On Saturday, Sept. 26, I caught a morning flight to Edmonton to watch the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Edmonton Eskimos in an important Western Division match-up.
So important, in fact, that fans from both sides flocked to Commonwealth Stadium in record fashion, as 62,517 spectators looked on. Sure, it was an important game and the atmosphere was electric but it was lacking something: a true football-frenzy culture.
I say this only because the following day, Sunday morning, I headed to Buffalo to watch the NFL’s Buffalo Bills take on the New Orleans Saints. If you want to talk about tailgating and frenzied football culture, you don’t have to look any further than the small suburb of Orchard Park, Buffalo.
As I drove into the area in which Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Bills, is located, it quickly became a Buffalo Bills wonderland. Everywhere you looked, Bills paraphernalia littered the streets, homes and businesses located in the vicinity of the stadium. What was even more remarkable was what took place in the parking lot of the stadium itself.
As I finally decided on one of the myriad $20 parking spots, I approached the party — and party is the only word able to describe the raucous, drunk rioting taking place. Young women who claimed to be huge Bills supporters, scantily clad, bounced around as the boys guzzled beer after beer.
This all took place with music blaring, barbecues burning and bizarre costumes. Yes, the football tailgating culture was something to behold at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
I’m a die-hard football fan. That said, I go to watch my Roughriders win games. I do not go to the stadium to get shit-faced and forget everything that happened — although sometimes I wish I did, being a Rider fan. I’ll admit, it was pretty freaking cool to be swept up in a sea of blue and red Bills fans; the energy was off the charts.
But there was something missing. CFL fans and Rider fans have a knowledge and emphasis on the game, that makes me feel all right with the fact that we don’t have a tailgating culture. The magic of the Roughriders takes place inside Mosaic Stadium.
In Canada, we will always have the misfortune of having those NFL fans that think the CFL is a Mickey Mouse situation. We don’t have the big television deals, we don’t have all the pre-game bullshit, and, hell, we only have eight teams. But what we do have is a fan base of die-hards who will sit outside in less than enjoyable conditions to cheer on their favourite team.
It’s a love for the game and league that transcends drunken shenanigans in the parking lot.