I shelled out some of my (not very) hard earned money on Sunday for two tickets to the CFL Eastern Division Finals between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts at the Rogers Centre.
I haven’t followed Canadian football since Doug Flutie, Mike “Pinball” Clemons and Paul Masotti were winning Grey Cups in the late 90s, but this seemed like a match-up worth checking out. Plus, in one of the saddest revelations I’ve ever had while peeing in a urinal at the stadium, I realized that this would be only be the third playoff game (of any sport) I’ve attended in my 20+ years of living in Toronto.
The Argonauts were up 24-10 at one point in the first half and looked well on their way to a blowout win. Then, this sequence of events happened: Kardinal Offishall showed up and performed on the saddest of sad side stages at halftime, the mayor (not need to even reference his name at this point, it’s reached the point where “the mayor” is enough) make his way to the game in the second half, and the Argos never scored again, losing 36-24 to the Ti-Cats.
My not very football-related recap below, real football recap here if you want one.
1. The Tiger-Cats fan base seem a little more rabid.
I took the above picture of a Ti-Cats fan outside the stadium before the game, and truthfully, his estimates were not too far off from reality. From the player introductions to every time the Argonauts had the ball, it felt like the home team was playing in their stadium, but with a crowd that was against them.
In the section I was sitting with, we were surrounded by Hamilton fans who kept breaking into a chant that I had never heard of. It goes like this:
The chant is a variation of the Oski Yell, and these fans were doing it non-stop especially in the second half when Hamilton stormed back to take control of the game.
Before the game, watching the friendly banter outside the stadium, the Toronto-Hamilton rivalry seemed innocent enough. But I felt just a general dislike that was a bit more than casual from the Hamilton fans, which was just fascinating especially when I didn’t really have a horse in this race.
The same cannot be said about my fiancee, who in her tradition of getting immersed in the sports experience, spent $15 on an Argos t-shirt from the clearance rack that she’ll never wear again, except to sleep.
At least we got a free refill on our popcorn.
2. This felt like a normal football game, which means it wasn’t the CFL game I expected.
First of all, there were no rouges in this game. That’s the one-pointer that is part of the Canadian football rules. I was fully ready for some crazy bat-shit ending.
The thing that really stands out to me when watching Canadian football is all the motion by the offense before the snap. Essentially, every player except the quarterback are allowed to be in motion in any direction, so this results in receivers getting a head start by moving forward while shifting from one end to another. It creates a lot of confusion and in general, gives the offense a significant advantage.
Of course, having said all that, the Argonauts were shut out in the second half.
3. Kardinal Offishall performed on a side-stage at halftime.
The CFL—aside from its dedicated fan base— generally gets a bad rap as an inferior product to the NFL, which I do think is true in many ways.
No one thing defined this better on Sunday than the halftime entertainment: Kardinal Offishall. This was announced on the Jumbotron in the second quarter. My fiancee and I were too lazy to walk around at halftime that we decided to stay in our seats and watch the show.
It was silly of us to expect some replica of a Super Bowl performance where a stage would be rolled out in the middle of the field. Instead, Kardinal got a side stage behind one of the end zones.
4. Rob Ford showed up at some point in the second half.
A few weeks ago, I went to a Leafs game and the mayor showed up in the third period, sitting just two rows ahead of me. I was so distracted the whole time and even tried to get a photo with him because, well, I’m a groupie. The best I got was this picture, which seems to show him pleading his innocence, which makes sense given that the week after that hockey game, the entire city became a shit storm with our mayor throwing us into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
You can’t really make anything up in the Rob Ford saga at this point, so of course, this happened:
I’m going to go ahead and say that the Ti-Cats coaching staff made great adjustments at halftime to shutout the Argos in the second half, but it is worth noting that the home team was outscored 19-0 once the mayor arrived.
But the strangest thing is that about all the accusations, the videos, the bullying, the posturing in public that has gone from resilient to desperate to stupid, we’re somehow still not disgusted with him. He’s more of a novelty pop star than a despicable villain whom we’d rather not share seats with at a sporting event.
I’m not sure if this says anything about Rob Ford as much as it says about just how our mentality is when it comes to seeing famous people in real life. It’s as if we become paparazzi while pushing aside our principles and moral stances for the thrill of the encounter. I mean, I’m the guy who was hoping for a photo and wish I got his bobblehead last week, all out of fascination and a desire to be part of it.
Look at the joyous reactions of the fans around him:
Or better yet, look at the fan reactions to him in this video. Where he should be shunned for all the things he has (allegedly) done, as the rap sheet grows, so does the fascination.
As is the norm these days, you can’t talk about anything without having it circling back to the mayor. This football game was no exception.
I went for the playoff atmosphere and got that. Would I go to another CFL game? Probably only if it had stakes like this one. I went for a chance to see a local team do successful things on the field, and left it feeling just about the same as before: inferior and fascinated by all that’s going on with the mayor.
Sounds about right.
Footnote, or, yes, more end of post book promotion:
I’ll be using the end of each post to tell you about a book project that I’m very close to finishing. I figure if you read all the way to the bottom of these posts, this will probably interest you.
It’s a book featuring my writing and original illustrations from a bunch of really talented artists. You can see some sample layouts here (Kobe, Barry Bonds, Dennis Rodman). I will be setting up a Kickstarter soon to recoup some of the print and shipping costs, an early estimate of the book will be $20. It’s going to be an entirely non-profit project for me, which my parents will be sad to hear about considering I hold a business degree.
All of this to say, please subscribe to the mailing list by clicking here if this sounds like something you’d be interested in, it’d help me gauge the interest of the project.