’s Super Bowl. The champion will be decided tomorrow night. Stay toond.
This weekend will mark the 102nd Grey Cup. Yes, even though us Canadians like celebrating Super Bowl Sunday, we also celebrate Grey Cup Sunday where we salute our own football league and we crown our own champions. Plus an extra excuse to pig out on munchies. Yes, one of the best things about being Canadian is we can hold two football parties in the year.
The 102nd Grey Cup is especially exciting because Vancouver is hosting! Interesting how we only get a three-year wait for hosting the Cup. Well it’s interesting to know the last time we hosted, we started a streak. The streak being consecutive Grey Cups won by the host city. Crazy thing is that we will mark the end of that streak this year because the Lions lost in the playoffs! Yes, a bit of a downer. Besides how did we end up playing for the East division semis anyways?
This year’s Grey Cup is called the ‘Roar On The Shore.’ Lots of festivities are planned to happen even as soon as Thursday. A parade of course will happen Saturday morning. The Cup has Dallas Smith and Nikki Yanofsky planned to sing the national anthem. This is a welcome back for Nikki as she is famous for singing I Believe: the official song of the Vancouver Olympics. The big surprise is that an American band, the Imagine Dragons, are halftime show performers. This is the first Grey Cup in seven years where a non-Canadian act provides the halftime show entertainment. I don’t know about you but I don’t think it’s right having a non-Canadian performer for the halftime show.
This has been a unique year for the CFL. For one thing, the league returned to nine teams as Ottawa came back with a new team, the RedBlacks, and Winnipeg returned to the Western division like they should. Also unique is how many miles ahead the West is over the East. Just look at the regular season stats yourself.
As for the actual game, the West will be represented by the Calgary Stampeders. The East will be represented by the Hamilton TigerCats. One’s a finalist from last year, one’s a finalist from two years ago. One won their last Grey Cup six years ago. The other won their last one fifteen years ago. Both finished their regular season top of their division but one was the top of the league. And both teams’ head coaches have won at least one Grey Cup in the past.
Already it’s fair to say that the Calgary Stampeders are the CFL team of the year. The Stampeders finished the regular season with the best record of all CFL teams with 15 wins and only three losses. Also this looks to be Jon Cornish’s year as he has become one of the biggest standouts of the CFL this year.
Right now it’s hard to find a flaw in them that could cause me to think they’d lose the Grey Cup. Especially since they won their division finals game against the Edmonton Eskimos by a huge margin: 43-18. Particularily remarkable since the Stampeders won both their regular season games against them but by 28-13 and 41-34.
However we should also know there are no guarantees in sport. We should also keep in mind that yes, the Stampeders beat the TiCats in both their regular season games but both wins were close ones: 10-7 and 30-20. We should also keep in mind is that the TiCats’ last loss to the Stampeders would be their turning point to becoming better and more victorious over the remainder of the season. The Stampeders know how to win against the TiCats, no doubt about that. The question is can they deliver on Sunday?
The Tiger-Cats had the misfortune of a tough season opening: they lost six of their first seven games. However they had a big turnaround that started on Labor Day with a win against the Toronto Argonauts and things got better and better for them by winning eight of their last eleven regular season games. They finished the season with nine wins and nine losses like the Montreal Allouetes but they finished at the top of the Western division because of point differentials.
The TiCats showed they can really deliver now as they were able to win the Eastern final against the Allouetes 40-24. And the Allouetes were one of the teams they lost to during their ‘losing streak’ early this season.
No doubt the TiCats are the most improved team of the CFL but the question his have they improved enough to rival the Stampeders? We should keep in mind that Calgary was not only team of the year during regular season but regular season also showed a near-dominance of the West in overall league stats. In face Hamilton may have finished top of the East with nine wins and nine losses but nine wins and losses is also the same stat of the BC Lions: the team that finished fourth in the West. In fact Hamilton has lost at least one game to all five West teams. This lagging behind of the East could become prevalent on Sunday.
THE BIG GAME AND MY PREDICTION
This is going to be a toughie. Sure Calgary beat Hamilton in both regular season games. But Hamilton improved greatly after their second loss to Calgary. However I’m not going to make the same mistake I made with the World Cup semi-final where I predicted Brazil would beat Germany 1-0. I couldn’t have been wronger. So I will trust my instinct and predict the Calgary Stampeders to win 38-20. This will make it the fourth Grey Cup for coach John Hufnagel.
