Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

So an Argo, a Leaf and a Raptor walk into a bar... They who laugh last...

Argos' Grey Cup welcome treat for a city that's usually the butt of many sports jokes

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TORONTO -- Chad Owens danced onstage with his young son while Jalil Carter rode shirtless in the back of a pickup truck sipping from a coffee cup, and Adriano Belli planted a smooch on Toronto's embattled mayor.

Cornerback Evan McCollough arrived late, running to catch up to the parade at Yonge Street.

The Argonauts and their fans celebrated a rare treat Tuesday -- a championship party in their own backyard.

And all the crazy antics culminated with the common refrain of "Repeat!" from a CFL team and its fans that could certainly get used to winning.

"All the ups, the downs, the stretches we went through, when we lost five out of six games, just knowing that we stuck together, persevered through and never lost sight of our dream and our goal and we made it through," said Owens, the wide receiver who won the league's Most Outstanding Player award this season.

"It's so special. The 100th Grey Cup. In our city. Never going to forget that."

The Argonauts paraded the venerable trophy through downtown Toronto, arriving at Nathan Phillips Square to a festive lunchtime crowd of several thousand to celebrate Sunday's 35-22 victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th Grey Cup.

Fans clad in jerseys and tuques in the Argos' double blue lined the streets and packed into the square, bouncing up and down to the blaring pop music. Some blew on horns, others waved Argos flags or white towels in celebration of the team's first championship since 2004.

"This is awesome," said quarterback Ricky Ray. "It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not everybody gets to win the Grey Cup and experience where we got to today, and just to come here and share it with our fans is awesome."

The fans and players came ready to party. Carter, a rookie defensive back, danced shirtless atop a truck despite the numbing 3 C temperature, hollering at fans, "Man, it's hot out!"

One fan hollered back, about the cup he clutched: "Carter, what's in your cup?"

It was the first championship celebration in Toronto since the Argos won the Grey Cup in 2004 and will be a shot in the arm for the city's long-suffering sports fans.

Canada's largest sports market has been its most underachieving. Baseball's Blue Jays haven't won a title since 1993, hockey's Maple Leafs have been shut out since 1967 and basketball's Raptors and soccer's Toronto FC haven't even come close.

"This is what you work for, this is what these guys put all their hours in for, and to have it in your own city, it doesn't get any better than that," said rookie head coach Scott Milanovich.

The Argonauts seemed destined to break Toronto's sports curse since the beginning of the CFL season when they acquired Ray in a blockbuster trade with the Edmonton Eskimos, announcing they were serious about playing for the Cup in their hometown.

"When you take a job, you've got two or three years to do it or they fire you," said general manager Jim Barker. "We were fortunate. Things fell our way, we were able to make some deals, we were able to sign some players... things just kind of fell into place."

The players danced onto the Nathan Phillips Square stage one by one -- Owens, preceded by his nine-year-old son Chad Jr. The crowd exploded when defensive captain Jordan Younger hoisted the Grey Cup aloft.

Mayor Rob Ford, wearing an Argos jersey with No. 1 on the front, didn't get nearly as much love, despite declaring it "Toronto Argonauts Day."

"This is what you call a dream come true, folks. We said they could do it and they did it," said Ford, who was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers one day after a judge ordered him removed from office in 14 days on conflict-of-interest charges.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2012 C3

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