December 6, 2009

Fan Blog: CFL ‘Bucket List’ Completed

Keith Whittier
Special to

The 2009 CFL Season will probably go down as my favourite season.  How can’t it? I had a goal for myself at the beginning of the season to see a CFL game in every city.  I have gone to every CFL city this year and have sat in the stands and enjoyed our game.

I watched the classic battle of Alberta in Commonwealth Stadium, I saw the Riders hold off the Ticats at Mosiac Stadium, I watched the BC Lions, my favourite team, orchestrate an amazing comeback against the Argonauts at Rogers Centre. I witnessed 10 games in all; 7 regular season games and the Eastern Semi-Final, Eastern Final and then the Grey Cup.

I live in Ottawa. We don’t have a team here but that hasn’t stopped me. Each year I will usually go to Hamilton or Toronto to see the BC game. When this season came around I wanted to see one in every city. My girlfriend Cheryl came to nine of the games with me and for the Grey Cup I went with my friend Martin (More on that later).

When asked why I love the CFL so much it’s really simple. It is our country’s game. The game itself is amazing. Do you really need four downs to do something that should only take three? Our players are ordinary and extraordinary.  We also have the best fans. I have loved meeting so many amazing people along the way this season. People like Norm, Brad and Connie who are proud members of the Rider Nation. Or the countless people I met on the streets of Calgary this past Grey Cup weekend who came over and said: ‘Hey, you’re that guy that blogs!’

Some people don’t understand my love of the CFL. When the BC Lions lost the Eastern Final a lot of people at work asked: ‘Well I guess you aren’t going to Grey Cup anymore?’

Are you kidding me?

The game is one part of it. Sure, I would have loved for BC to be there. To me it’s about the experience of Grey Cup week. BC Lost the Eastern Final in such a one sided affair it was easy for me to shrug it off and say ‘it wasn’t our year’.  While I don’t support either the Alouettes or Roughriders I still wanted to see a great game.

Now I mentioned my friend Martin. Last year when Cheryl and I got back from the Grey Cup in Montreal I showed some of my friends the video and pictures I had taken. Martin stepped up and said he wanted to go next year. This was his second CFL game ever. The first being a game in Toronto between the Argos and the Als in the 2008 season. Yes, his first game didn’t come until last season (better late than never), so we decided it was going to be a guy’s trip.

We left Ottawa the Thursday morning for Calgary. Now Day 1 didn’t go very well for me as I was feeling under the weather. I had an extremely sore throat and overall wasn’t feeling great. Thursday was a day where we stayed in our hotel room and took it easy. Day 2 was much better.

We woke up to the Calgary sun Friday morning and ventured downtown. Our hotel was close to the stadium but not very close to the activities. Grey Cup week is all about the activities!!! As I said we ventured downtown to the Olympic Plaza to take in some breakfast. It was a sea of smiles, cowboy hats and CFL logos. It was great. People dancing in the cold Alberta air having a great time.


We made our way to a nearby hotel to take part in something called ‘State of the League.’ This was a town hall format where our Commissioner, Mark Cohon, had 200 fans in attendance and discussed, well you guessed it, the state of the league.

He has held this event annually for the media, but on this day he had a second session for the fans. I think it was a great event. Can you think of another sports commissioner who would have such an event? I can’t. It was great interacting with other fans and hearing what was on their minds. I take my BC Lions toque off to Mr. Cohon and the CFL for having such an event.

After the ‘State of the League’ Martin and I took part in some of the different parties. The Winnipeg Blue Bomber party known as Touchdown Manitoba was first. It was there I reunited with my friends Norm and Connie.  I really like Norm. He is a great guy and a diehard Riders fan. I am very happy that I met him and am proud to call him my friend.


Another event we went to was the ‘Grey Cup Tweetup’. This was an event hosted by the league as well for people who use Twitter with a CFL theme. It was great meeting my fellow fans from Coast to Coast. Even the Commish showed up.

For me I look forward to three things during Grey Cup week: One is the parties. Each team has its own party. Riderville, the Spirit of Edmonton, the Lions Den and Tiger Town are among some of the staples you can expect in November during Grey Cup week.


The second is Cheer Extravaganza. This is my girlfriend’s favourite event. I’m serious. It’s a chance to see the cheer teams fort every CFL team do a routine for 5-10 minutes. If you’re expecting; ‘Give me a B….Give me a C……’ this is not the event for you. These are great dance numbers and can I tell you something ladies, there are male cheerleaders as well.

I have a lot of respect for the CFL cheerleaders. They finance their own way to the Grey Cup by doing fundraising and they do a lot of great work in their communities. When I was a young boy I wanted to be a football player. Well that and a fireman, policeman, Batman, etc. I can assume that a lot of young girls go to games and want to be cheerleaders. I love the fact that a lot of young girls get to realize that dream for a season and take part in routines with the Cheer Teams of the CFL.

Lastly, I look forward to the game. The game is the pinnacle of the week. I always hope for a good one and this year certainly didn’t disappoint.

Cheer Extravaganza was great this year. I am always blown away by the Edmonton Cheer Team as I assume we all were. They are one of the teams that have male members. They did amazing flips and somersaults. It’s always a great reminder of how flexible I am not! At the end of Cheer Extravaganza I always buy Calendars to support the teams. I can’t say that I ever really hang them up, but I want to do my part to help support the cause.

After Cheer Extravaganza I could have sworn someone was trying to punk me as people kept coming up to me asking if I was a player. I was wearing a BC Lions long sleeve shirt and let me tell you, I kept getting winks and smiles. ‘You’re a player aren’t you?’ It was like Vancouver all over again.

