Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/7/2019 (186 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I think it’s fair to say I prize loyalty above everything else, even more than cheeseburgers and lying on the couch in the den watching sports highlights on our big-screen TV.
Which explains — at least I think it does — why when I moved here from Vancouver as a teenager, I brought my love — some would call it obsession — with the B.C. Lions with me.
Even as an oblivious teen, I knew deep in my heart that just because you switch cities, it does not mean you should abandon the Canadian Football League team you have adored since the day you were born.
I’m mentioning this to explain why I felt it necessary to wear my XXL Lions jersey into hostile territory last week, by which I mean IG Field for the Blue Bombers’ home game against the Toronto Argonauts.
The other reason I decided to wear the black and orange of my beloved Leos was that my companion at the game, Toronto author Paul Woods, insisted the two of us had to have the guts to wear the colours of the teams we have rooted for since we were kids.
For the record, Paul, the executive director of the National Newspaper Awards and a veteran journalist, is even more passionate about the Argos than I am about the Lions, which is really saying something. At Friday’s game, Paul bravely wore his favourite Argos blue and white T-shirt and ball cap.
I will explain here that Paul was in Winnipeg doing research for his second CFL book, which will spotlight how the Argos captured the 1991 CFL championship in one of the most memorable games in Grey Cup history, the most famous moment of which came when a beer can came hurtling out of the stands and splashed down at the feet of Raghib (Rocket) Ismail as he returned a kickoff 87 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
It was the first Grey Cup ever held in Winnipeg and, not surprisingly, the coldest Cup ever.
(By way of background, Paul wrote an awesome piece in last Saturday’s paper, wherein — with a little help from my readers — he solved a 28-year-old Winnipeg sports mystery by interviewing the fan who flung the can, which most of us at that iconic game thought was a snowball because of the white suds that erupted when it hit the turf.)
On Friday, a full 2½ hours before game time, Paul and I arrived at the stadium because my Toronto buddy wanted to add some colour to his upcoming book, which will be published in 2021, by getting up close and personal with hardcore Bombers boosters at a tailgate party.
In our Toronto and B.C. ensembles, we stuck out like sore thumbs, which became obvious as we walked past our first group of local fans who, after catching a glimpse of my Lions jersey, began making the following noise: "Meow! Meow! Meow!" to convey the notion that this year’s Lions are more like kitty cats.
Then, we bravely marched over to a parking lot behind a hill near the north end of the stadium, where the tailgating soiree was in full flight — a veritable sea of Bombers blue and gold flowing around barbecues groaning with burgers and hotdogs and anything else that can fit on a grill.
"What’s with the Lions jersey?" is what a steady stream of Bombers fans sidled over to ask me.
Which is when I would explain how I came here from Vancouver and refused to abandon my first love, which all the local fans understood and respected, a fact they showed by thrusting beer mugs into our hands and ensuring they were topped up with cold brews the entire time we were there.
Along with cold beer, Paul felt compelled to soak up a lot of local colour, so he wandered around in his Argos gear and chatted with anyone standing still, especially if large portions of their anatomy were painted blue and gold.
A few minutes before kickoff, we scrambled over the hill and up the steps to the stadium, where a seriously hardcore Bombers fan sporting blue and gold shoulder pads with pointy spikes on top and a liberal coating of face paint spotted our rival colours and trotted over.
"Ha ha ha!" he roared at us, then stuck out his fist so that I could bump it with mine. "I gotta give you respect for having the guts to represent your teams."
After being cleared by security, we trundled to the upper reaches in Section 207 and settled in to enjoy the game, which for Paul, did not last long due to the fact his team was down almost 40 points before you could sing the Bombers fight song, which I’m sure they have, although I don’t know the words.
In the row in front of us, there was a young family in Bombers colours and, when he spotted my Lions jersey, the dad broke into a huge smile, laughed and chirped: "Hey, B.C., what are you doing here?"
Every time the Bombers scored, the young dad took huge delight in asking "B.C." what he’d thought of that particular play. At one point, he held up his blue-clad baby son in both arms, beamed at me and roared: "Hey, B.C., this is what it’s all about!"
I have absolutely no idea what he meant, unless it was something along the lines of how, in Winnipeg, we indoctrinate our CFL fans pretty much from the moment they pop out of the womb.
Like true fans, before the final whistle, we opted to leave in hopes of getting to our car before the rest of the crowd spilled out of the stadium.
Which is when, as we trotted through the concession area, a young woman caught sight of me, sauntered over and patted my belly, which is easy to see even beneath my jersey. Looking into my eyes, she cheerfully belted out those words I hear far too often in this city: "B.C. SUCKS!"
For his part, Paul thought this was hilarious. Even though his team had been humiliated by our own boys in blue, all this Argos fan could talk about was how much fun he’d had in Winnipeg and how welcoming and wacky our football fans are.
"I love Winnipeg," he told me. "I’m really digging this city."
And he kept saying that for the next hour, because that’s roughly how long it took before we figured out where we’d parked the car.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.