The 2018 Grey Cup – Stories From Section X

   When a Grey Cup Host City is announced, CFL fans living in that city start planning for the massive Canadian week-long celebration known as The Grey Cup Festival. Players, team members and football fans flock to the host city and for a week, everybody soaks in the cold weather, warm conference room parties and, of course, a LOT of beverages. Some fans go to the Grey Cup every year in hopes of keeping their celebratory streak alive, while others make the trip simply to have fun or to support their team in the Big Game.

   Edmonton hosted the 2018 Grey Cup and, unfortunately, the Green and Gold wouldn't make it to the big dance. With a 9-9 record, Edmonton failed to even make it into the playoffs with Jason Maas as their Head Coach and Michael Reilly as their quarterback, making November tough for EE fans that had already bought Grey Cup tickets. From there, Calgary went on the dominate the West Final to move on to the Grey Cup game. Ottawa managed to punch their ticket to the big game as well, making my decision an easy one; I would be a REDBLACKS fan for one game.

   During Grey Cup week, I went downtown to get in on the celebrations and interact with some of the more prominent CFL fans that I see on social media. When I arrived to a blocked-off Jasper Avenue, I instantly became grouchy and didn't care to socialize. I would walk around, look at a Calgary or Ottawa banner and think to myself, "Why couldn't Edmonton make it? Why did it have to be Calgary? Why are we celebrating our rival? Are we going to fire Benevides?"

   At this time I was just an opinionated fan that didn't truly understand the fine details of the rules, game, or fanbase of the CFL. I knew that Grey Cup week was a celebration that I had to see and participate in, and that there is so much fun to be had, but Edmonton failing and Calgary succeeding stung a great amount.

   If we were talking about a bad 2018 Edmonton football team, or a team that hadn't just won a Grey Cup 3 years previous, I would have probably felt different and maybe, just maybe, I would have had more fun. Instead, I took in a couple of beverages with friends, watched a band perform in the cold and bolted out after a few hours, carrying that same grumpy mood. I didn't want to see Calgary hoist the Grey Cup in Commonwealth Stadium and we were looking at a 50% chance of that happening, just days away. I was stressed.

   After my first visit to the Grey Cup Festival, I didn't care to go back. The party looked great and fans were having a blast and posting on social media, but I honestly didn't care to celebrate what I believed was "Stampeders Week". For the remainder of the week I would say statements such as "Calgary better not win" and, "Trevor Harris better show up", fearing the inevitable. As much as I wanted to enjoy Canada's Biggest Party, the loyal football fan in me just couldn't do it.

   On Grey Cup Sunday I would paint my face with big green ABC's, which stands for Anyone But Calgary, a motto in Edmonton that has stood the test of time. Once I was suited up in the winter version of my Green and Gold regalia, my father and I made our way to Commonwealth Stadium to find out who would win Earl Grey's Cup, with a bit of anxiety behind some excitement as afterall, I had never been to a Grey Cup game before. As we walked up to the gates we noticed that our beloved Stadium had been transformed into a green-themed neutral site, similar to every other Grey Cup game. Then, just as we were about to enter Commonwealth, a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan decided to chirp me for the EE's rough season for no apparent reason other than to irritate me. Words were exchanged back and forth but luckily, cooler heads prevailed and I was able to carry on to Section X without embarrassing my father.

   Commonwealth Stadium doesn't see a full house very often, so when we sat down and looked around the building, it was special. CFL fans from all over had finally congregated to the heart of Edmonton football. After introductions and a flyover, 56000 fans cheered and chanted for both teams, making a great environment for many. Except for me. I yelled as loud as I could when the Stampeders offense would drive down the field, but Bo Levi Mitchell and company didn't care, scoring a fair amount of points in the first half with ease. After the halftime show and a few more beverages, I sat back down and watched on as Calgary continued to score on Ottawa. Trevor Harris had no answers to the Stampeders defense and as time marched on, it became clear that Calgary would win the battle on Edmonton's home turf, the very thing I had feared for so long. My excitement became frustration, my smile became a frown, and as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter I was ready to leave. To the left of us in Section X, RCMP Mounties began carrying the Grey Cup down the stairs and to the sidelines, and that's when I decided to break my own rule; I looked at my father and stated, "Yep, we're out of here. I'm not watching this." And like that, we exited the Stadium with haste and stormed our way to the car, saving my eyes and memory from having to witness my worst sports nightmare in-person. To this day, even after a 22-game losing streak in that same building, it's still the worst game I've attended as a fan and I still fear that scenario happening again.

   Looking back at it, I wish I had spent more time at the Grey Cup Festival. Ever since 2018 I've had a serious case of FOMO or, the Fear Of Missing Out. The Grey Cup is supposed to be a huge celebration for the league, teams and players, but the fan in me just couldn't accept the fact that the Stampeders were using Edmonton's home turf, locker rooms and familiarity for their own benefit, let alone the fact that they would win it all to confirm my fears. Next year Kathy and I will be heading to BC for the 2024 Edition of the Grey Cup and as always, we'll be hoping the Edmonton Elks make it to the big dance. For now, the lights are on the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the 2023 Grey Cup in Hamilton.

Go Sports Team!