Any attempts to get into some of the team parties were thwarted by two to four hour wait times. That’s something the organizers need to work on next year. Martin and I turned in for the night and got ready for Day 3.

Saturday morning was exciting as the Grey Cup Parade was back! Jack Bauer’s daughter, er, Elisha Cuthbert was the Parade Marshall. I enjoyed this as it was very family friendly. It was nice standing and watching the different groups come by. There were cheer teams, men and women f
rom our military, different fans, etc. It was a great event.


After the parade I met up with my friends Norm and Connie for lunch. After lunch they went to Riderville and I took in some of the street celebration. I actually bumped into Dave Dickenson. I love that guy! I eventually got lost. Fortunately I met a nice group of men and women who were sweet enough to take me in. Sure they were a little rowdy but all in all they seemed trustworthy. I had arrived at the Lions Den! This is the ultimate party for the BC Lion fan.

I met a group of men from Vancouver and we talked about our love of the Lions.  David Braley, the Owner was on hand. Can I just say he is a cool guy. He came over and hung out with us and had a few drinks. It was very chill.

The highlight was when Head Coach Wally Buono showed up. Let me tell you something, forget George Clooney, forget those boys from Twilight and forget any pretender to the throne, Wally is the man! Why do I say this? A woman literally pushed me out of the way to get to Wally and hug him. Woman were walking up to him in full blush, it was quite cute. I love Wally as a coach and am very proud of his accomplishments. I was prepared to see him and say hi. I wasn’t prepared for his entourage of adoring fans, but hey, I don’t player hate, I appreciate.

On game day Norm and Brad, another die hard Riders fan, came and met Martin and I for a pre-game meal. I hadn’t seen Brad since him and Norm and Cheryl and I had taken in the four games in four days in four cities during Week 7 of this season. It’s funny how you can meet someone and instantly click with them. Even though we don’t see each other all the time we still keep in touch. We got caught up on each other’s lives and then headed to the game as we didn’t want to miss out on the pre-game festivities.


The game itself was epic. The stadium was a sea of green. This was very much a home game for the Riders. The Als came into that game as huge favourites and no one had given the Riders a chance. They were supposed to get stomped. Apparently the Riders never got the memo.  The Riders came out and had fun. The fact that no pressure was on them played to their advantage as they acquired a two touchdown lead by halftime.

The CFL epitomizes the ‘it ain’t over till it’s over’ mentality. We all know how the game ended so let’s talk about it. I keep hearing about how the 13th man cost Saskatchewan the Grey Cup. Ironic since the 13th man was the advantage they had in this game. If you think the 13th man cost the Riders this game I would say you are short sighted. Yes, there was an extra player on the field. Is that person entirely responsible? No. The defence allowed Montreal to score 18 points in the fourth quarter. I’d put some of the blame on them. How about Darian Durant’s fourth quarter interception? That sure didn’t help. What if there was no penalty, would it have been Damon Duval’s fault? Would he be held responsible for the fact that Montreal’s offence generated only three first half points? What I am getting at is simple: you win as a team and you lose as a team.

To Montreal I say congratulations. You deserved it. You were by far the best team this league and I congratulate you. I have a lot of respect for Anthony Calvillo. A few years ago when his wife was being treated for cancer he left the team to be with her. I lost my mother to cancer two years ago and I know how difficult it is to watch someone you love suffer. I am glad his wife is alright and proud of his accomplishment. To those who question the record of the Als in the Grey Cup, look at this: there is no other team that has been in more Grey Cups in the 2000’s than Montreal. That’s consistency.

To the Rider Nation I congratulate you as well. The West Division was by far the better division this year. You rose to the top of it. You entered into a game where you weren’t expected to compete and you did more than that, you excelled. I know this loss will hurt for some time to come but have faith. You have a great team and a great fan base behind you. Of course you should get used to losing because BC is coming back stronger next year (come on people, I’m still a Lions fan).

So next season if you see Cheryl and I in your city feel free to chat us up or send me a message on Facebook. If there are four games in four cities in four days next year we will definitely be there. And we will certainly be in Edmonton for the Grey Cup and hope you will too.


As this historic season comes to an end I would like to throw out a few thank yous.

I would like to thank the CFL for everything you have done for me. I feel respected by our league and I appreciate you putting my thoughts online.  I especially want to thank Jaime for his support.

I would like to thank the BC Lions organization. You rolled out the red carpet to Cheryl and I and we are grateful for that. To have the opportunity to be on the field at BC Place and watch a warm up was an amazing experience for us.  A big thank you to Jamie and Natalie for making that happen.

I want to thank the teams of the CFL and wish you all the best in the new season. We have a great league and I’m happy you are all part of it.

I want to thank the organizers of Grey Cup week. You unsung heroes did an amazing job showcasing your city to the rest of us and thank you for making us all feel so welcome.

A shout out to our Commish, Mr. Cohon. Thank you for taking the time with Cheryl and I. It was a pleasure meeting you. You’re doing a great job. I love the fact that our Commissioner is a regular guy. Someone you could have at your Grey Cup party but alas he is busy that day!

Last but certainly not least, I thank the fans of the CFL. Whether you support the Lions, Eskies, Stamps, Riders, Ticats, Bombers, Argos or Als I have loved meeting as many of you along the way as I have. We are the heart of this league. I salute you all young and old and look forward to meeting more of you next season!

Is it summer of 2010 yet?

Keith Whittier grew up in Ottawa, but considers himself a B.C. Lions fan. He posts on Twitter as @cfl_fan.