And there you go. That’s my Grey Cup prediction. Funny how Grey Cup is second to Canada Day in terms of Canadian patriotism. Kickoff is 3pm Vancouver time Sunday. Stay toond!
We all love Brazilian football because at its best, Brazilian football is the paradigm of how we want football to be played. We want it musical, we want amazing skills but we want the kind of friendship and the teamwork also beautifully mixed and working together.
-Alex Bellos, author
Remember back when I did my blog on Russia’s Winter Olympic Legacy I mentioned my naive belief as a kid that if a country had a big sporting legacy, they deserved to host an Olympics? Anyways I would also have that naive belief for hosting the World Cup too. It’s not that embarrassing since every country that’s won the World Cup has hosted in the past. If I thought that now, it would be kind of embarrassing because of how expensive it is. Whatever the situation, you can’t deny Brazil’s legacy.
BEFORE THERE WAS A WORLD CUP
So the question is how did a British sport like football become almost religion-like in Brazil? Well there are some beliefs but no real conclusion on who first introduced it. Some believe it was introduced to Brazil by a Scottish expatriate by the name of Thomas Donohue. In fact the first ever football match contested in Brazil was played in a pitch marked out by Donohue near his workplace in Bangu back in April, 1894. Some believe it was introduced to Brazil by Charles William Miller, son of John Miller who worked on a railway construction project in Sao Paulo in the 1870’s. Charles not only learned football while studying in Southhampton but when he return home from his studies in 1892, he brought with him some football equipment and a rule book. He introduced it through the Sao Paulo Athletic Club. Miller was a great coach to the team and he was even able to get two English teams to play against the Athletic Club and other teams in Sao Paulo. You could say the rest is history.
Eventually Brazil would get its own national football federation–the Brazilian Football Federation–on June 8, 1914 and their first international match was a match between a team combined team from a club from Rio and a club from Sao Paulo against English club Exeter City shortly thereafter.
A SO-SO START
Those who are into World Cup trivia may know that Brazil has been in every World Cup since it started in 1930. It’s not to say that they began with a bang. In fact the BFF was not the best at organizing national teams for quite a while. In 1930, organizing national teams was a relatively new idea at the time so you can imagine getting a team for the very first World Cup would be through the same thought process today. In fact only thirteen countries, including Brazil, though the inaugural World Cup was worth competing in. Back at the first World Cup, there was only one group of four teams and three groups of three teams. Brazil faced Yugoslavia and Bolivia in their group. They lost to Yugoslavia 2-1 and won against Bolivia 4-0. Despite finishing second, they did not advance as only the #1 team from each group advanced and Yugoslavia finished #1. Their next World Cup, Italy in 1934, was also lackluster as the whole tournament was a last-team standing competition–no First Round group play at all–and Brazil lost its opening match: against Spain 3-1. That ended their World Cup run fast.
However things were really starting to look up for Brazil in France in 1938. Their team was much better and it featured the legendary Leonidas. As in 1934, it was a last-team-standing format from start to finish. Brazil won its opening match against Poland 6-5 with Leonidas scoring a hat-trick and won its quarterfinal against Czechoslovakia. Actually they needed a second quarterfinal to play as they tied the first 1-1. Brazil won the second 2-1. However they were stopped in the semifinals by eventual winner Italy 2-1. Brazil did win the third place match against Sweden 4-2 and Leonidas was the top scorer with 7 goals. Too bad the Golden Foot award wasn’t awarded back then.
Brazil hosted in 1950. I’ll actually save that competition for another blog as I will tell about the infamous Maracanazo and the crazy aftermath that happened since. Few players from 1950 returned in 1954. Brazil was ousted in the quarterfinals by Hungary 4-2.
THE GOLDEN ERA
The era from 1958 to 1970 has to be Brazil’s most treasured because that was when the Brazilian national team was at its best and enchated the world. It all started in 1958 when coach Vicente Feola coached the team and even gave them a list of forty things not to do including smoke in front of journalists. They even brought a psychiatrist to the team. Whatever the situation, Brazil was brilliant in group play with two wins and a draw, winning their quarterfinal against Wales 1-0, their semi against France 5-2 and then winning their final against hosts Sweden 5-2. The top goalscorer may have been Just Fontaine but it was the second-highest scorer–a 17 year-old Brazilian named Pele–that captured the imagination of the world. Even in the group stage, he dazzled crowds with his flare and his goal-scoring ability. Another key note is that Pele wore the number 10 at that World Cup it’s been since common trait that most national teams designate the number 10 to their best players. Pele however won the FIFA Silver Ball award for being the second-best overall player at the World Cup. The winner of the Golden Ball was another Brazilian, Didi, who actually scored a single goal but delivered the best midfield efforts of the tournament.
