Toronto – Like most Argos fans, I’m frustrated with the number of hurdles this season’s schedule has thrown at them. But I’m certainly pleased with how well they’ve played with a young quarterback and so many rookies on the team. And even though we suspected it was coming, I was excited to hear that Toronto has been awarded the 2016 Grey Cup. It certainly seems like an opportunity for the team to re-establish a connection with its fan base, and to create a buzz in the community.
One of the things I enjoy most about going to games is the fun of going to an event. I often joke with friends that because I don’t have children, I’ve never taken that final step into adulthood by becoming a parent. Like a child, I still like the sense of wonder that going to a game brings; the buzz of lineups, the street food, the Argonotes playing on the sidewalk outside the stadium. I like the anthem, I like the cheesy video montages. (If you show Terry Fox during the anthem I will always cry, just a tear or two.)
I like the player introductions. There are always one or two players whose names lend themselves to PA announcers bringing the showmanship to the game.
“Number 91, TRI-STAN OH-PAH-LA-OOOOOOO-GO.” – Don Landry, Toronto Argonauts Public Address Announcer
I LOVE being in an outdoor stadium and having a flyover. Growing up in Edmonton and watching planes from Cold Lake time their approach to roar over at the exact moment the anthem finishes and the crowd is on their feet is spine-tingling. How do you time that at 500 mph? Most of us have trouble getting on an elevator before the door closes.
I like the ritual sportsmanship of the coin toss, the stadium’s collective intake of breath at the opening kickoff, and the adrenaline that comes from the field. I like good punts, hard running games, and the mathematical elegance of a perfectly arced spiral touchdown pass. I appreciate good tackles, and hard-earned turnovers. There is much about the game that I love.
But I look around and don’t see fans having fun. They’re obsessed with results, and not the process. If we don’t win, all was for naught. Maybe it’s the chef I am, and the business person I’ve become, but I appreciate the process. Meals don’t happen in a moment. Staff don’t become trained in a day. Football teams don’t become good overnight. Players have to learn their roles, coaches have to learn the team’s strengths, and fans have to learn to let their team grow. The Argos have done an exceptional job the past 2 seasons, overcoming adversities few if any professional teams have faced. As I’ve seen on twitter recently, its #TorontoVsEverybody. How do we get past the things that grind us down as fans and make us angry?
Try and re-discover the things you love about the game. Watch how kids enjoy the game. I like seeing kids in jerseys. Do I see more kids in Chad Owens jerseys because he’s small like them, because he’s fast, or because he takes joy in the game? How about Pinball? We love his smile and his enthusiasm, it carried him to success on and off the field. Kids cheer for their favorite players, they cheer for the things they like, they dance to the silly songs, they smile ear to ear when they get candy. Remember what it was like to have fun?
My favorite moment as an Argonaut fan came at the 2012 Grey Cup when I was volunteering for the festivities. I was assigned to a spot as a host/ticket taker outside the concert room during the Friday and Saturday night events. About 9 pm a man in an Argos jersey with his small son in a jersey wandered up and asked me if this was a kid-friendly concert and was disappointed to find out it wasn’t. It was late in the evening and most of the family-themed activities had shut down for the night. His young son, in addition to his jersey, also had a small replica Grey Cup, that he had made himself with plastic cartons, tinfoil and duct tape. As I was helping them deal with their disappointment I was slightly surprised to hear the distinctly abrasive sound of bagpipes being warmed up across the lobby. Now, bagpipes on a dock on a foggy morning next to a lake are amongst my favorite things, but blowing air into a sealed sheep bladder in a closed space with glass and drywall aren’t the best of acoustic experiences. I gathered that somehow there would be a ceremony of some sort in the coming moments.
Looking just to the left of the piper, there was a man in a plain black suit wearing white cotton gloves. Next to him was a big black case with silver clasps and corner guards, the kind of case you carry instruments in, or speakers, or something delicate and fragile and beautiful.
I inquired if the man and his son had a few minutes to spare, and invited them to stand next to me at the door. I gave a wave to the man in the suit with the white gloves and pointed to the boy with his hand-made Grey Cup and raised an eyebrow. He gave me a quick smile and tipped the big black box onto its dolly and wheeled it through the crowd to us. I told the dad to get his camera ready and he gave me a “for what” look. The man in the white gloves parked next to us and proceeded to open the box to show us that right there in real life was the real Grey Cup. The little boy’s eyes were huge. His smile was even bigger. His dad got pictures of him holding his trophy and the man in the white gloves holding his trophy side by side. We got a picture of father and son together. The bagpipes got loud, and the man took the Grey Cup into the concert and they were piped on to the stage. The father and son gave me a high-five, and walked through the lobby already looking at the pictures on the camera.
These are the moments where fandom is cemented; the little stories that mean so much more than the score. Enjoy the game. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the process. Sign up to get your tickets to next year’s Grey Cup. Find a way to get to one of the Argos remaining “home” games. I’ll be in Hamilton Saturday afternoon. High-fiving new friends, dancing to silly tunes, eating some junk food, and if they play the anthem and show Terry Fox and there’s a flyover and a picture of a little kid in his favorite player’s jersey, well…I’ll love the moment. But I still hope the Argos win.