Behind Enemy Lines: The Fan Experience in Hamilton

A lot can be said about the Argos-Ticats rivalry.  We could talk stats day in and day out, but when it comes down to it anything can happen on gameday.  Keep in mind this is the CFL.

The Admirals that went to Ivor Wynne Stadium last night for the Week 3 matchup were all warned that people wearing double-blue aren’t appreciated very much in Hamilton.  But then we realized that we are Argo fans, and therefore the toughest fans in the CFL and we could handle anything some silly Ticat fans could throw our way.  We weren’t scared.

However, even before the roller coaster of a game, there was a roller-coaster of emotions going from feeling scared to feeling safe, and back and forth.  We showed up in Hamilton long before kickoff, proudly wearing our Argos Admirals shirts.  First thing was first, we noticed that the air just smelled kind of funky.  Not like clean, Toronto air at all.  We scoped out the stadium and the surrounding area.  Despite the barbed wire above the fences surrounding the stadium, it’s a decent place.  We witnessed the end of a wedding on the field.  We all know that every bride’s dream is to get married in a place surrounded by barbed wire, right?  There were also houses in the surrounding area with big ti-cat flags and “Argos Suck” posters on the walls outside.  Nice that they have spirit and confidence, I guess.

Next we got hungry and decided to scope out a local eating establishment.  Craving some gameday food and a pint, we looked for somewhere licensed.  The first place we saw was some kind of tavern that looked only a little sketchy from the outside.  But when we went it, there were a lot of unfriendly looking people playing pool in a dark room.  They did not appreciate us repping the double-blue shirts.  The way they looked at us while holding their pool cues gave us an uneasy feeling so we got out of there faster than you can say “AAAARRRRGGGGOOOSSSS”, fearing that we were going to get beaten to a pulp by thugs with pool cues.  That kind of stuff only happens in movies… and Hamilton.

After finding a different place to eat, we headed to the tailgate party in a high school parking lot and field.  At first we were scared.  There were Ticat fans everywhere. And they were traveling in packs.  There were only two of us.  We questioned our safety, especially when one local (in the most redneck accent I’ve ever heard) told us, “We don’t treat Argo fans real nice around these parts.”  We tried to find all the Argos fans first and talk to them.  They were all excited for the game and happy to see other Argo fans around.  The coolest part was, that a lot of them had heard of the Admirals. (THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT, NEW FRIENDS!)  Lori (@ArgoDiva) and her Argoholic best friend were especially lovely to meet.  We even met some great Saskatchewan Roughrider fans and a Calgary Stampeders fan who were ready to cheer for the Argos.  Maybe they thought it was safer to wear a different team’s colours instead of double-blue to Hamilton.  Finally, we decided to talk to some Ticat fans.  They were surprisingly nice, and welcoming to us.  They even told us they were impressed by the Admirals!

With this new feeling of confidence, we headed into Ivor Wynne stadium and found our seats.  There was an awesome amount of blue around us!  But also a lot of black and yellow.  As Admirals, we had spent ALL WEEK chirping the Ticats.  Everyone knows that Argo Boatmen eat Ticat burgers for breakfast, right?  (Bonus facts:  Lightning wishes it was as fast as Chad Owens.  When Ricky Ray crosses the boarder he has to declare his arm as a firearm.  Chuck Norris once asked Joe Eppele to be his body guard.  Mike Bradwell has great hair.  All these facts are true… check twitter if you don’t believe it).  We were all pretty rowdy for the first part of the first quarter, but when the Ticats started putting on a show, heckling begun.  Luckily, no violence occurred in our section, although we did notice that police/security were never too far away.  The fans in our section were generally just rude and didn’t have a clue what was going on.  They just recognized blue as bad.

At half time we decided to visit some friends in an endzone section.  The walk from the opposite 10 yard line to the endzone was not friendly.  We faced lots of boos, but nothing serious.  People in section 16 (endzone) told us that Ticat fans were throwing stuff at Argo fans and there had been a few small fights.  We escaped safely and returned to our seats for the second half.

Conveniently this was when the Argos started to turn up the heat.  Needless to say, there was more banter back and forth between rival fans.  Yet at the end of the game some of the locals who had been heckling us the most came over to shake hands.  It showed a lot of class.  After leaving the game, Argos fans still cheered “AAARRRRRGGGGOOOOOSSSSS” lots outside the stadium and Ticat fans weren’t that upset about it.  They went home to bed and we all drove back to Toronto.

We survived.  Maybe the fear was real, or maybe it was just blown up in our minds by the stories we had heard about being an Argo in Ivor Wynne.  I’m sure we’ll be back in September to repeat the rowdiness all over again.

The Argos had a great performance in the second half of the game, and it is still early in the season.  Lots of time left to work out the kinks and make it into the playoffs.


4 Comments on Behind Enemy Lines: The Fan Experience in Hamilton

  1. My 11 year old son Liam (in his signed Ricky Rae jersey) and I attended this game as well. I first attended a game there in 1972 when Al Brenner intercepted Joe Theismann four times. Pigskin Pete was only a cub and I remember his Dad was doing his best to rile up the side!

    At first we sat in the dreaded Section J stands -very hard core! But by some twist of fate, we sat in a sea of Andy Fantuz family and Friends from Chatham. Quite tranquil. For those that don’t know my Liam, he is a hard core Argo fan. I am just his protection. He chanted Defense, Defense when they had the ball and ARGOOOs when we had the ball. Very out of place in Section J! But he quickly garnished their respect. Needless to say, he gave as good as he got! I forget that he is just 11 and when we were down by 21 he was close to tears. Deep breathing and half time relieved his suffering.

    We decided to find some fellow Argo fans and spent the second half slipping into a pair of seats first row behind the Argo bench. His boisterous screaming ARGOOOs caught the attention of both the startled Argos and the inebriated Ticats fans. The 3rd Quarter rally had him now goading the section. A turn in the tide of the game brought the wrath of the section down on him, at one the point one Argo fan nicely defending his honour! A fight almost ensued. I separated to the two and indicated that Ivor Wynn Stadium is his right of passage and that if his is gonna give it out he has to learn to take it. He even garnered some respect locally.

    Afterwards Liam asked me about their rudeness “Argos Suck” etc. I explained the difference between Hamilton and Toronto and between good “hosts” and good “guests”. How thankful we are in Toronto and how proud they are of their Ticats! He left there with more understanding of the differences and similarities across our land.

    Also, we remembered our 2010 experience in the semi-finals sitting in the Ticat Alumni section! Liam that day stood under fire and did great. I knew he was a very good “winner”, but yesterday taught how to gracefully defer until next round.

    I can tell you, there is nothing like sitting with the opposition with an eleven year old CFL/Argo fanatic. They love his passion just disagree with his allegiance!


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