While many NFL fans might consider it bush league, CFL fans argue Canadian football provides a more interesting and quicker game. One thing cannot be denied -- CFL fans may be the most loyal fans in Canada. It's time to evaluate CFL fandemonium in the run up to the Grey Cup.
In 1909 Lord Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada donated a trophy to be awarded to the winner of the Canadian Rugby Football Union. In the '30s - '50s the two senior leagues of this Union evolved from amateur to professional leagues. These two leagues formed to become the Canadian Football Council, before becoming the Canadian Football league in 1958 where teams still compete to win the Grey Cup. Viewership of the event has increased in recent years in partnership with TSN; the 2012 Grey Cup was the highest rated CFL event ever. A full-fledged half time show was established with performances by internationally recognized Canadian artists; Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepson, Gordon Lightfoot and Marianas Trench.
Because CFL fans are loyal, it is very important not to confuse them. Fans of different teams have different traditions and rivalries that are embedded in the history of each individual team. The Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger Cats share the oldest and possibly most intense rivalry in the Canadian Football League.
The Tiger-Cats new stadium name of Tim Hortons Field is a throwback to the founding of Tim Hortons in Hamilton in 1964. Located in a residential neighbourhood, hundreds of fans walk the streets to the stadium or tailgate before the game. Beyond the friendships formed between season ticket holders, some of the fans in Hamilton become local celebrities -- notably the Box J Boys. Seated in Box J, the season ticket holders boast yellow kilts and hard hats while cheering on their Ti-Cats. The Ti-cats carry on an "Oskee Wee Wee" cheer from the 1920s led by bowler-hat wearing Pigskin Pete who has been played by four people over the years. And if you're lucky you can catch sight of a cat lady with face paint, stripes, ears, tail and all.
The Toronto Argonauts fight for an audience with other major Toronto teams -- the Jays, the Raptors, and Toronto FC -- so the Argonauts never quite fill the Rogers Centre. However, don't think that stops the small, dedicated fan base they have. True fans hit the road to Hamilton and further painted in their double blue ready to face the incessant chants of "Argos suck!"
The Calgary Stampeders have a consistently strong crowd supporting them each week. Calgary reaches back in history with an old cheer Ye Men of Calgary! Including the lyrics "Hit 'em again, ye men of Calgary." The team also honours their stampede roots when a horse proudly gallops around the field after each touch down. Calgary has also instigated rivalry with the Saskatchewan Roughriders by posting on the official website a list of the top ten reasons Stamps fans find Rider fans annoying.
Being the most successful CFL franchise of the modern era (since 1954) Edmonton Eskimo fans can easily brush off Calgary's taunts. With some of the most dedicated fans in the league, the Eskimos never draw a crowd less than 30,000. The official Eskimo mascots are a polar bear, Nanook, and a football, Punter.
The Montreal Alouettes have one of the most loyal fan bases in the CFL. The Fan Train presented by Via Rail Canada allows fans to get closer to the Alouettes' players during a road game to Hamilton, and to mingle with the players on the ride home.
With the newly renovated B.C. Place Stadium, B.C. Lions games draw fans from all over the province. Being the newest team, this fan base is on the rise with spectators willing to dress up with orange wigs on! The Lions offer Operation Orange to their fans, where fans can purchase a two-day package providing air fare, game tickets, a pre-game meal with the team and meet and greets with the president, general manager and quarterback during away games against the Rough Riders.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, being central, have rivalries with many other fan bases across the CFL. Their fans are especially known for their mocking of Rough Rider fans. Dedication to the team also comes in the form of the Big Blue Flight Crew of volunteers who provide essential services to the Blue Bomber organization including ticket scanning, guest services, and parking attendants. However Winnipeg fan's most recognized accomplishment comes in the form of the Beer Snake, formed when fans stack hundreds of beer cups together to form a snake. Although the fans broke a record for linking the most beer cups -- Beer Snake is unfortunately now banned in the stadium.
The Saskatchewan Rough Riders fans are the epitome of what the CFL should be about -- they just get it. Playing in the smallest market in the CFL, Rider Nation has been crowned the rowdiest fans of any sports team in Canada by MSN Sports, beating out the Canada's Men's Junior Hockey Team, and the Montreal Canadiens! To put Rider Nation into perspective for NFL fans, the Rough Riders fans are the CFL equivalent of Raiders fans; only in green, and with watermelons on their heads as helmets. The diehards travel with the team and increase crowd volume at other venues. At home, fans in the University Section -- named from old discounted days -- are known to stand the entire game and taunt the visiting teams bench. Official Rider songs played at the stadium include Rider Pride and Paint the Whole World Green.
As any CFL fan will tell you, in the lyrics of country crooner Tim Hicks, "Yah we both got pro football, 'cept we got bigger balls, and longer fields, and one less down...but up here we got stronger beer."
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