- Free Agency
One weekend. Two fans. Three downs. Four games.
That’s the credo of Alpesh Patel and Kevin Froese over the next few days as the friends cross the country to take in all four CFL games on the Week 4 schedule. The phrase is even splashed across the back of the custom T-shirts they plan to wear to each of the games.
Patel and Froese were at McMahon Stadium on Thursday to watch the host Calgary Stampeders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Tonight they visit B.C. Place to watch the B.C. Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They’re back in their home province Saturday as the defending Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders welcome the Montreal Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium in Regina before finishing the trip Sunday in Toronto as the Argonauts meet the Edmonton Eskimos at the Rogers Centre.
“Neither of us remembers exactly when we got the idea, but it was in the late 1990s,” said the 34-year-old Patel, a Regina native. “It’s been this ritual now where every year when the schedule comes out, we look to see if it’s even possible. Most years there isn’t even one week where it’s possible because there’s usually a TV doubleheader.”
When the 2008 schedule was released and they saw the opportunity was when Patel and Froese, who met while taking classes at the University of Saskatchewan, really had some thinking to do.
“There was some excitement and some thinking, ‘Are we really as tough as we think we are?’ ” Patel said with a laugh. “Suddenly it was completely feasible and there was nothing to stop us. It was fun when it was a gimmick and we didn’t think would happen, but now that it was doable, we had to think if we actually wanted to. Why not? It’s a fun goofy thing to do once.”
“Since we first started thinking about this I got married (four years ago to Sonya),” added Froese, 36. “So it’s like, ‘Honey, is it OK if I go across the country to watch football games?’ She said it was my dream so I definitely had to do it.”
Getting to see one live CFL game is a rare treat for the friends these days, let alone all four in one week. Patel works for a biotech company in San Francisco while Froese is a software developer in Ottawa, where he started out as a Renegades season-ticket holder in 2002. While Froese gets to the occasional Alouettes game in Montreal, the Roughriders fan has not seen a game on Taylor Field in over 10 years.
“That will be the highlight,” said Froese. “My dad still lives in Saskatoon so he’s coming down and I’ll get to watch a game with him. He’s the whole reason I’m a CFL fan. When I was three years old, he sat me down on his knee and said, ‘We’re watching football.’ I grew up watching from the couch beside him. Ultimately this is all his fault.”
The highlight for Patel, he expects, will be seeing the ball kicked off at the Rogers Centre on Sunday. At that point, it will mean the trip was a success and that no flights were missed or cancelled. Getting from Calgary to Vancouver was not expected to be a problem but the trip from B.C. to Regina meant arriving only 21/2 hours before Saturday’s kickoff. After that, it’s a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call Sunday be be on a Toronto-bound plane by 6 a.m.
“A cancelled flight and it’s not going to happen — small delays we can manage,” said Patel.
The CFL itself, could create a couple more highlights for Patel and Froese. No. 1: They want to meet TSN commentators Glen Suitor and Chris Cuthbert. No. 2: They want to pick the league’s players-of-the-week.
“As the only people in the country to see all four games live, there’s no one better to be judging players-of-the-week,” said Patel.
And, one could argue, who is more deserving? Patel and Froese are shelling out close to $2,000 each for flights and game tickets alone.
“Once you pay that much for flights, you might as well get good seats for the games too,” said Patel.