Ah, Montreal. The band’s first overnight grey cup trip. In 1998 we’d come down for a regular season game at Molson Stadium – worthy of a blog post of its own, the team chartered 3 cars of a Via train to Montreal and miraculously offered the band a free ride – and we all remembered that so fondly, how could we NOT go to Montreal for the Grey Cup?
Plus it’s an eastern division cup. Those are easy. In all our history, we only ever managed to get the band to fly somewhere once (to a “home” game in Fort McMurray, Alberta) but hiring a bus to go to an eastern opponent seems simpler. And here’s Rick, our bus driver from Great Canadian, a great guy.
(More to come, this blog entry more or less a placeholder.)
I’m indebted to Colin “Trombone” Leech for the photos on this page (and for showing up! As the Ottawa branch of Argonotes, we could always count on Colin to show up only for certain road games.)
Wait, what? Argonotes at the 2017 Grey Cup?
Didn’t the band fold in 2017?
Well, yeah, it kind of did, the band packed it in after 22 years just before the start of the 2017 season (and reunited for one reunion performance in July) but that’s a topic for a much longer post. Or if you subscribe to The Athletic, you can read about it here…
However, Argonotes did actually perform on Grey Cup Weekend. Sort of! So it gets its own entry in the archives.
the eastern final
So I guess the Curse of Argonotes that we applied to the team didn’t work, because they won the Eastern Final and made it to the Grey Cup against Calgary.
I was delighted to take my dad (and brother (and one son)) to the Eastern final at BMO Field, and the Argos beat Saskatchewan.
should I stay or should I go
Yours truly was kind of moping around that week, debating whether to go to Ottawa for the game.
I’d talked myself into Not Going. I can’t go. Not without my band.
But after some intense lobbying by basically everybody I’d ever met in my entire life, all saying “What, are you nuts? Go!”, and especially after an invitation to connect with the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band (who were making their 4,000th straight Grey Cup trip), I found a ticket and headed to Ottawa for the weekend.
hanging out with musical friends
The Roughrider band even let us hang around and play and possibly even conduct.
It was a fantastic experience, and I owe a lot to the Rider band for the invitation, and to my Argonotes colleague Jenn “Piccolo” “Or Bass Drum” Annis, because I think we both agreed that two people is, legally, a band.
two people are legally a band
And we found ourselves at the Argo bash. I had this informal plan to have the entire Riders band show up and I was going to give them Argos shirts if they’d just play Go Argos Go and pretend to be Argonotes, but that kind of fell apart when they said “Sure, we’ll do it, but wearing green”, which wouldn’t have been nearly subversive enough.
So, what the heck, whaddya gonna do, there’s a stage and a rowdy group of Argo fans and there’s beer and we had a trombone and a bass drum, what more do you need, and without further ado, here is a performance of “Go Argos Go” by Argonotes, the Until Recently Toronto Argonauts Band, at the Argos Ottawa party the night before the Grey Cup, and I promise you, there are much better recordings of this song!
My thanks to Spitzka for the video and all his support over the years.
Was it a great weekend?
Absolutely! Inspired, no doubt, by our performance, the Argos beat Calgary in an epic snow globe of a game, with some wild plays, an incredible finish, a great halftime show by Shania Twain (who arrived on a dogsled) and I had a great 2nd row seat surrounded by Ottawa REDBLACKS fans who couldn’t have been more gracious after the victory.
Was this our greatest Argonotes performance ever?
Probably not. Other than the part where it inspired the Argos to victory the following day.
Was it our final Argonotes performance ever?
Hey, you never know.
1995 was the band’s first year and at the end of the season, I think we were just too addled to even think about going to that year’s Grey Cup. But in the final game of 1995, there was some sort of Canadian identity crisis thing going on and as I recall, the team let anybody in to the final game for free if you brought a flag.
It was quite a sight in 1995, all those fans, and all those flags. It must have impressed the visiting quarterback, a guy from Calgary named Doug Flutie, because he wound up signing with the Argos for the 1996 season and led the team to a 1996 Grey Cup Victory.
Of course most of us had watched the 1995 Grey Cup on TV, and had probably seen the parties, and might have noticed some sort of green and white band from Saskatchewan in some of the media reports, and since the ’96 Grey Cup was in Hamilton, hmm. I wonder. We’d never played anywhere out of town. Could we make it to Hamilton?
As it turns out,
a) we did, and
b) there isn’t as much online record of it as you might like, because people weren’t yet carrying around cell phone cameras documenting every waking minute of their lives.
The 1996 season was notable for, I think, the first mention of the band in the Toronto Star. Dig the old URLs! People didn’t even think to get their own domain names.
