When you attend Grey Cup, there is one thing that becomes crystal clear. The fans that attend this celebration of the CFL care deeply about this league, and the Grey Cup brings fans from all parts of Canada together like no other event in our country.
Much is made of the parties but in the years I have attended, the best part of Grey Cup has been the people I have met and look forward to seeing every year. The game itself really becomes secondary unless your team is playing. There is so much to do during the week, it’s tough to see everyone you would like to or attend all the events because there just isn’t enough time.
I had some friends in Calgary that were basically experiencing their first Grey Cup. They couldn’t believe the extent that the fans went to show their support for their teams, the costumes, the parties and the ranges in age of the participants, many having attended decades of Grey Cups.
For me, there is no one that exudes the passion for Grey Cup week more than my friend Bruce Findley from Ottawa. Bruce has seen his team fold, come back and fold again. But his passion for the CFL never waivers. Oh sorry, Bruce would correct me buy making sure I know it should be the CANADIAN Football League. Bruce or “Brewster” recently retired and considers his many CFL friends family and he looks forward to this week more than anyone I know. His nephew Tim aka “Timbo” and he have more energy than any Grey Cup goers I know and they dance from early afternoon to late at night, hitting as many parties as they can in the process. On game day, Bruce and his nephew choose a team to cheer for and they paint their faces for that team, and he always makes sure there is a Canadian flag somewhere as well. He talks about his family, and how “they know” what this week means to him.
The state of the league address by commissioner Mark Cohon was a huge hit and a highlight for me. It proved how much the hardcore CFL fan cares about this game and the league. The questions were well thought out and the commissioner seems to share the same passion as those fans. He’s accessible, he understands that the fans are the lifeblood of the CFL.
There is no doubt that when Saskatchewan is in the game, Grey Cup week takes on a whole new feel. Calgary turned green during Grey Cup week as Rider Nation took over the city. The passion that Rider fans show for the team is an impressive site and as a Lions fan I wish we had that passion in BC. Watching a city and a whole stadium turn green for a national championship was amazing. It was the same in Toronto in 2007 and you can be sure that Rider fans are already counting the days to the 2010 season to begin. 800 Rider fans showed up at the airport to greet the team after their crushing loss. 100 turned out to see the champs in Montreal, although the parade that followed had an impressive turnout.
Overall Calgary put on a great party and the hospitality was appreciated. The game was fantastic, and the ending will go down as one of the classics in Grey Cup history. That said, one of the disappointments for me this year was the apparent bias shown all week towards the Riders. When league hired entertainment comes out wearing Rider gear, there is something wrong. All week it was Riders, Riders, Riders and you barely heard a thing about the Alouettes. I don’t think it was deliberate, but the league should do a better job to appear neutral in my opinion.
There were long lines at the venues, making it difficult to plan your day, and cabs were scarce at times, particularly after a storm hit the city on Friday, making the streets slick.
Other than that it was a great week, and it reinforced why I love attending Grey Cup and why I love our league. It brings our country together every year, and in the process creates friendships that last lifetimes. Well done Calgary, and we’ll see all of you in Edmonton next year!