September 28, 2023

Who’s excited for the 108th Grey Cup? I mean like really excited. OK, I mean ‘I don’t live in Canada, and I’m still excited’ kind of excited.

Look no further than your humble blogger. I’m stoked for Sunday’s rematch between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a title tilt won handily by the Blue Bombers 33-12 in 2019 before the pandemic forced the suspension of play in 2020.

My fascination with all-things-Canada mostly stems from the honeymoon I took with my beautiful bride in 2019. We stopped at Niagara Falls (Ontario side) before stopping in Hamilton on our way to Toronto on our way to Montreal.

Just look at this Ontario sunset.

My wife is saintly when it comes to her patience with me on trips when it comes to things I want to see. I mentioned to her that I wanted to see where the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Ticats for short) play football. Like many Americans, I dip my toes into the CFL pool each summer before college and NFL football starts up south of the border. I’ve watched a handful of Hamilton games, and I really liked the vibe of the stadium and the neighborhood view — at least what you could glean from TV.

The Hamilton uni reminds me of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Turns out, the city of Hamilton appears to be very blue-collar, too, like Pittsburgh. The Ticats stadium is called Tim Hortons Field (apparently nicknamed ‘The Donut Box’), and it’s fairly new, built in 2014. It is completely possible that the stadium I romanticized in my brain was actually Wynne Stadium, predecessor to said donut box.

Doesn’t matter. Mission accomplished.

What I’m realizing two years plus after our wonderful Canadian getaway is that I erred by limiting myself to this side of the stadium because — if I had just walked around to the other side — I could have seen the field. Drat! However, Tim Hortons Field is pretty much smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and at night, it was really, really dark aside from stadium lighting.

Anytime I stop and take photos of any building, I’m doing it because I like the building or its architecture. However, in 2021, some folks might think my intentions aren’t good, so I’m respectful, especially considering I was a guest in another country.

Back to football. Does this mean I’m pulling for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this weekend in the big game?

Yes, but it’s more complicated than that.

My Canadian loyalties are mostly with the city of Toronto, whose Raptors I cheer and whose Maple Leafs and Blue Jays I might. Depends. They’re also with Montreal, and when (if) the Expos return, I’m all in. Day 1.

Even though we had stopped by Tim Hortons Field that night in April 2019, I found myself feeling bad for the Toronto Argonauts as they were losing in the Eastern Conference Final last weekend. That is, I felt sorry for them until QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson started kicking a press camera. In my world, journalism, this is a supreme no-no. It’s assault. It was also reported that other Argos players got into fights with fans, but if I’m being honest, it was a couple of Ticats fans who instigated it by spitting or throwing beer on the Argos players.

Play stupid games; win stupid prizes. Spit beer at a grown man athlete at your own risk.

But let me put a twist on this. Yes, I am rooting for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to win the Grey Cup rematch against Winnipeg. Hamilton is a big underdog in this game, even at home. Winnipeg has dominated the season and has a fantastic running game led by all-time leading Canadian rusher Andrew Harris.

However, the Ticats have a pair of Okies. A pair of Native American Okies. When in doubt, root for the local guys.

Dane Evans is the Hamilton QB. Played for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, and while he played high school football in Texas, Evans was born in Chickasha, home of the Chicks. He’s a member of the Wichita tribe.

Papi White is a wide receiver and kick returner for Hamilton. He returned a punt for a touchdown in last week’s game versus Toronto, sparking the Ticats comeback. He played his college ball at Ohio University, but he grew up in Seminole, Okla., playing for the high school Chieftains. White is Seminole / Chickasaw.

There’s a Big 12 element, too, with Brandon Banks at wide receiver. He played at Kansas State.

Anyway, headed to the store for some Tim Hortons coffee, Lay’s ketchup chips and some Molson’s.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2 starting at 5p CT Sunday. There’s a pregame show that starts at 4:30p on ESPN News, and if I can find the longer TSN pregame with Kate Beirness et al, I’m all in. If you’re on Twitter, follow me @ryanwelton. I plan to live tweet the festivities as well.

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