Toronto Star, 1996:
ARGGOOSS: As the CFL playoffs get under way, you might want to check out the Double Blue’s official site in cyberspace(http://www.interlog.com/argos).
Along with the standard mix of schedules, results and statistics, the Argos’ homepage has a nice where-are-they-now feature called “Ancient Mariners”.
The latest one is on 1940s star Bruce Richardson, but you can also select one of several earlier Ancient Mariners from the archive provided.
For a look at the lighter side of the gridiron, take a wander into the home page of the Argonotes, the team’s official band
Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh, right, the 1996 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Here are a few memories.
the Ottawa party
Somehow we’d heard that the city of Ottawa was hosting a party in Hamilton, and we got ourselves invited to that. It was a little awkward, because the Ottawa Rough Riders had either just folded or were on the verge of doing so.
I recall the band actually giving the organizer some money from the stage just to see if it would help. (It didn’t.)
We went on right after the Saskatchewan band. This was our first glimpse of our Western rivals –
I remember thinking – Hmm. They seem to know what they’re doing. Perhaps I should contact them and see if we can, you know, do some Massed CFL Bands thing in future years? (Foreshadowing! Stay tuned.)
And I think this is us at one of the gigs that year – sorry, cameras back then did not typically embed detailed timestamps and latitude/longitude info in each picture …
what else was going on
Hey, check this out, I never throw anything out, an email to the band outlining our plans for the weekend
From: Steve Hayman
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 1996 20:03:06 -0500
Subject: Quick Grey Cup Weekend Reminder!
Meet at 7:30 PM tomorrow (Friday) at the beer tent at King & Bay. At 8:30 we'll be at the Edmonton hospitality suite in the Ramada Hotel; at 9:30 PM, the Spirit of Ottawa show at the Royal Connaught Hotel.
Then on Saturday, meet at 10:30 AM at the Ramada Hotel for the Edmonton Klondike Breakfast, and we'll move on after that for the parade.
I have been unable to get tickets for the game itself on Sunday - although I did try; talked to the chairman of the grey cup committee, wrote to CFL chairman Larry Smith
too. Oh well.
Any problems, give me a ring.
See you tomorrow!
"Still no baby."
“Still no baby” ? What was that about? Oh, I remember now (see later.)
the Grey Cup Parade
Hamilton wisely combined the Grey Cup Parade with the city’s annual Santa Claus Parade.
The Grey Cup part was a sort of pre-parade that went right down the main street of Hamilton, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, and when they all saw the Argos Band proudly riding on the Argos Float, they all said – if I remember correctly – “Boo.”
Here are a couple of grainy photos from the live CBC coverage. For the full effect, please yell “BOO” at your computer when reading.
That’d be me at the front holding the shield.
the MOB – the Massed Ontario Band
Somehow I thought it’d be fun to worry about not one but two bands in the parade, and put together the first and last appearance of the MOB – the Massed Ontario Bands, a combined entry from the marching bands of Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, the non-marching but game-to-try-anything Waterloo Warriors Band, and the Carleton University Band, which turned out to be one guy (thanks for coming, Peter.)
We sent out a few simple tunes to all 4 schools and everybody theoretically learned them – I think we were doing “Ca-Na-Da”, the 1967 Centennial song, “Hogan’s Heroes”, the theme from a TV show about – wait, can this be right? a world war II prison camp? people thought that was funny? – and “Scotland the Brave”, because of the large contingent of pipers from Queen’s.
This was so much fun, I hope we can do it again some time. Everybody enjoyed it, old rivalvies were set aside, the group some how self-organized into a marching band shape and proceeded down the parade route. That was pretty cool. I still have the MOB banner out in the garage.
Thanks to my cousin John Hayman – Warriors Band Fhorn – for the photos, which it turns out were actually taken by my brother Michael!
A classic. Argos win, in a snowstorm. Flutie, long thought by many westerners to have fumbled on a crucial late game third down, did not in fact fumble, because if he had fumbled, surely the refs would have said something.
did you get in
No. We faxed the league, and commissioner Larry Smith asking if we could get in, and got a reply a week after the game saying basically “Sorry, everybody was out of the office and we didn’t see this message” which is an easier reply than “No.”
later that same week
The Grey Cup was on Sunday November 24, 1996.
on Monday, November 25, I sent the following urgent email to the band –
Subject: ALERT! ARGO VICTORY PARADE TUESDAY NOON! BAND NEEDED!
12:15 (noon), Union Station. Parade up to Nathan Phillips Square. Possibly marching, possibly riding on a bus. We will be right behind Doug Flutie himself.
I need people for this! Can you come? Please? It'll be over pretty quickly.
BONUS: FREE LUNCH! Seriously! The city will buy us lunch if we do this.
