Marc-Antoine Dequoy Grey Cup CFL French

Dequoy tu parles? No apology needed!

“Als defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy enthusiastically celebrating the team’s win on Sunday in a now legendary post-game interview was a bit in your face, very shouty and not overly composed. But really… who can blame him? Well, some did, but I think they’re wrong.”

I didn’t watch the Montreal Alouettes win the Grey Cup against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday. Since I’m not really a fan of Canadian football, I only found out Montreal had won when I checked social media later that evening. I immediately stumbled across the viral video of Als defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy enthusiastically celebrating the team’s win in a by-now legendary post-game interview with RDS where — how shall I put this delicately — he was seen losing his shit on national television. 

“They never believed in us,” I watched Dequoy passionately yell, with extreme camera close-ups of his mouth I wasn’t ready for at 11 p.m. “Everywhere you look, it’s written in English,” he continued. “You checked TSN, and it was written, ‘Toronto vs Winnipeg,’ you come here, and they only speak English. They never believed in us! But you know what, man? You can keep your English, because we’re taking the Cup, and we’re bringing it to Montreal, bringing it to Quebec, and we’re going to lift it at home. Parce que on est f*cking champions. LET’S GOOOOOO!” he ended in delicious Montreal franglais. 

CFL put on blast for lack of French

Dequoy’s heated rant addressed the lack of French signage at the Hamilton stadium and the lack of faith Canadian sports media outlets seemed to have in the Quebec team’s chances.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at his over-the-top passionate speech. Sure, it was a bit in your face, very shouty and not overly dignified or composed. But really… who the hell cares? The man was clearly on a post-win high, overjoyed at attaining what he said was a “lifelong dream,” and felt the need to use his TV moment for a little retribution and to blast the CFL in a by-now epic rant. Who can blame him? Well, some did, but I think they’re wrong. 

Anyone who’s ever played any kind of competitive sport knows how emotions can quickly get the better of you and how the adrenaline rush that kicks in after a hard-fought victory can turn the dial up on all sentiments voiced. I’m hesitant to tone-police happy athletes and I’ll take a passionate and honest response to the boring cliché-riddled post-game replies we’re usually treated to. Besides, when it comes to displaying poor sportsmanship, Dequoy’s rant isn’t exactly Tonya Harding or Mike Tyson-like behaviour. Rather, as someone astutely pointed out to me on Twitter, it’s hovering around Megan Rapinoe territory.

Rapinoe was criticized after she displayed “classless” behaviour by celebrating a little too rowdily after the U.S. women’s team crushed Thailand 13–0 at the World Cup. In many ways, some Quebecers and non-Quebecers found Dequoy’s behaviour similarly excessive, abrasive and a tad embarrassing. One suspects that even Dequoy himself did for a brief moment, because the next day he was quick to apologize for “losing it” (he used the perfect Québécois expression, “pété sa coche,” to describe his actions) while politely explaining the frustration he expressed wasn’t directed against English speakers per se, but rather towards the disrespect shown to the French language and French Quebecers by the CFL. 

He’s not wrong. The Canadian Football League is supposed to be a bilingual league, but players and management arrived at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton to find nothing but English signs. The league scrambled at the last minute to include some French. During the East Division final between the Als and the Toronto Argonauts, the national anthem was sung exclusively in English. A full 24 hours after the Als won the Grey Cup, the CFL’s French-language Twitter account still hadn’t been updated to inform followers of who won. I get why Dequoy threw shade at the CFL. These are all examples of pretty basic things they failed at. Dequoy’s reaction communicated not only his frustration at recent events, but the consistent lack of respect often shown to the French language in Canada.

It’s the same frustration, by the way, that people speaking minority languages in Quebec (and yes, I also mean Indigenous languages and English) often express while currently facing major hurdles accessing healthcare, justice and education thanks to Bill 96, but some of you aren’t ready for that conversation. 

Reactions to the rant as diverse as this country

As wild as his speech was, it was the reactions to Dequoy’s behaviour that I found most fascinating. For most Quebecers, his speech made him an instant national hero. On the Université de Montréal Carabins site where he used to play football, someone had updated his credentials and study program to now indicate “PhD in post-game interviews.” Some Quebecers, however, found his outburst unbecoming and inappropriate, arguing that sports isn’t about politics (even though sports and politics have long been intertwined) and worrying that it made Quebecers look “belligerent.” 

Some Quebec nationalists naturally used it to amplify old and current grievances and, once again, point to independence as the only way Quebec could ever truly excel in a league it would no longer be part of. “If we can win the Grey Cup with talent and determination, we can make Quebec a country,” someone tweeted, which is a bit of a stretch considering half of the team’s roster is American, but okay. 

PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon used Dequoy’s rant as an opportunity for another one of his long-winded Twitter messages he’s been favouring lately, rightfully explaining why it mattered, but wrongfully claiming that Canadian media looked down on Dequoy’s rant, since every single English outlet I saw referred to it as mostly “epic,” “fiery” and “passionate.” 

Perhaps to some Quebecers’ surprise, many English-speaking fans from the ROC appreciated Dequoy’s passion as well. “As an anglophone from Hamilton, I fucking love this and I’m so happy Montreal won this game,” tweeted Brendan. “Being a long-time CFL fan, I can tell you there’s so many French Canadian players throughout the league and obviously that’s our second language across the country. To not represent French Canada properly in an event that is supposed to represent all of Canada is pretty embarrassing from the CFL and TSN and I love the passion here and see no issues with this speech.” Someone call Brendan if the position of Commissioner of Official Languages ever opens up. 

So instantaneously popular was Dequoy’s rant that it managed to upstage the fact that fellow teammates Cody Fajardo and Tyson Philpot were named respectively MVP of the 110th Grey Cup and Most Valuable Canadian of the 110th Grey Cup, which is a bit unfortunate for them. 

‘A little intense, but legitimate’ 

The next day, a much calmer Dequoy apologized, which he really didn’t have to.

At the end of the day, I loved it all. There’s something uniquely homegrown about a French-speaking Quebec player upset at Canada for a lack of French at an event organized by a supposedly bilingual Canadian league for a quintessentially American game, yelling in franglais “Gardez-la ton anglais” and ending it with “Let’s gooooo!” and then the next day meekly apologizing for being a little too much — as Canadian a move as one can ever muster. 

Perhaps the best analysis was a pretty succinct “Un peu intense, mais legitime,” someone lazily tweeted. A little intense, but legitimate. That pretty much sums it up and much to the delight of Als’ new owner Pier-Karl Peladeau his rant probably single-handedly sold every single available ticket for the team’s home opener next year. 

Considering everything going on around the world these days and the heavy cloud of worry most of us have all been under, the Als’ win, Dequoy’s over-the-top reaction and people’s equally overblown reactions to it have been a nice, joyful distraction. See you at the parade! ■

Read more weekly editorial columns by Toula Drimonis.