While his death is sad, it's fitting that Stompin' Tom Connors went out at 77.
After all, Stompin' Tom believed in independent Canadian spirit, and the double 7's hold a special place in two of our uniquely Canadian games, hockey and three-down football. Hockey Hall of Famers Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey wore it. Tony Gabriel of Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Rough Riders fame, distinguished it on the gridiron.
That spoke to why Stompin' Tom, regardless of one's age or taste in music, was so universally beloved. His stuff was relatable because it was so particular. There is a pretty deep musical catalog of songs with sports themes, of course. Hockey has had its share, perhaps most notably including Tom Cochrane's "Big League," The Tragically Hip's "Fifty Mission Cap" and "The Lonely End Of The Rink" and the Rheostatics' "Ballad of Wendel Clark (Parts One And Two)."
But that came after Stompin' Tom. Before Cochrane, Dave Bidini or Gord Downie, back in 1973 Stompin' Tom showed it was okay to describe an arena full of people fixated on the travels of a puck.
It's a safe bet not as many Canadians are aware of Connors' other sports-related classic, "The Football Song." But it conveyed what it's like to love the CFL, loving that little eight- or nine-team league with the strange rules, always sticking by the Saskatchewan Roughriders despite anticipating their season will end in the most 'Rider way possible.
We’ll see you down at the football game
See you in the crowd
And we’re gonna cheer our team this year
Till there ain’t no cheerin’ as loud
And if someone down at the Football Game,
Says, "Hey! Why do you scream?!?"
They’re gonna realize, when we get the prize
We been Wakin’ Up The Grey Cup Team
Wakin' up the Grey Cup Team
(It makes one wish after the fact the CFL had invited Connors to perform at halftime of the Grey Cup. Today, that's neither here nor there.)
Hard not to hear that and imagine your uncle or a grandparent in the stands on a frigid November day, sneaking some Crown Royal and smoking a Player's in a vain attempt to stay warm. Someone from Chicago would never get it, and we need that. In a fragmented nation that often cannot even remember itself, Stompin' Tom Connors overcame all.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.