Pele’s fame grew as did his football playing prowess and the whole Brazilian team garnered fame with him. In Chile in 1962, Pele was back and expected to star again. He did score in the first game but was sidelined with an injury during the second game. That would cause him to miss the rest of the tournament. Nevertheless Brazil performed well as his replacement Amarildo scored three goals and two players, Garrincha and Vava, scored four goals each. Garrincha was considered to be the top player of the tournament. The team also did a noble thing after defeating hosts Chile in the semifinals. They carried the Chilean flag out on the field.
In England in 1966, it appeared success was starting to get to Brazil. They began well with a 2-0 win against Bulgaria that included a goal each by stars Pele and Garrincha but it was all downhill after that with 3-1 losses against Hungary and Portugal. That left Brazil 3rd in the group and out of the tournament: the second of five instances when the defending World Cup champion failed to advance past the Group Stage.
Then came Mexico in 1970. Mario Zagallo, who played for Brazil during its World Cup wins in 1958 and 1962, was assigned coach by the president of Brazil. The president also demanded that many players including the aging Pele be put on the team. Pele first seemed uncomfortable with his role but things changed once the contest started. Brazil won all their Group Stage matches, won their quarterfinal against Peru 4-2, their semifinal against Uruguay 3-1 and then their final against Italy 4-1. Jairzinho was the top goalscorer of the team with 7 goals but it was Pele who won the Golden Ball award for being the best overall player with a performance that included four goals. And to think Pele thought at the beginning he wasn’t good enough for the team. Pele also won the FIFA fair play trophy for not receiving a single yellow or red card. Pele also has the distinction of being the only player to play for three World Cup winning teams. Zagallo made history by becoming the first ever to win the World Cup both as a player and as a coach. Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer is the only other one to do so. On top of that Brazil was given the distinction of being allowed to keep the Jules Rimet trophy for winning the World Cup three times. The 1970 team for Brazil is still considered by many to be the best team ever in World Cup history. The odd irony is that it was only a matter of months until the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen. It was never found.
THE DRY SPELL
After 1970, Pele was no longer part of Brazil’s national team and there was a brand new World Cup trophy that made its debut in 1974 and is the current trophy today. It seems like those marked the end of Brazil’s magic at the time because Brazil would struggle to regain its winning sense. 1974 and 1978 World Cups consisted of not only group play for the opening round but also for a second round for the eight that qualified. The top teams at the end of the second round of Group Play played in the final for the Cup, the second-place teams played for third place and the other four teams headed straight home. In both cases, Brazil came second. Brazil again found itself out of the competition because of second round group play in Spain in 1982. In 1986 started the current format of Group Play and the last-team-standing format that started with a Round of 16. Whatever the situation, Brazil was brilliant in Group Play wining all their games and even winning their Round of 16 game against Poland but drew 1-1 to France in the quarterfinals and then lost the penalty kicks round. 1990 added further insult as Brazil again won all three of their group play games but fell to Argentina 1-0 in the Round of 16.
It was a question to many of why. Was it the format of play? Was it the change of system where Brazilian players were now mostly playing in Europe instead of playing with Brazilian clubs as was the case in Pele’s day? It’s still a wonder.
CALL IT A COMEBACK
These past twenty years have actually seen a resurgence of Brazil’s greatness and even write a new legacy for them. It first started at the 1994 World Cup. This time they came packed with stars like Romario, Bebeto, Taffarel, Dunga and Jorginho. The group were very good, if unspectacular, being very solid in the rounds leading up to the final. The final was a classic rematch against Italy. The game was an unspectacular 0-0 which led to a penalty kicks contest. Brazil won 4-3 and became the first country to win the World Cup four times.
1998 saw the emergence of another young Brazilian with the potential to become a great, Ronaldo. He and the Brazilian team were very good leading up to the final but it was the home country French team that really caught the world’s attention at that World Cup. France has commonly been known as Brazil’s ‘achilles heel’ and they gave Brazil their loss 3-0. Under the guidance of coach Luis Felipe Scolari, Brazil came back in 2002 with the help of the three R’s–Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho– and won the World Cup without a loss. Ronaldo won the Golden Boot award for his scoring of eight goals, the most goals scored in a single World Cup since 1970.
