One of the great things about the first game of the season is we get to see what truck, hamburger, courier and beer commercials TSN is going to bludgeon us with for the next five months. The other great thing is that Canadian football is back.
The CFL and the Toronto Argonauts are trying to sell the Argos as an “experience” in the hopes of rekindling interest amount Torontonians, especially the younger crowd. The Argos have tough competition for the Toronto sports dollar. It’s difficult to compete against that perennial powerhouse, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and watching the Raptors and Blue Jays face-plant every year is far more exciting when they do it in the playoffs. How can you compete against that? In Toronto, you don’t.
But the Toronto Argonauts are gonna try. Step one: ply the fans with booze at an officially sanctioned tailgate party. Step two: repeat step one. If Toronto fans are anything like the rest of the fans in this godforsaken league, this will be more than enough. The team claims it wants to make the overall experience memorable. Try making it completely black-out forgettable and I say you’ve got ‘yerself a winner!
One quibble; try weekend games. There is only so much damage a sane person is willing to do to himself on a Thursday night. One needs the freedom that comes with Friday and Saturday nights to fully unload on one’s liver. Anyone who has ever been to a Friday night game at Mosaic Stadium knows what I’m talking about, and my experience with Calgary and Edmonton on weekend games is comparable. (I find Calgary fans a little nastier and Edmonton fans are fairly polite drunks.)
My opinion of Toronto Argonaut fans is that there may not be a lot of them, but the ones who do exist are pretty hardcore. They serve as the small officer corps that sustains the club during peace time. When the Argos start winning, the barracks fill up with new recruits to form a decent-sized and competent army of supporters, led by the cadre of full-time professional soldiers.
Back in 2006, I attended a Toronto/Saskatchewan tilt at Mosaic Stadium and had the fortune and misfortune of sitting beside what I believe was the only Toronto Argonaut fan west of 1 Blue Jays Way. He was a painter or a drywaller or something. He was obnoxious, mouthy, knowledgeable, happy and drunk, so obviously he fit right in. He loved kicker Noel Prefontaine and hated Toronto’s then-Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin. He would start singing “The First Noël” every time Prefontaine came out. That got old fast. He also spent the entire game bitching about Austin which, back in the pre-2007 Grey Cup days, was a pretty popular thing to bitch about in Saskatchewan, so again, he fit right in.
Between his hectoring and ranting, I mentioned that I thought it was very likely that Kent Austin would be hired as Saskatchewan’s head coach the following year, given that a major Roughrider overhaul was expected after 2006 if the team did not do well. It took a while for this guy to see how that might happen, but he soon jumped aboard the idea and was needling us about getting stuck with that loser Kent Austin next year. Yeah, that loser Kent Austin.
The 2012 Toronto Grey Cup showed that Toronto fans can come out en masse, and enthusiastically so. Rogers Centre was filled with Argo fans who were young, loud and engaged. If it wasn’t a sell-out, it looked very close. And we all know these people weren’t there to see Justin Beiber.
At the 2012 Grey Cup festivities, I was wandering around the Spirit of Edmonton a little after closing, looking for my jacket (I never use the coat check; I just throw my jacket against a wall somewhere and hope I can remember where later). I happened upon a nice young lady who was wearing a Toronto Argonaut jersey. Emboldened by alcohol and my innate sense of fan superiority as a member of Rider Nation, I accused her of being a mere bandwagon-jumper. As it turned out, she was Lance Chomyc’s daughter. I didn’t believe her so she proudly whipped out her Driver’s License. She was indeed a Chomyc. Thusly chastened and having established her bona fides, I resumed looking for my jacket.
For some reason, I often get Lance Chomyc mixed up with Hank Ilesic, which is kinda like mixing up Otto von Bismarck with Kaiser Wilhelm II. They were sorta the same and their careers overlapped a bit, but now that I think of it, this comparison makes no sense. Anyway, I was able to keep the two kickers straight by remembering that it was easy to call Hank Ilesic “Shank” Ilesic, which is hilarious, but you couldn’t really do anything with Chomyc’s name.
Anyway, the game on Thursday night. Yes. Are they turning up the crowd noise for the television audience, or is that an actual stadium full of non-comatose CFL fans?
Okay, Andy Fantuz looks like he’s finally recovering from that bad case of NFL-itis he caught a few years back.
John Chick is wearing an odd number. 7? That’s a defensive lineman number? Oh, I see. He’s not a defensive end, he’s a linebacker. But… 7 is a linebacker number?
TSN should hire Joe Theismann as the third colour man. He’s a total pro. Says all the right things, knows football, articulate. Who’s that idiot behind Theismann making faces and skulking around?
There’s a shot of Ricky Ray smiling. Something is obviously wrong with him.
So, yeah. That’s about it. It doesn’t look like Toronto’s as good as I thought they would be. My bad?