In CFL's new order, heated rivalry leaves North out in the cold

November 22, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Jim Speros stood on the sideline at Winnipeg Stadium on Sunday and took two for the team.

Snowballs, that is.

One in the head.

It was the price the exuberant first-year owner of the Baltimore CFLs was willing to pay to be near the action.

"I was a moving target," Speros said yesterday, back at his Memorial Stadium offices, where the CFLs began preparations for Sunday's Grey Cup against the B.C. Lions.

The Eastern final was target practice for Winnipeg's cold and restless. The huddled masses pelted the Baltimore bench throughout the afternoon with missiles of ice and snow.

After the CFLs escaped with a 14-12 win and the 82-year-old Dixon Trophy, symbolic of Eastern Division supremacy, Speros found a silver lining in the hail of snowballs.

"It's great," he said. "I love having an international football league. I hope it builds to the level of the Olympics.

"A lot of people up there have pride in their game, and they see the league changing. It may be changing too fast for them. They want us to lose a couple of years. They wanted expansion; I gave it to them. Winnipeg is quite shocked today.

"But Winnipeg has a fine team and organization. We're building a great rivalry. I didn't like getting hit by snowballs, but you have to take the good with the bad."

By the time the CFLs cleared out of Manitoba, they were fortunate not to have created an international incident.

The bad blood was still simmering back in the snow country yesterday. When Baltimore coach Don Matthews learned that Winnipeg coach Cal Murphy was still upset over an irregularity at Saturday's pre-game walk-through, he phoned Murphy to set the record straight.

"I was told Cal said he wouldn't shake my hand because I led our team onto the field while Winnipeg was practicing," Matthews said. "I called him."

Matthews told Murphy the incident took place while he was in a news conference inside the stadium, and that former Blue Bomber Elfrid Payton had led a few players onto the field to see his old friends. It is not an accepted practice to go onto the field while the opponent is still working.

Matthews and Murphy were assistant coaches together on the Edmonton Eskimos dynasty in the 1970s. Matthews said he never saw Murphy after the game amid Baltimore's celebration but didn't miss the ritual handshake.

"I don't think coaches' handshakes at the end of the game mean anything," he said.

Meanwhile, if the CFLs thought the music that was piped through the sound system at Winnipeg Stadium was loud, they'll be interested to discover the decibel level at B.C. Place, where they'll become the first U.S. team to compete for the Grey Cup. The domed stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, is considered the loudest stadium in the league.

"We've got practice with the crowd noise, and now we're going to perfect that," Matthews said.

Perfection might include a new wrinkle. If the noise level dictates, Matthews said, the offense will go to hand signals and wrist bands.

"We did it with Saskatchewan [against B.C.], but for a different reason," Matthews said. "We felt they knew our no-huddle system."

Although the CFLs survived the snowball binge, they have lost fullback Peter Tuipulotu to a knee injury. He left the stadium on crutches and will not be available, Matthews said.

Robert Drummond will start in his place, and wide receiver Mike Alexander will take Tuipulotu's roster spot.

Unlike the wind-ravaged Eastern final, the Grey Cup will be decided by football, Matthews said.

"This game will be a test of two teams, because it'll be in a dome and perfect weather conditions," he said. "We feel we're a fast team, and artificial turf makes us faster."

NOTES: Baltimore flies to Vancouver this afternoon after a morning practice here. . . . B.C. quarterback Kent Austin reinjured his left shoulder in the Lions' 37-36 victory over Calgary on Sunday and is not expected to play. . . . In keeping with his season-long policy, Matthews said he will not have a curfew for his players this week.

GREY CUP 1994

BALTIMORE CFLs (14-6)

vs.

B.C. LIONS (13-6-1)

WHERE: B.C. Place , Vancouver,

British Columbia

WHEN: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

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