Beezer goes behind enemy lines

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

HAMILTON — Time and again I waded through a crowd of Box J Boys, the notorious Hamilton Ticats faithful who are considered some of the best fans in the CFL.

The Box J Boys, who seem to enjoy wearing kilts and beads, also have a reputation of being some of the toughest fans in the league ... despite the fact that they, you know, wear kilts and beads.

In fact, during Monday’s Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium, a security guard told me a couple of stories about the Box J Boys. One time last season, she said, a group of the Box J Boys brawled with some Oakville Firefighters, who were cheering for the Argos. The story goes, some fans beat the crap out of a cop.

Wow, I thought, those guys in the kilts are tough.

So I decided, what better way to gauge the supposed hatred Ticats fans have for anything Argos than by walking around Ivor Wynne Stadium, and the Box J Boys, during the Labour Day Classic, while wearing an Argos jersey and cap, while being my usual cocky and annoying self?

But I really have to say, as I wandered through venerable Ivor Wynne, I was taken aback by the reaction of the fans.

Sure, I took some abuse. But most of it, at least early in the game, was good natured. Cripes, I could have been in mamby-pamby Niagara-on-the-Lake for Pete’s sake. Yes, pretty well everybody screamed “Argos suck!” But most of the taunts were good-natured and a lot of guys just looked at me, pointed at the jersey, and said “Really?”

Mostly what I got was a lot of menacing glares.

At halftime, after spending the first half walking around the stands, I wandered over to where all the kilt-wearing Box J Boys sat drinking their beers and proceeded to weave in and out of their little groups hoping for some anti-Argos reaction. What I got was one kilt-wearing dude patting me on the shoulder and wishing me good luck.

I thought, this is Hamilton? The Hammer? Rough and tumble Steeltown?

As I wandered away from the Box J Boys, a colleague of mine suggested that I walk back over to the Box J Boys and lift up one of their kilts, “to see if they have any balls.”

As a former 48th Highlander, I have too much respect for men in kilts to ever think of doing anything like that. Plus, the Box J Boys seemed like really nice guys.

But then things began to get a bit more interesting as I continued through the beer garden. More and more Ticats fans began screaming nasty things, most of which had to do with my manhood, rather than the Argos paraphernalia. One drunk staggered over and accused QMI Agency photographer Mark O’Neill and myself of working for TSN.

“TSN sucks!” he screamed. “It’s all ‘Toronto this and Toronto that.’ ”

“Well, Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and has the most professional sports teams,” I said, which was undoubtedly the dumbest reply to make to an angry, drunken, Ticats fan.

“You know what buddy? You suck!” he screamed.

I then spotted a picnic table in the middle of the beer garden area with a couple of big guys wearing Ticats sweaters standing on top of it and decided to join them. Of course, the second I stepped on the table, the crowd began booing.

Upon hearing the boos, one of the guys standing on the table turned around, spotted me standing there with my hands on my hips like I owned the joint, and calmly, though very menacingly, suggested that I should “Get off the table.”

As I started to babble on about the table being public property and all that, the dude put his face right in mine, and repeated, just as calmly, but even more menacingly: “I’m asking you nicely, get off the f---ing table.”

Which, of course, I did.

But other than those confrontations, the supposedly scary, intimidating, Toronto-hating, Ticats faithful were largely friendly. And kind. And gentle. Even sweet — the kind of townfolk I’d like to share a cup of tea with and talk about the Queen’s last visit to Canada.

Actually, I was physically accosted three times, once by a guy who gave me a playful shot to the kidney as he walked past, and two other times I was pushed quite hard in the chest. Both times by women.

You know, I was always led to believe that people from the “The Hammer” were tough. Well, at least I know the women are.

As I made my way back up to the press box during the fourth quarter, a young fella chomping away on some french fries walked over and said: “Hey Buddy, the Argos suck.”

Boy, I thought to myself, I haven’t heard that one for a while.

The guy then rattled on about how he hated Argos fans because the Rogers Centre is a terrible place to watch a football game.

“We were at the Rogers Centre the other week and we got thrown out for cheering too loud,” he said. “Cheering too loud. Can you believe that? We weren’t brawling or nothin’ That’s why the Argos suck.”

“And you suck for wearing the sweater,” he added, as he leaned up against me.

Just when I thought someone was actually going to hit me or something, the guy then offered my one of his french fries. And then the guy, as drunk and annoyed as he was, offered me — a guy wearing an Argos jersey and cap — one of his beers.

I had Ticats fans all wrong. So very, very wrong.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca


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