Argos get an 'hour' to party
People enjoying the zip line glide over the Grey Cup parade float in front of Toronto City Hall. It is one of many activities for Grey Cup week in downtown T.O. (STAN ABEL/TORONTO SUN)
The general consensus was the first big public event of Grey Cup week was a smashing success.
Hundreds turned out on a gorgeous fall southern Ontario evening to toast the East Division champs at a pep rally. The Nissan Family Zone was always going to be at Yonge-Dundas Square, but it turned into something even more special when the Argos won the East semifinal on Sunday.
“You try and think big, and big for us is playing at home in the hundredth Grey Cup,” Argos vice-president of marketing and communications, Beth Waldman, said as the music blared and drums pounded. “We knew the players were going to be sequestered most of the week and for us it’s all about the fans and accessibility to the players.”
If the Argos truly are going to start making serious inroads into the city’s consciousness once again, Tuesday night was a solid first step.
THIS AND THAT
Football coaches being what they are, Boatmen boss Scott Milanovich made sure his players didn’t spend a boatload of time at the pep rally. “When we talked to coach, Tuesday night was the only night it was going to happen,” Waldman said. “He gave us an hour. So we have an hour, and we’re thrilled.” … As with every event during Grey Cup week, there was a handful of Riders fans in attendance on Tuesday night, dressed in green from top to bottom. You gotta hand it to their fans … As soon as the pep rally was over, it was right back to work for the Double Blue. They checked into their team hotel on Tuesday night, but the curfew wasn’t yet in effect. “There’s so much temptation,” slotback Andre Durie said, “but we just gotta focus on the game at hand.” … Milanovich was the first one off the stage, no doubt going right back to work to get ready for Sunday … Here’s what Durie had to say about the rookie sideline sergeant: “He knows the players. Being a player himself and coming in from a great system in Montreal, he just knows how to orchestrate a group of guys together. If you think about it, 60 guys and a bunch of egos is kind of hard to put on one track and make them go forward. He’s done an amazing job at it.” … Defensive end Ricky Foley was shedding tears of joy after Sunday’s Eastern final win in Montreal, so it wasn’t surprising to see him being the last player to be signing autographs for fans following the rally, well after the team bus had already left … Players get asked everything during Grey Cup week. Foley’s final interview of the night was about the impact technology has had on the game of football … Players truly are sequestered this week. As Foley left the stage, one of the player’s significant others handed him a pack of new socks to take to her beau at the team hotel … If there’s one thing the Argos have to do this week to win the Grey Cup, linebacker Tristan Black believes he knows what it is. “I’ve heard a lot from past guys that have been in Grey Cups, it’s usually the team that usually keeps their focus throughout all the cheering and the ticket buying and stuff like that for friends and family,” he said. “Those who can stay on track and know how they got here and keep doing that throughout the Grey Cup is probably going to win. That’s what we’ve been preaching to each other since we won the last game.”
'WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?'
Tristan Black grew up in Toronto about 15 minutes from Yonge-Dundas Square.
He had been to the location many times over the years growing up, which made Tuesday night kind of surreal for the Argos linebacker.
There he was, along with the rest of his teammates, being cheered on by a crowd of hundreds at a team-organized pep rally in advance of Sunday’s Grey Cup game against the Calgary Stampeders at Rogers Centre. Helicopters hovered overhead, people screamed over backstage fences for autographs, and everyone turned to see what all the fuss was about.
“It’s better than I ever imagined it to be,” Black said. “Growing up watching the Argos, it was my first ever exposure to football, and to finally be at a crazy pep rally like this in the middle of Yonge-Dundas Square is crazy man.
“Me and Matt (Black) had to look at each other, like, ‘What the hell is this?’ We’ve been playing football since we were young together in Toronto and it’s amazing. A dream come true, for sure.”
A few players brought family members on stage with them as they were introduced. Several had video cameras or iPads, recording the crowd as the crowd cheered for them. Toronto native Andre Durie had his son, Cian, with him.
“It was amazing,” said Durie, a slotback. “You feel the energy. You feel everybody starting to embrace the festivities going on. It’s truly a dream come true so far.
“It’s good to see everybody feeling the Grey Cup coming to Toronto on Sunday, and we’re just looking forward to hopefully hoisting the Cup.”
As quickly as the players hit the stage and felt the love, they were whisked right back off of it and on to a bus. The time for appreciation was over, and it was time to go back to work.