I called the mayor's office - which is running the parade - and got us invited. Somehow the Argos neglected to mention us as a possible entrant. Figures.
Our first GREY CUP VICTORY PARADE
On Tuesday, November 27, the team organized our first Grey Cup Victory Parade, from Union Station to City Hall.
Gerry was whacking the bass drum pretty hard; an “E” fell off live on TV and by the end of the parade, the bass drum read “GR Y CUP CHAMPS”.
Here’s Global’s report on the victory parade, with the typical sort of downer woebegotten angle that too much CFL coverage of the day included. But they also included a brief glimpse of the band
On Wednesday, November 28, this picture from the parade was on the cover of the Toronto Star. Doug Flutie, Alexa Flutie, coach Don Matthews, the Grey Cup and … a glimpse of some guy with a trombone.
Later that day I took a copy of that day’s paper to the hospital and proudly showed it to a brand new baby. Nick, see that? Your dad’s on the cover of the paper today. Happy Zeroth Birthday. Maybe you’d like to join the band in 16 years or so. We could use some more trumpet players.
The 2007 Grey Cup was the first one in Toronto since 1992 (and, thus, the first home grey cup for Argonotes, since the band started in 1995.) We were so excited we even had special collector’s edition lapel pins made up. See above! No, you can’t have one, I think I only have this one left. They were pretty popular.
We were particularly pleased to be joined by the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band, who, of course, manage somehow to go to every Grey Cup, whereas in Argonotes we could only muster the strength to go to the East Division ones.
As usual we played at all the team parties, including the fabulous Spirit of Edmonton event and their legendary Saturday morning breakfast. I recall that we’d established an official band beachhead at the Novotel downtown where most of us stayed Thursday-Sunday. That sure made it easier to get around without anybody worrying about what anybody had had to drink, if theoretically that were happening.
In a post appropriately titled What we learned while killing our brain cells, the legendary Boatmen Blog had these kind words to say about our performance at Saturday morning’s Spirit of Edmonton breakfast. (The whole post is worth a read but, well, if I had to pick one paragraph it’d probably be this one.)
It’s never too early for Steve Hayman to bring his A-game. As always at the Spirit of Edmonton Breakfast (which, as you can see, is really a goldmine for material), we were treated to an MC making assorted jokes that range from the corny to the slightly blue. For a guy trying to work a room full of drunks on a Saturday morning, he did a fair job. But he had nothing on the leader of the beloved Argonotes, who came equipped with a dizzying array of one-liners – among them a solid one about Saskatchewan poised to match the number of Grey Cups won by Sarnia and Queen’s University, and…well, truthfully, we can’t remember the others, on account of the nature of the event. But trust us, he was very funny. And we maintain that the Argonotes’ cover of BTO’s Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet is genuinely more enjoyable than the original.
strolling around Toronto
I’m lucky I didn’t get fired for having the band play inside the Apple store at the Eaton Centre.
The CFL Pep Band Summit
Just before the parade we hosted the Saskatchewan band for lunch at our favourite pregame hangout, Joe Badali’s which – what do you know – turned out to be the starting point of the parade. (Photos of summit to come, once I can find them.)
parade? what parade? who said anything about a parade?
There was no official Grey Cup Parade, which naturally caused a lot of sneering in western Canada about those high faluting Toronto hipsters who are too cool for the CFL etc etc etc – any Argo fan has been hearing this for decades – but that didn’t stop anybody. Naturally we got together with the Saskatchewan band, the Calgary Grey Cup Committee (who host the annual pancake breakfast and do the horse-in-a-hotel routine) and various fan groups and decided we’d all meet at the corner of Front and Simcoe on Grey Cup Saturday for the ..
the Not the Grey Cup Parade
The theory being that parade permits were super expensive, but protest marches were free, so it wasn’t a parade, it was a protest march objecting to the lack of a parade.
We started at Front and Simcoe, went west on Front (mostly on the sidewalk), turned south on John St over the bridge to Skydome, and wound up at the Convention Centre.
We may have tipped off the media in advance. Rob Leth of Global did a fantastic report.
Right at the start of that report, and again towards the end, you can see a Winnipeg fan hugging a Saskatchewan fan named June Trueman, who was a delightful member of the Saskatchewan pep band and who, sadly, passed away last month. June was a founding member of the Saskatchewan band and seemingly everybody’s favourite alto sax player. It was always a pleasure to seek her out and say hello. Thank you, June.
