The New Beginning: Five Yards Off The Ball
This feels like a long time coming. The negotiations to buy the team took forever. The arrangements to agree on a lease to share the stadium were agonizingly long. The off-season seemed to last for years. The draft, free agent signings, excitement as the renovations took place, new uniforms, training camp, an aggressive and confident marketing campaign; we had everything we like about football, except football.
Finally, Game One is here. Thursday June 23, 2016
The stars come out at night
After the pre-game tailgating and the bands and the introduction of some Argos legends and a rousing version of O Canada and maybe a fighter jet flying over as the last note hangs in the air, I can’t wait to see how the stadium looks in the evening light with stands full of blue-shirted fans, and that perfect green field and the Argos dressed in their all-blue uniforms. I don’t know if the league’s new uniforms were designed to look better on HD broadcasts and high-quality photographs, but I really like how sharp and crisp they looked at the pre-season game.
I hope the team finds a way to celebrate their heritage. In addition to having Theismann, Allen, Ismail and Clemons on hand for the coin toss, it would be nice if they were able to raise Grey Cup Banners (surely there’s sixteen flagpoles in the stadium), and a spot to honour those players who had their numbers retired. Having the #boatlogo as part of the Shipyard pre-game celebrations goes a long ways to acknowledging an important part of the team’s past and recognizing that sentiment plays a part in a fan’s attachment to the team.
For a brief period over the better part of 2 seasons, Doug Gilmour was perhaps the best player in hockey when he played for the local hockey team. Like Gilmour, and Pinball before him in double-blue, Chad Owens was the under-sized fan favourite that out-performed athletes bigger and stronger than him on sheer will-power, heart and determination. Like Gilmour, he’ll finish out his career on another team, but probably never have to pick up a restaurant tab in this town again. Owens broke records as an Argo and provided fans with moments of exhilaration. I hope he gets an incredible ovation either when he’s introduced, or when he comes on the field. And then, he plays for the other team. No sentimental attachments. No touchdowns. No one-handed catches. No punt returns down the sideline. Save those for the other 7 teams, have a great season, just not in our house.
In a city that is rife with commuter problems, the D-line has a nickname that suggests that they’re going to stop traffic. These are a bunch of men whose personalities are even bigger than their imposing physical frames. If they manage to grind Hamilton’s offense to a halt, just like the DVP on a Friday afternoon, I imagine the celebrations are going to be fierce, and entertaining. It makes me wonder, as Argo coaches put together their game plans, which end do they want to have in the fourth quarter? Will wind play a factor? Or do you want to be defending the south end late in the fourth quarter? Could fans that close to the field disrupt the opposition, especially with a relatively inexperienced QB, enough to make a difference? You know that motion that the defense makes with their arms when they want you to get loud? I love being part of that noise.
The offense always got to do it. But the league changed a rule this winter that meant a defending team scoring a touchdown would no longer be penalized for giving the ball away to a fan. In the old stadium, it seemingly never happened unless somebody kicked the ball into the stands because of the distance between the field and the fans. In BMO, the players are so close they can smell the food. I look forward to the Argos creating some sort of touchdown celebration that engages the fans, especially young ones. High fives along the end zone walls, a BMO leap, or handing a ball to a kid in an Argos jersey, go a long way to creating sentimental attachments with kids, and their parents. I don’t know if they’ll have field goal nets this week, or if you’re allowed to keep the ball if you catch it. But if you do catch one, look around and give it to a kid. A little sentiment goes a long way
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