The Grey Cup: A cross-country celebration of the CFL

I’m an Edmonton Eskimos fan living in Calgary. There, I said it. I grew up in Edmonton, therefore I don’t cheer for any Calgary teams. That’s just the way it works with those cities. If you grew up in Calgary, there’s no way you’d cheer for Edmonton. So, as the Grey Cup quickly approaches, I find myself feeling pretty neutral about the outcome (I’m not an Argos fan either). Don’t get me wrong, I am a sports fan (though I’m much more into hockey than football), and I love the spirit of big games like the Grey Cup – it’s just too bad my team didn’t make it.

That being said, if I had the opportunity to go to the Grey Cup this Sunday, I probably would. The Grey Cup is about more than just the two teams playing on the field. At its core, it’s a celebration of the CFL and Canadian sport. It’s a place to celebrate all of the teams; in fact, each team’s cheerleaders will be present at the game. Because the Grey Cup city is announced way before it’s ever decided which teams will play for the cup, people buy tickets early in the hopes that their team will make it. When the day comes, and their team isn’t in it, those people will most likely still go for the experience.

This morning on his Facebook page, Canadian musician Matthew Good posted the following in response to a trend he’s noticed every time he plays at Grey Cup events:

“I’m curious about something, so maybe some of you that are CFL fans can answer this. Over the years I’ve played at numerous Grey Cup events. During those times I have stayed at hotels teeming with football fans. Curiously, they have flocked to the host city from all over the country, many adorned, head to toe, in the colours and paraphernalia of the team they support – even if that team isn’t in the Grey Cup. Over the last 24 hours, for example, I have seen scores of BC Lions fans, Hamilton Fans, Saskatchewan fans, and so on. In fact, I have yet to see a single Argonauts fan decked out as much as others whose teams aren’t even playing.

“Now, I realize that sport is sport, and that fans are routinely drawn from all over the country to see final games, or playoff games, etc. But is it common at Grey Cup time for fans to show up to the final wearing the jackets and jerseys and hats, and all of that of teams that aren’t actually playing? And if so, is it just me, or does anyone else find that weird?”

The responses to his post were funny, smart and they all generally stated the same sentiment – Yes, it’s common. The Grey Cup is a celebration of all that is CFL, and CFL fans do not bandwagon. These are true, die-hard fans that stick by their team no matter how they fared in the regular season. It’s for those reasons that every time my Mom has gone to a Grey Cup game she’s worn an Eskimos jersey, even if they aren’t playing. It’s about being loyal to your team and celebrating the year they had.

I think this is something that makes the CFL unique and endearing. It’s about so much more than the game. Being a small league, in Canada, with less money, the CFL exudes a small-town feel, especially when compared to its bigger cousin, the NFL. Many CFL players have other, day-to-day jobs. They aren’t celebrities the way that NFL players are; they’re still adored and celebrated, but they aren’t multi-millionaires.

I love the CFL and the fact that it is truly Canadian. I love that this Sunday there will be fans from every team cheering on the two teams that made it all the way. It’s that sense of community and togetherness that makes the game so great. So, what about you? Are you cheering for the Stamps, the Argos, or is your allegiance with another team? Whichever team you’re loyal to, make sure to have fun on Sunday and eat a lot of snacks. It’s also all about the snacks.

Krista Wiebe is a freelance writer and editor based in Calgary, Alberta. Follow her on Twitter @KristaWiebe.

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