Brazil has continued to maintain a record of consistency since the 2002 World Cup and has continued to produce new stars. Even manager Carlos Alberto Ferreira formed a playing system known as the ‘magic square’ that proved very successful in competitions leading up to the Cup. The ‘square’ appeared to work well in the first rounds of the 2006 World Cup despite the underperforming of star Ronaldinho at the time but they fell in the quarterfinals to their traditional top rival France 1-0. To the surprise of most, Brazil was out in the quarterfinals. Brazil continued to be favored leading up to the 2010 World Cup and even won their ‘group of death’ albeit unspectacularly but fell again in the quarterfinals. This time to the Netherlands 2-1. Further disappointment came at the 2011 Copa America when Brazil lost in the quarterfinals but a major upper came when they won the Confederations Cup against World Cup winners Spain 3-0. Here at this World Cup, Brazil tried to attempt the one football feat they don’t own: winning the World Cup on home soil. They brought Luis Felipe Scolari back to help them win it. They’re also relying heavily on the young great Neymar who has already scored two goals in World Cup play. The remaining three weeks will decide.
Brazil has had a football legacy and it has had its downsides too. You can understand why a country this passionate about football believes that a win of the World Cup is the only acceptable result. You can understand the pressure that the current Brazilian faces leading into this World Cup. You can also understand why a country like Brazil has won more World Cups than any other country and continued to churn out legend after legend. It’s no wonder no country has delivered more football magic than Brazil.
WIKIPEDIA: Brazil National Football Team. Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_national_football_team>
WIKIPEDIA: Football In Brazil. Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_in_Brazil>
WIKIPEDIA: Brazil at the FIFA World Cup. Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_at_the_FIFA_World_Cup>
On Sunday November 24th, the 101st Grey Cup will be contested at Mosaic Stadium at Regina’s Taylor Field. The game promises excitement as it will pit the Saskatchewan RoughRiders against the Hamilton Tiger Cats. But what’s in store for this year?
This year’s Grey Cup is not a milestone Grey Cup like last year. And unfortunately for a Vancouverite like myself, BC won’t be playing like two years ago. Nevertheless the game promises excitement. The defending champions will not be returning. Neither will the teams that finished at the top of their division during the regular season be playing. Instead it’s the two underdogs from both divisions.
The game also brings a return to Mosaic Stadium for the third and last time. Mosaic Stadium has previously hosted in 1995 and 2003, back when it was still called Taylor Field. Normally it seats about 33,000 people but it’s expandable to 55,000. As I said earlier, this will be the last year Mosaic Stadium will host the Grey Cup. Back in July of last year, it was decided that a new staudium was needed for Regina and its Roughriders. The new open-air stadium is expected to be completed by 2017 with an estimated cost of $280 million and is planned for Evraz Place. This will make it a break with a 107-year tradition with Taylor Field being home of the Roughriders.
The entertainers at the Cup are expected to please the crowds. The Saskatoon-based group The Sheepdogs are to perform in the pre-game show, Serena Ryder will sing the national anthem and Hedley will be doing the halftime show. The Roughriders will spend $14 million on temporary seating to increase the capacity to 50,000. Corporate boxes and concessions will also be added. A new 60-foot wide LED screen an scoreboard will be added to the northeast end zone while a 55-foot wide LED screen and scoreboard will be brought to the west grandstand. Now time to check out the two contenders:
Being the host city of a Grey Cup has been a lucky thing for its team for the third year in a row. Two years ago when Vancouver hosted, the Lions qualified and won. Last year when the Skydome was hosting, the Argonauts qualified and won. This year luck is on the side of the RoughRiders. The regular season went well with 11 wins and 7 losses, placing them second in the West just behind Calgary at the end of the season. They were able to score a win against every team they played. Even leading into the playoffs, the RoughRiders had the advantage as both teams they faced–the Lions and the Stampeders– they’ve had at least one win against. Their play experience payed off as they beat the Lions 29-25 and beat the Stampeders 35-13.
HAMILTON TIGER CATS
They came in as a team with small expectations and they now find themselves playing in the Grey Cup. This year was adifficult year for the TiCats as they were not only no longer playing in the Ivor Wynne Stadium but were playing in the Alumni Stadium in Guelph as they were awaiting their new home stadium. They actually started their 2013 season off slow winning only one of their first five games. Almost echoing the BC Lions in 2011. However head coach Kent Austin was able to turn things around and they’ve won nine of their last thirteen regular season games. Like the RoughRiders, they too had at least one regular season win against the playoff opponents they faced and they materialized too beating the Alouettes 19-16 in overtime and the defending Grey Cup champion Argonauts 36-24.
