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Zuk: The Eastern Final Brought Me Back

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By: Jeff Zuk

Jeff Zuk, a CFL fan from years back lost touch.  One visit to Tim Hortons Field last weekend brought him back again.
I’ll admit it, I’m a lapsed CFL fan. When I lived in Winnipeg for the first 25 years of my life, being a Blue Bomber fan was expected. I had some of the most fun times I’ve had at sporting events watching games sitting in Section S, the cheap student section of the old Bomber stadium. Beers were had, jokes were made, and we occasionally cast an eye and saved a cheer for former stars like Ralph Dieter Brock, Tom Clements and the height-challenged kicker, Trevor Kennerd. (I can still hear the fan behind us who used to shout when it was field-goal time, “Put the little guy in,” although he didn’t say “guy.”)

Then I moved.  This was the early ’90s and not only did I stop being a Bomber fan, but Winnipeg soon lost the Jets too.

Things changed last year. We bought a house in Hamilton, where houses are still affordable and the city is trying to grow out of its steel-town legacy. And the CFL is loved. I knew things were different the first day our family arrived and I saw a pickup truck with an “Argos Suck” bumper sticker. I had forgotten that most of the country thinks the Argos suck. I myself have said those words once or twice.

We bought a house on the East side, a 20-minute walk to Tim Hortons Field. (You can tell I’m a recent arrival: I don’t even call it Ivor Wynne). Houses have Ticat flags flying outside. As we walked to the Eastern Final last Sunday, we passed many fans walking to the game, including one wearing tiger-print MC Hammer pants. This is what I’ve missed.

I knew it was going to be a good day when I saw that our seats were on the East side.  As fans at the old Bomber stadium know, the East is preferable as, was often chanted at games, the “West Side sucks.”

No drunken student section for me this time as I’m now a responsible father, who brought my pre-teen daughter. But it felt like everyone was into the action, a sentiment that was literally drummed into me as I sat right in front of a guy who brought a tom-tom and thumped it loudly most of the game. These were veteran fans, who “bled Black and Gold” as the PA announcer growled, with their own game-day traditions and nonsensical chants. Oskawhatnow?

And the game? Never in doubt, except for most of the first half. As you know, it was the Brandon Banks show, the fastest guy in a league with no shortage of speedsters. Montreal played well, picking apart our secondary, and for a time I thought they were the better squad and might spoil my day. But it turned out that they as well sucked.

We walked home with big smiles and plenty of new merch, amidst horns honking and black-and-gold bleeding. Being devoted to a local pro team can feel like a rite of citizenship and the Ticats are our team. My team now. Until they lose. Then I’ve still got the Bombers and the Argos.

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