The home of the Hamilton Tiger Cats (yet another underperforming franchise that I support) Ivor Wynne Stadium is likely hosting it’s last professional football game this weekend. If you haven’t been to this stadium you have truly missed out an authentic sporting event experience. The stadium is kind of like Wrigley Field in the sense that it’s stuck in the middle of a neighbourhood. Parking on someone’s lawn for a fin is accepted practice and asking someone if it’s okay to urinate in their rose bushes doesn’t appear to be offside at all. What a place.
Ivor Wynne is the place where my father brought me to see my first football game. I can vaguely recall that game was in 1986 and the Ticats were playing the British Columbia Lions. There wasn’t much about the game that has stood out in my memory but I do recall fondly the pregame chat my father gave me on the way to the game.
son we are going to see, hear and maybe even say somethings that your mother wouldn’t like. So remember it’s in one ear and out the other. Most of all forget about anything you see here in the stands.
The old man was right. I heard some rather salty language, which was spewed out by some rather unique looking characters. I was privy to seeing a man relieve himself in the sink, which was only surpassed by the gentlemen behind us relieving himself in cup and tossing underneath the seats of an unsuspecting B.C fan. It became very apparent to my young eyes that I was indeed in the company of some special folk.
As I got a little older (and unfortunately not a lot wiser) I started to attend the games with a few buddies from time to time. The shenanigans that I was subjected to at an early age were now becoming learned behaviour by yours truly. I’d like to regale you with specific tale that I hold pretty close to my heart as this tale would appear to be so outrageous that one might accuse me of buying of Peterman of Seinfeld fame.
There was one Ticat game that I attended with a band of merry misfits. It wasn’t the usually cast of characters that I was accustomed to rolling with but at this time in my life I was very flexible to whatever the scenario was, so I went with it. The evening started out simply enough with us deciding who our beer buddy would be. The beer buddy system is something that I was quite familiar with. In this instance the beer buddy system meant that you were not only responsible to by your buddy a beer when called upon (a favour that was reciprocated when you needed one) but you were also responsible for that buddy anytime he left the stands. It was a no one is left alone type situation, which in itself seemed like a decent way to protect one another from any harm through the course of the night.
The beer buddy system was working it’s magic and my partner turned out to be a fella that I’ll name “THE PISTOL”. The Pistol and I were about 8 tall cans deep into our night when it dawned on us that we had a few connections within the Ticat organization and perhaps we could continue our drinking exploits underneath the stands in the players lounge post game. (it should be noted at this point of the game I cannot recall the score or for that matter who the Ticats were playing. To this day I can’t remember still.) We were able to contact our Ticat connection (for the sake of these fine fellas reputations I’ll keep their names and affilations with the squad under lock and key but a public thank you isn’t out of the order. thanks again guys!) and low and behold this band of merry misfits we were travelling with were now part of the Ticat post game party.
We were let into this private room and we now had access to all the free booze and food that we could get ahold of. Mind you the Ticat players were pretty hungry and thirsty too, but this did not deter us in the least. We acted as though we might of just played and for the most part this was accepted. As I said before the adult libations were flowing and the beer buddy system was well in place. Until one of the beer buddy tandems were separated. This lead us to a few minor minutes of panic until we all reunited on the field of play (all 8 of us). Picture this 8 bombed dudes running around on the turf of Ivor Wynne. Better yet the big screen is capturing us in all of our collective glory. Finally one of the beer buddies laced his beer buddy up with a beauty open field tackle and this voice (which initially I thought was God – again the booze was flowing) came over the public announcing system. “NICE TACKLE……NOW GO HOME!!
This of course made our night. We didn’t take the voice as a deterrent though, unfortunately we decided we should all go back into the players lounge and sign our names on the wall of fame. So if you are in the player’s lounge and see some peculiar names beside legends like Garney Henley, Grover Covington, Rufus Crawford or Angelo Mosca and you can’t quite place these names with any Ticat era, there’s a good chance you are looking at the names that we so feeblied scribbled on that evening. After inducting ourselves into the Ticat Wall of Fame we ended up getting into a few conversations with some Ticats and alumni.
I got a chance to see Ben Zambiasi a famous Ticat linebacker of yesteryear and discuss with him the intricate nature of playing the linebacker position. Things were going well between us until I thought he called me something derogatory. It was at this point our conversation turned a little tense I thought we might come to blows until then Ticat play by-play announcer Tim Micallef delicately explained to me that Mr. Zambiasi was simply asking me for cigarette (which I don’t understand since I don’t smoke, but apparently back in the day cigarettes were commonly known as something else). Crisis averted.
After calming down we looked and it appeared that we were some of the last to leave the players lounge. The Pistol in his infinite wisdom decided that he wasn’t up for walking, so he decided that we needed a lift out of the stadium. For many this would mean perhaps calling a taxi, not the Pistol. We ended up huddling all 8 of us into an injury cart and the Pistol drove us out of the stadium and down Balsam. The initial plan was to continue on with the injury cart all the way to another local watering hole but luckily the red light came on from within the injury cart and the Pistol had to turn us around. Unfortunately when the Pistol turned us around he hit a curb and one of the Pistol’s beer buddy’s fell to the floor. From there the Pistol paralleled parked the injury cart beautifully between two cars and left the keys on someone’s door step. Taxis were called and somehow we all ended up home. An interesting time was had by all.