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My First #GreyCup: A Uniquely CFL Experience

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Image: Johany Jutras

When the Grey Cup is in your hometown, it’s time get the full Grey Cup experience.

That’s just was Justin Rowan did for the first time…

By: Justin Rowan

In the end, the Edmonton Eskimos were able to impose their will on the Ottawa REDBLACKS and turn them black and blue. Even with a charmed start to the game, Ottawa wasn’t able to muster enough offence after the opening minutes of the game to hold off the push from the soon to be champions. As someone attending his first ever Grey Cup, the theater on the field was matched by the passion and fire within the crowd.

If I had to pick a home field advantage for one team, I would say there seemed to be the louder ovations for Ottawa throughout the night. But it was fair to say that the crowd was a mosaic of all the different breeds of CFL fans across the country. There were those travelling from Edmonton or Ottawa, I spoke to several that had roots in other CFL cities and had purchased tickets hoping their team would make an appearance. But the one thing the fans from other cities had in common was they all didn’t mind that their team wasn’t involved, it was about being present when history was made and being part of the CFL experience.

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For me it was a unique situation. Despite growing up with the CFL, I had never attended a game that did not include my hometown Blue Bombers. Without the living and dying with every play that comes when you watch your team play I was able to truly drink in the whole experience. The fans waving their arms to summon noise from those sympathetic to their cause, the dead silence when a play is under review, the screams of desperation from the members of the crowd hoping for a goal line stop and the elation from the other half of the stadium when that stop didn’t come.

In a league with only nine teams, you play everybody enough to form rivalries or at the very least a healthy distaste for them. But while there was no absence of friendly ribbing between fans within the stands, overall the crowd environment was one of glee and excitement over what a special night it was. Jokes were shared, friendships were formed and tears of joy as well as disappointment were not hard to find.

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While the halftime performance from Fall Out Boy wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, they performed well and the presentation both on the stage and with the screen projected onto the field was spectacular. The fan experience altogether was great in my eyes. There was plenty of concessions available and the waits weren’t too long, the aforementioned crowd created a warm environment and the presentation of the game was smooth and went off without a hitch. It was a tremendous showcase for the league on a weekend where they not only had it’s biggest game, but released new branding for the CFL. A great game, great night and the television ratings featured a six percent increase. Not a bad night overall for the league and its fans.

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Overall the night proved to be special and memorable for me. At times Winnipeg can feel like it’s on an island. It’s hours to another major city in every direction so to have an opportunity where the entire nation is focused on Winnipeg, and to see the city rise to the occasion is something that filled me with a lot of pride. I wasn’t able to attend the last Winnipeg Grey Cup in 2006 and likely wasn’t old enough to appreciate what was going on anyways. But the build-up and the event itself proved to be a very special time for me and a memory I won’t soon forget.

Justin Rowan is a Canadian writer that currently writes for the SB Nation Cleveland Cavaliers blog Fear The Sword, as well as Hoops Lounge. You can follow him on Twitter @Cavsanada.

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