Disclaimer: My friends at The Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League provided my family with complimentary tickets for their first game of the season. Here are my random musings and thoughts about the experience that night, at Tim Hortons Field:
- There’s a palpable buzz towards the team lately. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winning, former NFL quarterback, has taken his talents north of the border, and is making his “comeback szn” with the Ticats this year!
- There were a lot of Manziel fans in attendance. Based on the conversations I overheard, there were also people who weren’t even football fans, but came to see what all the fuss was about.
- Admittedly, I’m a very casual fan myself. J and little K accompanied me that evening , but neither are fans. J’s six years old, so she was happy checking out the stadium and stuffing her face with food. KJ is one and a half. He was happy being anywhere.
- We spent some time in Stripes’ Jungle, which is a really cool kids area in the stadium. I believe it was introduced last season, but this was new to us. It had a playground, and a face painting spot, while various mascots/team ambassadors were there, too. For little ones who get squirmy or restless during the game, this is a great place to go blow off some steam.
- The Ticats’ gameday experience has really evolved over the years. It’s not about just buying a ticket to watch the game anymore. It’s also about hanging out, socializing and partying. Check out the stadium map, for example:
As you can see, almost everywhere you turn in the stadium, you’ll encounter a patio or lounge area of some sort. I’m sure this has helped them attract more of the demographic who are into this type of vibe.
- Back in the day, when I was a young boy, I used to go to the odd game. The messed up thing is, while I don’t remember anything specific about the games, or anything kid-friendly that occurred, I vividly remember incidents in the crowd. Drunk people yelling crude and vulgar things. Drunk people fist-fighting. Drunk people making asses of themselves and being dragged out by police. I honestly don’t know if this was a Hamilton thing, or a CFL football thing, or what the deal was. It wasn’t this extreme at say, a Toronto Blue Jays game, for example. Regardless, when I had kids, the memories of boorishness and non-family friendliness made the idea of taking them to see the ‘Cats unappealing. Eventually, I did bring B out years ago, and it wasn’t that bad. There was the odd belligerent person, and profanity spewed, but it was better than I expected.
- My most recent game was fine, too, in that regard, in the seats. Some people were cussing out the starting QB, because they wanted Manziel to come in. OK, whatever, not a huge deal. However, venturing out of our seats, to say, get food, or go the bathroom, was eye-opening. The concourses had a sports bar-atmosphere to them. Very rowdy, very alcohol-fueled. While fun, if you’re holding hands with two small kids, trying to navigate through it, it’s a bit treacherous. One large,stumbling dude almost trampled KJ, apologized, then yelled at me about it. “Your kids shouldn’t be walking around here!” He said, “There’s a lot of drunk people here!”
- So, by that logic, if the concourses are boozefests, and almost every corner of the stadium has some lounge or patio, which potentially could also be full of inebriated individuals, the only “safe” place for small kids, then, is the Family Zone?
- Yo, I’m not saying keep your kids away from Tim Hortons Field. J and KJ both had a great time, and there were lots of other little happy faces in attendance, too. Shoot, one of B’s all-time best memories was when he entered the Ticats’ Halloween costume contest two years ago, as Drake. People that night at the game were going nuts about him, treating him like he was the real Drake. He got to go down to field, be on the big screen, and win a gift card!
- I’m saying that, in my experiences attending live sports, I’ve encountered some of the most drunken, disorderly fans at Ticats games. I’m sure lots of people go and don’t have any issues. You get thousands of people together in one setting, looking to have their own version of a good time, well, it’s basically buyer beware, for sure. I’m not complaining; I made the choice to go, right? This is just my observation as a parent, to other parents. Take it for what it’s worth.
- Moving along, the Ticats’ all female cheerleaders have been replaced this year with a co-ed “performance” team. When they weren’t entertaining the crowd with routines on the field, they entertained the crowd throughout the stadium. Their engagement level with the fans was more than the cheerleaders used to be, I think. I saw some of them in Stripes’ Jungle for example, interacting with everyone there.
- We didn’t stay for the whole game, as KJ and J both started to get sleepy after halftime. From what I saw, Manziel looked OK playing, for what it’s worth.
That’s all I got. With the Tiger Cats feeling optimistic, and Johnny Football in tow, this definitely has the makings for an interesting season in the Hammer. Oskee-Wee-Wee!