Ask an Author: Michael Januska, author of Grey Cup Century

Ask an Author: Michael Januska, author of Grey Cup Century

Posted on July 11 by admin
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This week on our Ask an Author series, Senior Editor Allister Thompson was able to snag an interview with Michael Januska, author of the soon to  be released title Grey Cup Century. Michael is also the author of the forthcoming title Riverside Drive.

Allister: In writing Grey Cup Century, you likely increased your appreciation for the unique nature of Canadian football, as opposed to the American version. Do you feel that the Canadian game and how it’s played reflects our national character in a distinct way, and how?

Michael: Yes, I did find a new appreciation for our game, and I found that, for better or worse, it has in many ways tended to reflect our national character. Right off the top, what one is reminded of is just how tradition-minded Canadians can be. A century ago when the Americans were moving forward with the development of their game, Canadians, at least in the east, were still clinging to its British rugby origins. And later, when the west was invited to the party, it was discovered that they were playing their own brand of football. It took a generation of compromises and arm-twisting before Canadians were finally reading off the same playbook.

After years of Canadian organizers tinkering with the game — mostly to suit marketing strategies and help facilitate the importation of players — it still remains distinct from its fraternal twin to the south. The first things people tend to pick up on are our larger playing field and our three downs as opposed to four. That combination makes for a faster game and demands more speed and agility from its players. There is less straight confrontation and a little more finesse. Now that I think of it, does that make our game more polite? I wonder if our tacklers apologize after a quarterback sack.

Allister: Are you a history buff, seeing as how you’ve written this book as well as a historical crime novel (the upcoming Riverside Drive)?

Michael: I’m one of those people convinced that pretty much every other era in human history is considerably more interesting than their own. Also, I’m fascinated by not just how different our era might be from another, but by how persistent humankind can be at the same time. The more things change, the more things stay the same, right?

Allister: It’s well known that while there are hardcore CFL fans in every CFL city, the popularity of the game is far more widespread out West, with huge attendance compared with the East. Why do you think the game is more popular in the western provinces?

Michael: I think that in the early decades of the last century, when the younger provinces out west were struggling to define themselves and looking for a little respect from the east, people saw an opportunity in football. They struggled for a time, but in the end they succeeded and it became a real source of pride. The Stampeders’ reception back home in Calgary after defeating Ottawa at Varsity Stadium in Toronto in ’48 was extraordinary but not surprising. The west’s David had just hog-tied Goliath.

Allister: You are a literary writer, not a sportswriter by trade. Do you feel that in taking a step back from statistics and mere play-by-play, your ability to step back and take an overview of the game as a human drama was an advantage in presenting a fresh view on the game?

Michasel: Critics often tell writers to write what they know, but that can make for some pretty dull reading. Sometimes the most engaging take on a subject comes from the writer who has been pushed out of his or her comfort zone. I definitely tried to balance the stats and play-by-play material with the human interest stories. I enjoy reading about the fans that drive halfway across the country so that they can experience a Grey Cup game. There is just as much drama off as there is on the field — and that goes for players and fans alike. It’s the lead into any subject and it’s ultimately what holds the reader’s interest.

Allister: As a teaser, are there any anecdotes about a particular Cup game that stood out for you?

Michael: There are so many great stories to tell, and that posed a real challenge in writing Grey Cup Century. One that stands out for me comes out of the fourth Grey Cup, which was contested between the Hamilton Alerts and the Toronto Argonauts at AAA Grounds in Hamilton in 1912. The game was delayed an hour because the groundskeeper forgot to make a ball available. Eventually the door to a locker room was kicked in and one was found. Really, that was like forgetting to bring the bride to the wedding.

Allister: If you were to be playing on a football team, what’s your position? Quarterback is the obvious answer, but maybe you’ll surprise us!

Michael: Definitely a wide receiver; I’ve got the height, the reach and the speed. And who wouldn’t want to be the one to make that last second, game-winning catch?

Michael Januska was born in Windsor, Ontario. He has worked with books his whole life, both as a bookseller and for several book publishing companies. Januska is also an award-winning crime fiction writer. His stories focus mainly on the history of his hometown. He lives in Toronto. @michaeljanuska