The BC Lions played the Calgary Stampeders earlier this month in the Canadian Football League’s western division final game. Finishing the regular season atop the standings allotted B.C. home-field advantage, with the winner continuing on to compete for the 100th Grey Cup.
I was among the 43,216 fans packed into BC Place Stadium that Sunday. A Calgary native, I was one of the very few Stampeder fans in attendance—think of a red dot in a sea of orange. Oddly enough I became a Vancouver Canucks fan even before travelling west, but held onto my Albertan football roots.
I never understood why most other hockey fans single us out as the worst (all rioting aside); obnoxious, disloyal, and arrogant are just a few words used to describe Canuck fans. But sitting in BC Place as an enemy fan, I began to notice those negative qualities.
The game began as usual with the singing of “O Canada,” and for those few moments all fans united as one. And then the moment passed. Every fan in the building received a pair of inflatable “thundersticks” in their cup-holder, and when banged together in unison produces a roaring clamor. Like most football stadiums, fans are instructed to make noise when the opposing team is on offense, making it difficult for the quarterback to call plays. But when Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn threw a perfect pass to a wide-open Marquay McDaniel for the opening touchdown, BC Place fell silent.
Obviously most football fans are subdued after their team surrenders a touchdown on the opening drive. However, most won’t bash their team just thirty seconds into the game—the same team which secured first place in the entire league just weeks earlier.
Flash-forward eight minutes and the place is rocking again with Korey Banks’ 77-yard interception touchdown return. B.C. fans high-five each other, the Black Eyed Peas blare through the speakers, and jubilation fills the air—it’s a tie game! The positive atmosphere lasts a good five minutes before Calgary pulls into the lead again.
What many Vancouver sports fans do not understand is that they also have an obligation to fulfill the club-fan relationship. A degree of support is necessary—through sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, and through good times and bad. A true fan doesn’t keep their team as a trophy wife and discard her when she gains ten pounds.
With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Stampeders lined up a mere yard away from scoring a touchdown to create breathing room on the scoreboard. B.C. defense miraculously quelled the Stamps’ first two attempts to cross the line, but surrendered the six points on a controversial third-down lunge.
Tensions rose in the bleachers as fans felt robbed of a change in momentum. Chants of “Bullshit! Bullshit!” erupted throughout the stadium. The game halted when one fan threw a burning flare onto the field. Stampeder fans wisely sat tight-lipped.
B.C. chipped away at Calgary’s lead with field goals through the final quarter, but quarterback Travis Lulay struggled to gain first downs to score major points. Rather than realizing Calgary operated a phenomenal secondary defense the entire game, fans booed Lulay and shouted “throw the ball, you bum!” as if that were a viable option. It’s the same as Canuck fans screaming “shoot the puck!” when a six-foot-five, 200-pound defenseman stands in his way.
Fans clad in orange began filing out of the stadium early with as much as five minutes remaining, as if unaware of the CFL’s frequent fourth-quarter comebacks; the Stampeders semi-final match a week earlier saw two lead changes in the final minute. Calgary held B.C. off for the 34–29 victory, but the Lions could easily have recovered the on-side kick with a full minute remaining for a scoring drive. Many fans went home even before the 50/50 ticket was called.
The remaining B.C. fans sat shocked in their seats, debating who was at fault for the defeat. And there’s always a scapegoat for each loss—the Stampeders didn’t win the west division final, Travis Lulay lost it for B.C. Just as it was Roberto Luongo’s fault for not scoring goals for the Vancouver Canucks as well as stopping them.
Many hockey fans refer to Toronto as the “centre of the universe” because the hockey world seemingly revolves around the Maple Leafs, win or lose. But if this is true, Vancouver sports fans must be unaware life beyond their universe exists. One can’t have a second-favorite team since anyone other than the Canucks or Lions suck. This is startling arrogance for a city that’s never seen the Stanley Cup, has the fewest Grey Cup appearances in the CFL, and only managed to support a basketball club for six seasons. It’s time to fan-up, Vancouver.