Anti-American sentiment fades second time around Canadians see Calgary as champion, however

Grey Cup notebook

November 17, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

REGINA, Saskatchewan -- When they made history a year ago by advancing to the Grey Cup, becoming the first American team to do so -- in their inaugural season, no less -- the Baltimore Stallions experienced the wrath of nationalism in Canada.

During their playoff march through Winnipeg, which Baltimore defeated to make it to the Grey Cup in Vancouver, the Stallions got a clear message from Canadian fans and media: How dare you even think of taking the Cup south of the border. Remember the snowball barrage Baltimore endured on its sideline in Winnipeg?

The second time around, the Stallions have received a comparatively warm reception in Regina, starting with the "Welcome Baltimore" sign and autograph seekers at the city's tiny airport.

Polls conducted on local television stations reveal most fans think the Calgary Stampeders will beat the Stallions in Sunday's championship game. But that's to be expected in a Canadian city. Otherwise, the anti-American emotion so evident in 1994 has pretty much disappeared.

"That's lost all its hype," said Baltimore quarterback Tracy Ham. "The best two teams are here, regardless of where they play. People expected us to be here this year. It's just a case of two good football teams, not a Canadian-American thing."

Wind at their backs

The weather promises to play a decisive role in Sunday's game at Taylor Field, where cold and windy conditions should render the artificial turf slippery, hinder the passing game and make field position paramount.

Up to now, the weather has been pleasant by Regina standards for this time of year. Daytime temperatures have hovered around the freezing point, and the wind has been little more than a stiff breeze. The long-range forecast is calling for a cold snap to hit by Sunday, with accompanying higher winds. Snow is unlikely.

"If it's snowing, we can play in it. If it's raining, we can play in it. The thing that will affect the game more than anything else is the wind," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said. "That creates a 30-minute game."

The Stallions have won the coin toss in both playoff victories, deferred their choice until the second half and played with the wind at their backs in the second and fourth quarters in each victory. Matthews would like that scenario again on Sunday.

Injury report

Baltimore is in good shape going into the game. Center Nick Subis suffered a left knee sprain against San Antonio, but has practiced for two days in Regina and will start in the Grey Cup. Otherwise, the Stallions couldn't be feeling better, which is a sharp contrast to their 29-15 loss in Calgary on Aug. 6.

That day, Subis was out with broken ribs, offensive tackle Shar Pourdanesh was playing on two bad ankles -- he later missed four games with stress fractures in each of them -- and Ham did not start because of a sprained ankle suffered four days earlier in Edmonton.

On the Calgary side, slotback Allen Pitts is back from a prolonged case of the flu and a hip injury, which caused him to miss the Stampeders' last two regular-season games. Pitts, who caught 100 passes for 1,492 yards and 11 touchdowns, has caught six passes for 82 yards in Calgary's two playoff victories.

Sign behind the times

Outside a local hotel, a sign beckons customers to drop by and enjoy drinks at Grey Cup special prices. The sign also proclaimed on Wednesday, "Stampeders Will Tame The Colts."

Baltimore has not used that name since the summer of 1994, when the NFL forced the team to drop "Colts." Baltimore finished its first season without a nickname, then became the Stallions on July 7.

By late Wednesday afternoon, the sign had been corrected to read, "Stampeders Will Tame the Stallions."

Fashion statement

The Stallions will wear their home blue jerseys on Sunday. About two weeks ago, someone stole 17 of the white jerseys Baltimore uses on the road.

"We've been at home for six weeks, so we didn't get them replaced," Matthews said. "As a superstitious person, we wore blue last year [in the Grey Cup] and lost. I'd like to wear white. But I don't think my superstitions will amount to much on Sunday."

Who's hot?

Baltimore rush end Elfrid Payton listened to a reporter's comment regarding Calgary's momentum. The Stampeders survived a poor performance by quarterback Doug Flutie -- he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in the first half -- to beat Hamilton in the divisional semifinals, then pounded

Edmonton, 37-4, as Flutie rebounded by throwing for 261 yards and a touchdown, and rushing for 50 more yards, without committing a turnover.

"Momentum?" Payton said. "Aren't we the ones with a 12-game winning streak?"

Traveling trophy

The Stallions are a team in search of a new home, with the impending relocation of the Cleveland Browns. When asked where the Grey Cup trophy would be kept, should Baltimore win on Sunday, Matthews said, "Probably in my basement."

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