It’s the holiday season once again and that means it’s time for one of the year’s best traditions: grabbing a hot chocolate, wrapping yourself in a blanket and sitting in front of the television to watch some Christmas movies and TV specials.
A couple of years ago I put together one of my pop culture lists in which I compared CFL teams to Christmas films and television specials. While I don’t normally like to tread back into similar territory, a lot has changed since then with new specials coming out and the identity of the teams changing.
To reflect that, I thought it would be fun to revisit how CFL teams compare to different Christmas films or specials.
You will notice that some of the selections below did not change at all, while others changed drastically. Some stuff that appeared on the first list is gone while some new stuff that was not out two years ago is here.
This was fun to put together and I hope you have fun reading it. Without further ado, I proudly present to you this year’s edition of CFL teams as Christmas movies or television specials.
B.C. Lions: The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
The Lions were the hot, fresh, new kids on the block this past season. Led by a superstar quarterback and featuring a likeable cast of characters, the Lions became a CFL version of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The Leos may not have been your favourite team but they were definitely the most entertaining.
If you haven’t seen Marvel’s first foray into holiday specials, I won’t spoil it for you but know that it is exactly what you should expect from a Guardians of the Galaxy outing. This special, like the Lions, hopes to have staying power but with possible changes at the top of both franchises — Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke could be headed to the NFL, while the future of the Guardians is up in the air with the final film of their trilogy due out next summer — we will have to see if both can maintain the momentum they have built up with their respective audiences.
Calgary Stampeders: It’s a Wonderful Life
Much like the holiday classic starring Jimmy Stewart, the Calgary Stampeders are the model of consistency. You know exactly what you’re going to get with this team and this movie. This is as perfect a pairing as you could hope to find. (This was also my choice the last time, so the theme of consistency works on multiple levels.)
Edmonton Elks: Jack Frost (1997)
You might be wondering why I put the year here and that is because there are two Jack Frost movies. One is an innocuous but mostly unentertaining Michael Keaton vehicle while the other is an awful campy horror film that mixes in dark comedy that has to be seen to be believed. Guess which one the Elks are?
If you guessed the 1997 iteration, congrats. That movie is cheesy, corny, not very scary and you really don’t want to watch it. I don’t think anything could better define the 2022 Edmonton Elks than that sentence.
This selection is also fitting because the Elks were a horror for their own fans but a comedy for everyone else.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Bad Santa
I love Bad Santa. If I was to rank my favourite Christmas movies, Bad Santa would easily find its way into my top five and maybe even my top three.
But one thing I know about Bad Santa is that it is not everyone. It can be a bit of a train wreck and your enjoyment of it hedges on whether or not you find Billy Bob Thornton cursing at children to be hilarious or reprehensible.
Does anything encapsulate the 2022 Saskatchewan Roughriders more than being something that isn’t family friendly with a cast of characters that only a small minority could really find all that likeable?
But despite all that, both Bad Santa and the Riders have their moments where you can’t help but smile, even if you are doing so while shaking your head in disbelief.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Some will argue it is the undisputed greatest Christmas film of all time. I won’t be one to make that argument — my choice would be Home Alone, a film I could not find a CFL counterpart for this time around — but I do understand why a case can be made for Christmas Vacation.
It’s funny and heartwarming, a Christmas staple if there ever was one, and a film that at worst gets your begrudging respect for its staying power. That feels like a great way to think about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Bad Santa 2
As I said above, I love Bad Santa. I also like its sequel, Bad Santa 2 but if there is one criticism I have of the sequel it is that the ending is kind of a mess. A bunch of people get shot and the whole thing kind of falls apart.
Bad Santa 2 just isn’t as good as the original and it does not use its cast to the best of its abilities as Christina Hendricks is woefully underused. No team CFL better team represents “doesn’t use its talent to its fullest capabilities and falls apart in the end” more than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Toronto Argonauts: Love Actually
I hate Love Actually. I know a lot of people like this movie but for the life of me, I cannot understand why. It has an all-star cast and everyone is the dirt worst.
There is not a single redeemable character in the whole movie and don’t even get me started on that cue card scene. The dude confesses his love to his best friend’s wife while the husband waits inside. It’s psychotic and if someone did something like that to you in real life, you would mace them and call the police. It’s not romantic, it’s creepy. It’s a movie most people have to tolerate because chances are you know someone who adores it but that does not mean you have to like it.
Anyway, growing up in Hamilton I have spent most of my life disliking the Toronto Argonauts. Since it is Christmas, I will be nice and say that the Argos aren’t as big an affront to football as Love Actually is to film, but much like the movie, you likely know someone who loves the Argos, so you tolerate them.
Ottawa Redblacks: Frosty the Snowman
Few holiday specials are as easy to like as Frosty the Snowman. From Jimmy Durante’s performance of the titular song to the nostalgia it brings to it having the perfect runtime for its story. Maybe only Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas can rival it as far as classic Christmas specials go. Few things are as satisfying as watching Frosty.
The Redblacks are shaping up to be everyone’s favourite underdog in 2023 thanks to perhaps the most likeable coaching staff in the entire CFL that fans from across the league will want to see succeed. Just like Frosty led the kids down the streets of town, many will be hoping Bob Dyce can lead the Redblacks back into the playoffs.
Montreal Alouettes: Gremlins
Much like Die Hard, there is a lot of debate about whether Joe Dante’s classic Gremlins should be considered a Christmas movie. It takes place at Christmas time, the title sequence is scored to a Christmas song (the best Christmas song, if you ask me) and Christmas plays a major role in the film, namely when Phoebe Cates’ Kate tells the story of her father’s death.
The Alouettes were kind of like Gremlins in 2022. They succeeded in the face of doing things in an untraditional manner and there is still a debate raging as to whether they were actually a good team or not this past season, much like how we still debate whether Gremlins counts as a Christmas movie or not, so this felt like an appropriate comparison.