It happened again, the second year in a row.
The Calgary Stampeders went into the CFL’s biggest stage, the Grey Cup championship (favoured to win the game and erase memories of last year’s overtime loss), only to be handily beaten by an East division team.
In 2016 it was the Ottawa Redlbacks.
This year, the victorious underdog was the Toronto Argonauts.
Without being hyperbolic, it was one play, or one sequence of events, that flipped the Stampeders’ methodically-set table and swung momentum in the Argos’ favour.
Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell tossed a quick screen pass on his left side to receiver Kamar Jorden.
Their offence ran the play at least three times before that, finding successful gains with it and beating Toronto’s defensive backs.
The Stamps were up 24-16, starting a new set of downs from Toronto’s eight yard-line and were poised to score another touchdown, thus putting the game out of reach for the Argos with little more than five minutes left in the league final.
Jorden caught the ball no problem.
He gained a couple yards with his feet, nearly hauled dawn by two Toronto defenders, and then lunged forward to gain a few extra yards, leaving the brown ball secured by his single right arm.
Simple gain, simple play, right?
The hulking Cleyon Laing, Toronto’s 280-pound, six-foot-three defensive lineman, was the last player to bump Jorden.
Not necessarily jarring and nowhere near bone-crushing. But it was enough, just enough.
The ball popped out and toppled down to Toronto’s goal line.
Argos defensive back Cassius Vaughn scooped up the frozen leather and sprinted 109 yards down the sideline to score a touchdown for his team.
That, plus a converted two-point attempt shifted the game, 24-all.
Calgary was left stunned.
Could it happen again?
It could and it did.
The Argos eventually won 27-24, thanks to a late Argos field goal by Lirim Hajrullahu and a leaping, end zone interception by Matt Black with eight seconds left in the game.
I want to share this anecdote, because it epitomizes what’s best about sports – those moments of unexpected drama that make us gasp, cry, go numb, drop our jaws and occasionally scream over the possibility of such a moment, over the fact that “oh my god, that just happened!”
Remember that catch by receiver Duron Carter in July when the Argos were playing the Roughriders in Regina?
Quarterback Kevin Glenn threw up a pass on Carter’s corner route into Mosaic Stadium’s north end zone.
The Toronto defender was on Carter’s right hip, well in position; the ball was sailing to Carter’s right side, just past the spot where he’d be able to turn around and grab it.
As the pass made its way down towards Carter, the lanky pass-catcher stopped, side-stepped behind the Argos defensive back, jumped and made a one-handed, bank-hand catch, using the underside of his hand to stop and catch the ball on its nose.
It was as if he intercepted the ball away from the Toronto player.
I saw it live that day, right in front of me as I sat in Mosaic’s upper north section.
I was stunned; my seat neighbours were stunned; my nephew – attending only his second live football game ever – just stood there with his mouth gaping open.
How did he do that?
I think we all have different paths, motivations and reasons that lead us to sports, whether watching, playing, yakking over or fantasy-team picking them.
But I’m fairly certain it’s the stories, the moments of drama, that make us fall in love with sports.
That catch, that fumble, that run, that pitch, the sweet sound of a leather mitt clamping onto a deceptive curveball.
The moments that makes us stop, stare and wonder are what keep us coming back.