Monday, July 04, 2005

A surreal evening at the park 

What a surreal evening.

It started with the storms rolling through during the pre-game warmups (the fans' warmup, that is, not the players). Things played mostly to expectations in the first half with the Als offense moving downfield more or less at will and the Renegades O picking up where they left off against the Eskimos last week. Only a last second Renegades TD kept the game within reach (and in retrospect proved to be the first of a few momentum-building moments).

Then came the most surreal stretch of all... halftime.


The halftime show was the most bizarre display of halftime "entertainment" that I've ever seen. Finnish princesses in wedding dresses, convoluted plots, and mascot abduction, topped by a frightful rendition of Sweet Caroline by possibly the world's worst lounge singer. So maybe this is what the grizzled vets of Ottawa football fandom cringe at when recalling the first Glieberman era.

(Here seems as good a place as any to digress and chip in my two pence worth on the infamous Mardi Gras promotion. I was happy, though not all that surprised, to see that it was mostly a non starter. It was a silly idea, and everyone, at least in my neck of the southside, knew it. Most people ignored their beads, if they bothered to pick any up in the first place. Now apparently there was limited 'activity' elsewhere in the upper deck, but by and large, people just ignored it.

Forgetting for a moment that the promotion was sexist - should I as a gent with borderline man-boobs not also have an opportunity at the grand - and immature, the promotion didn't draw new fans, or even target the right ones. It took place in seats that were already sold as part of the $99 promotion. It drove away one targeted demographic, families, while doing little to draw the younger 18-25 group that it was targeting)

Having survived the halftime show, the prospect of more pummelling at the hands of the Als seemed much more tolerable, almost welcome.

The second half started out on script. The Als scored a TD and then tacked on another FG to make it 33-10. While it was painful to watch, part of me was glad that the lopsided score would make it easier for me to make my escape 9:00, which I had pre-set time that I had agreed for my wife to pick me up to head to the cottage for the weekend. I had figured that the game would be more or less over within 3 hours. Although not literally true, it seemed more or less a fait accompli, even after the Renegades countered to make it 33-17.

Shortly before 9:00, as I started on my way out, a friend joked "Too bad you're going to miss the comeback"

Ha ha. The joke was about to be on me.

As I crossed the Bank St. Bridge, a roar. 33-23.

A short 10 min walk later, I meet up with my wife and hear an excited Dave Schreiber (is he ever anything but?) exclaim a Renegade recovered fumble. As we turn onto Bronson, Kerry Joseph connects in the end zone and it's 33-30. It must be a different game on the radio. I can't believe what I'm hearing. Is this the same game I watched for over 3 quarters. As we work our way down Booth, toward the bridge, the Renegades start to drive down the field and maybe, just maybe this is more than a tease. I try to hold my excitement in check, reminding myself that the game might come down to whether Matt Kellett (who was 1 of 1 to that point) was seeing single or double when the time came. Fortunately on this night, he was seeing straight, or at very least guessed correctly as to which set of uprights to aim at. We were going to OT.

As we pulled onto the 50, the Gades and Als traded FGs. Then, to kick off the 2nd OT, Damon (which I always hear as David) Duval was wide, missing the FG attempt after having hit his first 5. The door was wide open. Did the Renegades dare step through. They did, with Kellett nailing his 4th straight FG, and we wound our way through the hills north of Buckingham listening to the postgame with Stephan Jones finally having great reason to justify his eternal optimism. The Als (and more importantly The Don, largely because of his cocky decision to go from the shotgun on a late 3rd and 1 when a FG, or even a rouge could have salted away the Renegades) ware upset.

The farther I got from the stadium, the wackier and more surreal it seemed. Toward the end, it approached the Twilight Zone halftime show in pure unlikelihood. The unbridled optimist in me likes to think that this is the type of win that can spark a team to an excellent season (according to Renegade Relativity Theory, that means a .500 season and making the playoffs). The realist in me is trying to temper those "wild" expectations.

Regardless, this is instantly a Renegade classic (as it would be even if it had other Renegade classics to compete against) and one to savour, no matter what the rest of the season brings.