THE BIG GAME AND MY PREDICTION
Coming to the game, my prediction is pretty much solid. I predict the Roughriders to win scoring double whatever Hamilton gets. It’s no doubt of the two teams, Saskatchewan has showed the most muscle this year. They have the strongest offence in the CFL and a very strong defence too. On top of it, Saskatchewan has beaten the TiCats both times they played them this season. It’s not to say the TiCats can pull an upset. Underrated teams have come from behind in the past. Plus keep in mind the losses to Saskatchewan were part of the first five games where the TiCats struggled. We have a whole new set of TiCats since so Saskatchewan should take note if they want to win. I still stand by my prediction that the RoughRiders will win but that doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable.
So there you go. The preview for the 101st Grey Cup. Kickoff is slated for 6:00pm EST which would actually be 5:00pm in Regina. May the best team win!
This Sunday will have the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup, the most prestigious prize of Canadian football. It will be an exciting time not just for fans of Canadian football but fans of the Cup itself.
A CUP FULL OF HISTORY
I’ve already talked about the Grey Cup partially back in a post from last year but I’ll elaborate more here. The Grey Cup has more history than the Super Bowl: 58 more years to be exact. Before there was a CFL, the Grey Cup was open to Canadian football teams from all sorts of leagues. The very first Grey Cup was played in 1909 by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club at Toronto’s Rosedale Field to a crowd of just over 3,800. Yeah, that small. The winner was the Blues 26-6. From 1909 to 1915 the Grey Cup was often a contest between Toronto and Hamilton teams. World War I led to the postponement of four straight Grey Cups until it was revised back in 1920. Those would be the only years the Grey Cup was not contested.
It wasn’t until 1921 that the Grey Cup stopped being a contest strictly of Ontario teams when the Edmonton Eskimos qualified for the final. It would pave the way for teams from Regina and Winnipeg to qualify for the final. 1931 was a history-maker for the Grey Cup as it was contested in Montreal’s Molson Stadium: the first time ever the Grey Cup was contested outside of Ontario. Just as historic was the match as it featured two teams outside of Ontario: the Regina Roughriders and the Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers. Montreal won 22-0, making them the first team outside of Ontario to win the Grey Cup. The first team from Western Canada to win the Grey Cup was the Winnipeg ‘Pegs back in 1935. While the Grey Cup was cancelled during World War I, it was not cancelled during World War II where teams from branches of Canada’s armed forces qualified for the finals.
The Grey Cup’s popularity grew after World War II as 1948 saw the first Grey Cup with a crowd of 20,000 in attendance for the first time. Then the Canadian Football Council (CFC) became the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1958 which would propel the Grey Cup to further popularity. Since then, Grey Cup Sunday has become a permanent fixture in Canadiana with the top team from the East competing against the top team from the West. An average crowd of over 50,000 gather to watch the big final in the stadium and millions more watch from their house.
A MILESTONE WORTH CELEBRATING
This year marks the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup. To celebrate, there has been a Grey Cup 100 Train Tour with the Cup touring various cities of Canada with three CFL themed railway coaches: a museum car, a railcar with contemporary memorabilia, and a car containing the Grey Cup itself. It started September 9th in an official ceremony in Vancouver, traveled across Canada for ten weeks visiting various Canadian cities including all cities with CFL teams, and ended in Toronto on November 17th. The 100th Grey Cup has also been celebrated through Canada Post. Canada Post has issued commemorative stamps of all the teams and the Cup itself. It has also issued 8*10 pictures of the various Grey Cup stamps and many other gift sets. Rosedale Field–which has had its spectator seats removed years ago and now functions as a field for festivals and community events as part of Rosedale Park– was commemorated during the celebrations in Toronto with a commemorative plaque from Heritage Toronto for its role as host field for the first-ever Grey Cup.
THIS YEAR’S CUP
As for this year’s Cup, the event will be held at the Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, tomorrow night. This is the 46th time Toronto will host it. There will be a fan parade from Varsity Stadium to Rogers Centre. The coin toss of the game will consist of the first 100th commemorative Grey Cup coin struck by the Royal Canadian Mint executed by Governor General David Johnston. There will be various musical acts for both the pre-game show and the halftime show. Pre-game show acts include the Guess Who’s Burton Cummings and country singer Johnny Reid. Halftime show performers include Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench and Gordon Lightfoot.
