Sunday 9 May 2010

The Fiercest Rivalry in All of Sports

Steeltown vs. Hogtown. The Hammer vs. The Big Smoke. Blue Collar vs. White Collar. Oskee Wee Wee vs. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgoooooooooos. The greatest rivalry in all of sport...

Tiger-Cats vs. Argonauts

This is as intense a rivalry as it gets. The hatred each team engenders in the fans of the other runs deep. These two teams have been playing each other for over a century, yet the fire is still there. Historically, the civic rivalry between Hamilton and Toronto stretches far beyond the football field. These two cities once competed to be seen as the major economic centre of Southern Ontario (then Canada West). Toronto became the big city it is today, while Hamilton was relegated to being an industrial centre. It was that distinction that turned this civic rivalry into what it is and gave each city the character that it still, for the most part, has today. I will admit that I am a proud Hamiltonian, and I do indeed hate most everything Toronto has to offer. But let's keep this focused on the football field.

Labour Day is the apex of the rivalry. Nothing gets the blood boiling more than when the Argos come to "the home of labour" on the holiday created for the working class. Labour Day is the game that means the most to Tiger-Cat fans. Win this game, and the season is a success; lose and... well... that's just not an option.

I do believe that the rivalry is taken more seriously in Hamilton than it is in Toronto, at least on the surface. But with the story I am about to tell you, you'll see that Argo fans hate the Ti-Cats just as much as Ti-Cat fans hate the Argos.

I attended a game in 2007 in Toronto. The Argos were playing the Roughriders. I was fortunate enough, through some connections, to be able to go on the field for a promotion that the Argos were running. Just prior to competing, the Argos in-game MC handed me a live mic – big mistake. After getting the pleasantries out of the way ("What's your name?", "Think you'll win?", etc.) I was asked if I had anything else I'd like to say. This was my moment. The chance of a lifetime. I held the crowd in the palm of my hand and in front of 35,000+ Argo fans I yelled into the mic, "GO TI-CATS!" In that one moment the entire crowd booed me, and I do mean booed me. I stood there, basking in my adulation, content with having set out to do what I wanted. Suffice to say, Argo fans do not take too kindly to a Ti-Cat fan being handed a mic at the 40-yard line of the Rogers Centre SkyDome and yelling "GO TI-CATS" at them. This is the story that I will be telling everyone I meet for rest of my life.

Players switching teams has an effect on the rivalry as well. Many players have seen both sides of this feud. Just last season, Arland Bruce went from hated to beloved when he was traded from the Argos to the Ti-Cats in July. Nothing gave me more pleasure last season than sporting that crisp, new Arland Bruce Ti-Cats jersey when I went to Toronto for a game.

Just as many players have gone the other way. When they come back to Ivor Wynne they are treated as traitors. Guys like Mike O'Shea and Adriano Belli are rarely welcomed back when they grace the field in Hamilton. I still hate both those guys for being turncoats.

Some players see both sides and yet are still welcomed back with open arms. Archie Amerson, Mike Morreale and Joe Montford all went from the Ti-Cats to the Argos and yet were greeted as heroes upon their return to Steeltown. Not being an Argo fan, I can't say if the feeling is mutual. Of course, once you go Black & Gold you never go back into the Double Blue fold.

With there recently being some chatter about a joint stadium, this rivalry could be taken to a whole other level. I still don't entirely like the idea of sharing a stadium with our most hated rivals, but the clashes between the Tabbies and Boatmen could take on an added ferocity should both teams be housed in the same stadium.

I can't completely quantify why the rivalry still resonates after all these years, but if I had to guess I'd simply say it's a clash of cultures. The almost visceral hatred that Tiger-Cat fans have for the Argonauts is unmatched. I started this article with the four "vs." which I think encapsulate everything that the Hamilton-Toronto rivalry is about. It's a rivalry that has lasted for generations, and one that I hope continues well after I am gone. But in the end we all know...


  1. Great story... if you'd yelled "Oskee Wee Wee!" you'd have become a legend. :-)

    While having that many Argo and Cat fans at the same game would make for an electric and intense atmosphere (there'd be fights over seats even before kickoff), there are just too many drawbacks for both teams in this case for me to like any aspect of the idea.

    Loss of identity, for both the teams and the cities (well, much much more so for Hamilton), loss of fans (how many season ticket holders would make that move? not me), it reduces the league's "live" exposure in Southern Ontario and may lead to advertising issues between the two teams and their respective business partners, an assigned "home" team or not it would create some seating issues for at least 3 and likely more games every year, and any game-day spinoff business is now taken away from Hamilton and Toronto and put somewhere new.

    I'm not surprised this idea was raised (and by someone who's had little to say on the issue so far), but I would be very surprised if it came to pass.

    Re: Belli, a hated rival he may be, but a turncoat? Don't forget we traded him to Montreal, then he signed in Toronto the following season.

  2. If it was a Cats-Argos game I would've yelled "Oskee Wee Wee."

    Good thoughts on the stadium issue.

    And you're right, Belli's not a turncoat, just a worthless dillhole. Mike O'Shea on the other hand...