Toronto: Too big for the Grey Cup?


Yesterday at noon, I walked into a Boston Pizza in downtown Toronto, in the middle of the Grey Cup street festival. Everyone was watching American college football.  One guy yelled at the TV repeatedly. At Ohio state players: “that’s how we do it.” At Michigan players: “Take it b-tch.”

I sat down at the bar next to a man named Greg Weston, a Torontonian who grew up in Kingston. He was wearing a Saskatchewan Roughriders hat. When he was eleven or twelve, he says, his family had a very important house guest. “There used to be a program where families would take players in [on the road], and we hosted a player for a few days,” he says. “Walter Bender. Played for the [Hamilton]  Tiger Cats, then was traded to the Rough Riders.” Weston and Bender hung out and ate dinner together every night.

He’s been a Roughriders fan ever since.

And he thinks there’s a specific reason–besides the fact that there were no CFL games on TV that day– why the Canadians in Boston Pizza were a lot more excited about an American college football game on TV than the big-league Canadian one coming up.

“Toronto, we’re a bunch of wannabees,” he says. “We like American football better. I have to say I am not the biggest CFL fan. I’m a die hard NFL fan. We go for what’s bigger and better and when the [Buffalo] Bills come to town we get excited about that. Let’s face it. A lot of people here for the Grey Cup are Stampeders fans.”

He has a point. If you’re in Toronto and you’re not within a three block radius of the Roger’s Centre and you’re not a CFL fan, you might not even know what the Grey Cup is, let alone that it’s taking place in your city.  Hockey fan or not, it’s impossible to avoid the Leafs (no matter how much they stink.) Avoiding the Argos is almost effortless.

Steve Sommerfeld is probably as big a Calgary Stampeders fan as they come. He was also in Boston Pizza that day, in full Stamps regalia (jersey and cowboy hat) drinking a pint; though he wasn’t paying much attention to the college game on TV.  “I went to the mall yesterday  dressed like this,” says Sommerfeld, “and the guy [at the store counter] says ‘what are you in town for?’ And I say ‘a football game’ and he didn’t know.”

Sommerfeld and his friends say they love Toronto, but acknowledge that other, smaller, cities are probably better suited to host the Grey Cup. And they’d know, as they’ve upheld the same tradition for the past seven years: going to the Cup together and always taking with them, a “lucky football” signed by the entire 2004/05 Stampeders roster. I followed the group of guys–three out of four of whom were in full Stamps gear–out of Boston pizza, where they passed their lucky football back and forth all the way down Front Street, into another bar (also showing American college football.) I don’t really remember what happened next…

This was one of the only quotes I could make out my tape recorder the next morning:

“Nobody worries about pipelines from B.C. We just party.”

On my way here (I am currently at the Grey Cup, in the Roger’s Centre Press box) a lone TTC employee kept yelling “Argos” on my subway car. The refrain? “Shut up.”

Things are different here. We (the Argos) are winning, everybody’s happy (save my Stampeders friends) and if the next two quarters are anything like the first ones, this city will know victory for the first time in forever.

If they’re paying attention that is…



Toronto: Too big for the Grey Cup?

  1. Almost NOBODY in Toronto gets excited when the Buffalo Bills come to town. There’s a reason Rogers is constantly running ads on T.V. about those games, and that the ticket prices for them have PLUMMETED.

    Now, would Torontonians be excited to get their own NFL team? Sure. Of course. But until the team is the TORONTO Whatevers, and not the BUFFALO Bills those games are going to be filled with NFL fans, perhaps, but the city’s not going to get excited about it.

  2. Yes, it is. The horse in the lobby should tell you that, but thank you for saying it.

    Second-hand American sports aren’t worth diddly either.

    Now if Toronto had a decent soccer team…….

  3. Its College football and everyone loves college football. Kids love it and they respect that some people work hard to create a damn good product. Its kinda like people understand what went into making COLLEGE football so great numbers, and huge crowds don’t lie. Let’s not make this some nationalistic piece that you can’t love something American. You can LOVE them both

  4. Well im not a hugh fan of any football i do like watching the big games.But i was shocked to see you could only watch the grey cup on tsn which is a channel you have to pay for what ever happened to crey cup on regular t.v .Shame on everyone involved for the idea of putting it on tsn would never see the super bowl on a pay channel no wonder the C.F.L is dieing.

    • Not dying. CBC used to have TV rights until they were bought exclusively by TSN, at a higher price I’m pretty sure.

  5. Toronto’s not too big for the Grey Cup, it’s too stupid for the Grey Cup. Toronto’s sports fans are hands-down the dumbest in the country. How many Leafs’ games are “sold-out”, yet the arena is half empty? Not that I blame hockey fans, who’d want to watch the worst team in the NHL? But at the same time, why are they all so stupid to buy the tickets in the first place?

    But ya, I’m sure the NFL is just frothing at the mouth to get an NFL team into Toronto. I mean, look at the incredible number of ticket sales going for the Raptors and the Blue Jays!

    Maybe Toronto should just get it over with and join the USA already.

    • Don’t disagree with you, just don’t mistake stupid with passion. I think fans get loyal to a fault whenever they want to. If they want to leave for real, they will.