TORONTO – It is difficult to believe that it has been nearly three decades since legendary Head Coach, Bob O’Billovivh, led the Double Blue to their historic Grey Cup triumph in 1983.
O’Billovich and the 1983 Argos are credited with ending the infamous “curse”, a 31-year championship dry spell that currently stands as the longest Grey Cup drought in franchise history.
For many fans, the days of Condredge Holloway, Terry Greer, and Joe Barnes remain deeply ingrained in their memories. Despite capturing five Grey Cup titles since breaking the 31-year “curse”, the 1983 Grey Cup Champions have become synonymous with Argonauts football and are the only team in franchise history to win a Grey Cup while donning the trademark boat logo uniforms.
“It was a very special team”, declared O’Billovich as he addressed fans at the Argonauts annual Season Ticket Holder Town Hall event.
Also in attendance and speaking with season ticket holders was Dan Ferrone. The future Hall of Fame offensive lineman was sporting a replica throwback boat logo jersey that the 2013 Argonauts plan to wear on August 23 when they commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Grey Cup Champions.
It was back on November 27, 1983 in front of a capacity crowd at B.C. Place Stadium that the Toronto Argonauts defeated the hometown B.C. Lions 18-17 to capture the franchise’s first Grey Cup title since 1952.
“It’s an exciting story to be able to tell, especially with ‘Obie’ here next to me”, explained Ferrone, reflecting on the 1983 Grey Cup win. “Reaching a Grey Cup is an extraordinary moment. It’s a real journey. They’re all your brothers and you’ll share those memories for the rest of your life. It’ll be an exciting day for us on that August 23rd reunion.”
Nineteen players from the Championship Team are slated to be in attendance for the celebratory festivities at the Rogers Centre on August 23rd. All-time Argos, Condredge Holloway and Terry Greer, have already confirmed their participation in the 30th Anniversary festivities as well as Grey Cup Offensive MVP, Joe Barnes, and Grey Cup Defensive MVP, Carl Brazley.
“It will be like catching up with old friends. Time will not have passed when we talk about how ‘great’ we played in that Grey Cup game”, joked Ferrone.
Argonauts’ slotback, Andre Durie, is beginning to experience similar feelings following the Boatmen’s remarkable victory in the 100th Grey Cup this past November. As the Double Blue prepare to defend their Grey Cup title in 2013, Durie says that last year’s squad shared a special bond that he will certainly never forget.
“It’s truly amazing to see the connection they still have from that”, said Durie when discussing the 1983 Grey Cup Champions. “We kind of have that now winning the Grey Cup last year as a unit. We all feel like we’re brothers like Dan Ferrone said and you just want to continue building stuff like that for the city. The city embraced us last year and it was a special year so we want to keep that momentum going.”
The 1983 CFL season was memorable in many respects for the Boatmen. Wide receiver, Terry Greer, was named East Division Most Outstanding Player and became the first Argonaut to record 2,000 yards receiving in a singles-season. The Argos also had 11 players named to the CFL’s East Division All-Star Team including Condredge Holloway, Dan Ferrone, Emanuel Tolbert, the aforementioned Terry Greer, and Carl Brazley.
For fans, the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Grey Cup Champions is more than just any ordinary championship reunion. John Granger, co-founder of the Toronto Argonauts Boat Logo Fan Page on Facebook, has long awaited the return of the boat logo and was thrilled when Argonauts CEO, Chris Rudge, confirmed the team’s intention to don a 1983-style uniform on August 23rd as part of the Anniversary celebration.
“All I can say is that I am humbled by this whole situation”, commented Granger following the announcement from Chris Rudge at Argonauts Town Hall earlier this week. “I have been waiting for something like this to come up for the last 10 years. I began hearing fans wanting to bring back the boat logo, which is the true definition of what this team is. We’re referred to as the Boatmen. We’re addressed in the media as the Boatmen and what other thing can we be besides the boat logo? The fact that it is coming back is a great thing but it’s a chance for the fans that are around in this era to be able to wear those colours and be proud because it represents the Boatmen.”
Granger is also the Captain and founder of the Argo Lifers Supporter’s Section at the Rogers Centre. Every home game in section 134B, Granger and fellow Argo Lifers gather to support the Argonauts and show their passion for the beloved boat logo. Granger’s efforts to create a group of loyal Argonauts’ fans and boat logo advocates began over five years ago while he was attending away games in various stadiums throughout the CFL.
“It all originated about five years ago when my wife and I would be going to away games around the country. I’d be wearing my jersey from the 1996 Grey Cup Championship year, which also has boat logo patches on it. The irony was that fans would come to me at halftime when I’m out of my seat and they’d be patting me on the back saying ‘I love that logo’. This happened repeatedly”, stated Granger. “It happened a lot in Edmonton when we went to visit there. I thought to myself ‘what the heck is going on?’ I’d been getting bugged about the boat logo and I guess there is a flavour around the country of fans outside of Toronto that really appreciate this logo. They’ve stuck to it and they’re still there. I thought to myself maybe there is something I can do to let Toronto know and let the organization know that there are fans out there that like this. There was a fan that came out to me and said ‘why don’t you start a Facebook page?’”
Prior to the 2012 season, Granger launched the Boat Logo Facebook page and also hired a photographer to follow the Argo Lifers throughout the season in section 134B. Since its inception prior to last season, the Boat Logo fan page has received hundreds of tags from Argonauts fans that have also been anxiously awaiting the return of the classic boat logo.
“Some fans actually thought because of the boat logo page that the logo was coming back and they’ve seen it so many times in the stands. I thought that was motivation”, explains Granger. “I did a survey with my wife on the street asking some kids if they knew what the ‘A’ is or what the boat logo is and they referred to the boat logo as something having to do with Argonauts football. That was my clincher. I have a mission now. I have to let fans know. I have to let Argos nation know that this logo is what is going to make things more of what this organization is all about. That’s where it all started and the passion is fully kicking in. The results are coming in now.”
Granger has been an Argonauts season ticket holder since 1986 when the Double Blue used to play their home games at Exhibition Stadium. For Granger, some of his fondest memories as a fan came while watching the Argonauts sport the boat logo uniforms at Exhibition Stadium.
While the Argonauts prepare to honour the incredible achievements of the 1983 Grey Cup Champions, it will be a momentous occasion for many different reasons. Thirty years can go by but that will never take away the passion and pride of true dedicated Argo fans.
The boat logo, much like the 1983 Grey Cup Champs, resonates in the hearts and memories of Argonauts fans because of what it represented. When the 2013 Argonauts sport the throwback boat logo uniforms, they are not only honouring the 30th Anniversary of that Grey Cup Team but are also paying tribute to all the fans that proudly donned those colours.
At least for one day, fans and players alike can go back to their roots and celebrate the great history of this franchise in the only way they know how – through the boat logo.
“After all, that’s what it’s all about: being passionate and showing your true colours.”