As for game itself, it will be a face-off between the Toronto Argonauts representing the East and the Calgary Stampeders representing the West. So who will win? Here’s the breakdown:
EAST – Toronto Argonauts: The Argonauts have not looked like the team most likely to win the berth for the East. They have both won and lost nine games during regular season play and it was looked to be Montreal that would represent the East. Nevertheless Toronto has played brilliantly in their Division playoff games firstly against the Eskimos 42-26 and recently against the Allouettes 27-20. Toronto has an advantage leading into the Cup having won both its regular season games against Calgary. Their veteran quarterback Ricky Ray has been consistently strong and looks strong leading into tomorrow’s game. Nevertheless Toronto knows Calgary has a strong defense and they won’t overlook it for tomorrow’s game. Kevin Huntley even admitted their game against Saskatchewan, which I will talk about later, sent them the message. Nevertheless they have been taking note on Calgary’s strengths and weaknesses. They know that Kevin Glenn and Jon Cornish are the ones they have to maintain if they want to win tomorrow. Will they win it again or will it be a change in the game plan?
WEST – Calgary Stampeders: Like Toronto, Calgary was second in their division leading up to the playoffs. The Stampeders have has a better season with twelve wins and six losses. They too have been brilliant in the playoff games winning against Saskatchewan 36-30 and BC 34-29. Their consistency has been their biggest strength. They’re not flashy showmen, just a strong team. One important statistic to remember is that Calgary lost both of its regular season games against Toronto. Nevertheless they showed they can come from behind by winning a game against Saskatchewan where they were originally trailing by 17 points with six minutes to go. Quarterback Kevin Glenn has been getting better and stronger as of recent. Their other strong players have played well. Nevertheless they know the Argo’s star quarterback Ricky Ray has returned from surgery back in October and is playing strong. Also the Stamps know the Argos have been good at holding Cornish back. Tomorrow could go either way for the Stamps.
So what’s my say? This is a hard one to call. both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both have shown they know how to perform when it matters. I have to give the win to Toronto. It’s not just about their play against Calgary this year but also balancing things out. Kevin Glenn has become a stronger quarterback but Ricky Ray has returned in a strong way. Also Toronto knows how to hold down Cornish and they have a special edge with Chad Owens winning the CFL award for Most Outstanding Player. So I have to hand it to Toronto. They have the edge but it’s going to be a tight game.
Anyways everything will be decided tomorrow in Rogers Centre and it promises to be a great game and a great show. In the end, one city will be left smiling. So may the best team win!
WIKIPEDIA: List Of Grey Cup Champions. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Grey_Cup_champions>
I’ll admit I’m not an expert at American Football, but the Super Bowl XLVI is coming up. Sunday the 5th to be exact. The stage is in Indianapolis. The commercials costed the companies $3.5 million each time they will air them. The halftime show will be Madonna but the game is strictly an East Coast affair with the New England Patriots facing the New York Giants. Which team will take home the trophy? Let’s break them down:
NEW YORK GIANTS
Of all of the six NFC teams to qualify for the playoffs, the Giants had the weakest record and was the only qualifying team not to win at least ten games: nine wins and seven losses to be exact. Nevertheless each playoff game they’ve played, they’ve gotten stronger. First was winning their wildcard game against the Atlanta Falcons 24-2, then came their Divisional Playoff win against the Green Bay Packers 37-20, and then their overtime win of the NFC Championship against the 49ers 20-17. Will their rapid improvement reach its peak on Sunday or will the Super Bowl be where their luck finally runs out?
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
While the Giants had the worst regular season results of the NFC’s playoff qualifiers, the Patriots had the best of the AFC’s with thirteen wins and only three losses. They didn’t need to play a wildcard match and won their Divisional match against Denver easily 45-10. Their AFC Championship victory against the Baltimore Ravens was tighter: 23-20. So far they have predominantly been the strongest team overall this year. However there was one important regular season statistic: of the Patriots’ three losses, one was against the Giants 24-20. That would be the last game the Patriots would lose all season. Will they get revenge at the Super Bowl or will they succumb again?
MY PICK: Now for my prediction. I know I’ve based a lot of opinion here on statistics. One thing I learned from Moneyball is that sabermetrics aren’t always right in the end. For the game however, I strongly feel the Patriots will win. It will be a tight game during the first three quarters with the lead alternating at least three times but the Patriots will grab tight hold in the fourth and go on to win it. As for the score, I won’t hazard a guess on that. I’ll just stick to predicting the winner.
Anyways go out and buy your munchies this weekend. Super Bowl XLVI promises to be exciting: both the game and surrounding events. So may the best team win on Sunday.