TORONTO - Fans, confused tourists, a few outside city workers and various security personnel gathered at Nathan Phillips Square to celebrate the Toronto Argonauts’ Grey Cup victory on Tuesday afternoon.
A low-key celebration for a team fighting hard to stay relevant on Toronto’s busy sports map.
Everything about Tuesday’s parade and Grey Cup presentation at Nathan Phillips Square screamed “Argos!”. The crowds weren’t huge, though respectable and enthusiastic, and by the end of the proceedings, a little tired and cranky.
Still, it was good day — if a little low-key — and Argos’ CEO Chris Rudge said the key now is for the franchise to figure out a way to capitalize on Sunday’s Grey Cup victory on home turf at Rogers Centre.
“The job has started,” Rudge told the Toronto Sun. “We’ve demonstrated that we’ve got a good foundation. General manager (Jim) Barker and coach (Scott) Milanovich have put together a good strong team and coaching staff. We’ve demonstrated success, but we can’t rest on this. We’ve got to keep moving forward with the team, we have to set the next set of goals and we’ll keep working on that. More importantly, as a business, we still don’t have the house packed, we’re losing money, and the next step is to make this something that is a profitable franchise that’s got true enterprise value.
“I talked to Mr. (David) Braley (the owner) about these things. We’re looking towards, by the end of 2014, making this a profitable business, giving it value and then putting it in a position where an investor may want to come in whenever Mr. Braley’s ready to sell.”
For the Argos to truly become a trendy destination for Toronto sports fans (i.e. Toronto FC), the team has to move out of the cavernous Rogers Centre. But at this point, there are no plans to do so, at least not officially. Failing that, the key is for the team to keep winning, and Rudge promised just that when he addressed the crowd at NPS.
The Grey Cup parade started at Yonge and Wellington and made its way up Bay St. to City Hall. Fans stood 2-3 deep, as bagpipe bands (playing The Maple Leaf Forever), cops on horseback, fire trucks, cheerleaders and eventually the players and coaches approached City Hall. Defensive tackle Adriano Belli, the Kissing Bandit, who was thrown out of Sunday’s game for trying to rip Calgary offensive lineman Jon Gott’s arm off, stood on top of a cab of a pick-up truck, smoking a cigar and waving at the fans, forever the showman.
The crowd was a fraction of the size of the turn-out from the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series celebration, and definitely older. But it gave the proceedings a home-spun feel, as people stood patiently in the cold, waving Argos and Canadian flags and blowing plastic horns.
One Argos fan, standing by himself in front of Old City Hall, began singing the: “I’d rather be an Argo than a dirty Tiger-Cat” song, if that, indeed, is an actual song. Nobody paid him any mind.
Unfortunately, the festivities were too far slow to wrap up. As people made their way to NPS for the speeches and the presentation of the Grey Cup to the mayor, the crowd became increasingly impatient. The annoying MC didn’t help, repeatedly promising that the players would be out any minute. At one point he started a seven-minute countdown, and then another about 15 minutes later. Periodically he screamed into the mic, “Argos fans make noise!”. And they would, and then nothing would happen. That went on for at least a half hour. An older woman who was cheering and screaming and waving her Argos flag when the celebration began, lost her patience as it dragged on and finally screamed “Come on already!” At one point, the MC asked the fans to give it up for the Argonaut cheerleaders, who had already been bopping on the stage for at least 45 minutes. It’s like somebody forgot to tell the players that they were supposed to make an appearance.
Finally, the first player was introduced, Belli, followed by the rest of the team, with cornerback Jordan Younger carrying the Grey Cup.
“You’re the greatest fans in the world!” Rudge screamed into the mic. But by then, many of the greatest fans in the world had left. Eventually mayor Rob Ford, wearing an Argos’ jersey with the No. 1, took the stage, apparently fully recovered from his unfortunate experience with the Canadian judicial system. His Bombasticness was probably the loudest, most pumped speaker of the bunch, calling the Argos’ win “a dream come true” urging everyone to buy seasons tickets.
As Ford spoke, a guy with a red clown nose wandered waving a little Argos flag. A number players and coaches then said a few words, but for some reason, the P.A. system had been cranked down, and they could hardly be heard. One guy selling Argos flags screamed: “Speak up! Can’t hear nothin’ here.”
And then the ceremonies wrapped up and everyone went home.