Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Instant Classic

Yesterday's thrilling 52-44 overtime win by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats over the Montreal Alouettes was best summed up by Kevin Glenn:
"I would call it a CFL classic."
Truer words were never spoken.

It has taken some time to really digest what just happened on Sunday. I don't mean that from the perspective of a Tiger-Cat fan who is still a little stunned that his team will be playing in the East Division Final, but from the perspective of someone who loves history (sports and otherwise) and has had one question floating around in my brain since Anthony Calvillo's pass to Brandon Whitaker hit the ground to end the game:

Where does this game rank, all-time?

It was a classic, no doubt about it. It was one of those games that people will be talking about years from now. It was that good.

It wasn't the perfect game, but classics never are. There needs to be some intrigue and unpredictability, and that can only come when things don't go exactly as planned. If everything went the way it was supposed to go, Montreal would have won the game with relative ease.

That is what also made yesterday's game so exciting: the underdog won. When you think of past great games, the upset angle plays a big role. Think Boise State over Oklahoma, Appalachian State over Michigan or the New York Giants over the 18-0 New England Patriots. Those game stay in people's mind because they were monumental upsets. While Hamilton over Montreal in the 2011 East Division Semi-Final isn't of the same magnitude, the fact that it was even a slight upset helps it inch up the ladder.

It being a playoff game makes it more meaningful. The game had added value because it was winner goes on, loser goes home. Classic games played for championships are at the top, with playoff games not far behind. When the stakes are the highest, the pressure is the highest and the outcomes have the most meaning.

So where does this game rank? It cannot be first. That spot is (probably) forever reserved for the 1989 Grey Cup between Hamilton and Saskatchewan. If you haven't seen, words do not do it justice. Despite the fact that the Tiger-Cats lost, this is still the best game I have ever seen.

But after the 1989 Grey Cup, I can't think of one game I would say was exceedingly better than the one played between the Tiger-Cats and Alouettes on Sunday. There are others I appreciate:
  • the 2005 Grey Cup between Edmonton and Montreal
  • the Labour Day Classic in 2004
  • the 49ers-Packers Wild Card playoff game in 1998
  • the no punts game between the 49ers and Bills in 1992
  • the 2005 "Bush Push" game between USC and Notre Dame
  • the 2006 Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship between USC and Texas
I am sure there are others I am forgetting, but those are the ones that first came to mind.

Some of those games meet some of my criteria that should rank them ahead of Sunday's epic battle (namely the '05 Grey Cup and '06 Rose Bowl), so anyone who says those games rank higher will get no argument from me.

But no matter how you slice it, Sunday's game between the Als and Ti-Cats definitely ranks somewhere in the top 5.

I'll be interested to see not only where people think this game belongs in the pantheon of great games, but also what other games people think deserve mention.

1 comment:

  1. You are missing the greatest game of all time. The 1996 Grey Cup Game. With all the snow, everyone though that it would be a running kinda game. Not so! Two returns on back to back plays by Pinball and Williams. A crazy catch by downtown Eddie Brown and a non-fumble call on Doug Flutie.

    89 was a good game but 1996 takes the cake!