I remember turning around during the parade and seeing this incredible mass of humanity following along, which was pretty amazing for a non-event that we only started “planning” a couple of days before.
post parade performances
Here are a few Youtube clips of band performances that day
Post-parade, Super Tequila at the Convention Centre
Grey Cup Sunday, Surfin’ USA in the fountain outside Skydome
Geez, that fountain was a good spot. I’m glad nobody found the switch to turn on the pumps, though. We got a nice picture there, and then moments later the fountain was swarmed by Saskatchewan fans.
as a proud Canadian band, isn’t it a little weird that you keep playing “Surfin’ USA”
how about we call it “Surfin’ PEI.” Happy now?
did we get into the game?
Yes. The league graciously gave us some passes to get in, although we didn’t have any seats so we had to find obstructed-view unsold seats. The Saskatchewan band got in, of course; they always buy tickets. What? Buy Tickets? Who does that?
Part of the reason for this post is that I haven’t blogged anything in a while, but mostly it’s because the 2020 Grey Cup should have been played last Sunday, but wasn’t.
It’s all got me feeling really nostalgic about the Grey Cups I’ve been lucky to attend with Argonotes, from our first in 1996 to our last in 2017.
Some were road trips to Cups in Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal, and some were at home in Toronto, but they were all memorable, multi day festivals of fun and music and drinking and parties and camaraderie and fierce but good-natured rivalries with the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band, and occasionally a football game at the end, and at this time of year, past pictures, videos and posts keep popping up in my Facebook on-this-day-in-years-past memories feed.
I feel the need to write about each of them.
I don’t much care whether anybody reads this series, but I want to gather all my best memories of each one in one spot. And this seems like a good spot.
More to come.
In no particular order … ok in numerical order … with a few articles still to be written
The news broke today that the Montreal Alouettes have disbanded their cheerleading / dance group.
Citing financial concerns, the Montreal Alouettes have disbanded their cheerleading squad ahead of the 2020 season.
“This decision has nothing to do with the hard work (the cheerleaders) put in, or their popularity,” said Charles Rooke, the Alouettes president of communications. “In the current context of financial turnaround, difficult decisions must be made.”
This is sad. And weird, because they’re keeping the coach around (to work as Director General of the Alouettes Foundation) but axing a very talented group.
It’s also shortsighted, and wrong. Here’s why.
it’s a package
People have options these days. Watching a football game from the comfort of your own home in front of your 65″ TV in a luxurious armchair has a lot of appeal. The challenge for a league like the CFL is to get people to come to the games.
what if it was just football
Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose the only thing going on was the football game itself. No cheerleaders. No mascot. No live music. No T-shirt-tosses or other stunts. Just football. Montreal vs Toronto out there bashing in to each other.
How many people would come, if it was just football? You’d have 1,000 diehards, people who really know the Xs and Os of the game, people who are anxiously watching defensive alignments and discussing the minutia of pass interference. They would have a great time, but another 20,000 people would be fidgety, bored, confused, and, most likely, would actually be at home watching something else.
what you really need
There aren’t nearly enough “pure football” fans to make the business work. In 2020, the game isn’t enough. You need a full game-day experience. And that means having
a team with a reasonable chance of winning
cheerleaders and a dance team
stuff going on before the game, outside the stadium
lots of loud and crazy fans contributing to the spectacle.
Now, for any item X on that list, you’ll find people who say “I don’t care about X.” Fine. But there aren’t enough of you! This has to appeal to everybody. And cheerleaders and live music and everything else are all part of the package.
I think the Alouettes, and their new owners, are making a mistake here. (The fact that the new owners are from Ontario isn’t helping, but at least they got off to a good start by proclaiming at an early interview that the Argos suck.)
money? it’s about money?
I have no idea what the operation in Montreal cost, although the Als did mention on Facebook that their cheerleaders are getting paid per game. That isn’t the only model that could work. Surely there are sponsorship opportunities. Maybe a volunteering model with fees for outside appearances makes sense. (I’m honestly not sure how it works in other cities, but I do know that every CFL cheer squad works hard to raise money to travel to the Grey Cup, which won’t be the same without Montreal’s excellent group.)
(Also as you might imagine, I have a little CFL game-day experience. Argonotes, the Until Recently Argonauts Band was completely volunteer-based and never got a dime from the team, although the Drum Line was being paid. Lots of different models can work. But as you might have heard, the Argos and Argonotes parted ways in 2017. I wrote down why, somewhere. I forget exactly.)
ditching the cheerleaders is not right.
If the new owners are that short of money that they can’t keep the cheerleaders going, maybe they aren’t ready for this.
It’s a question that theatre goers and sports fans have asked themselves for years. There’s a better seat over there. Why don’t we move down to it? What’s the harm.
We saw this happen several times at Saturday’s Argos/Redblacks game. For once we had pretty good seats, in the sixth row near the center of the field behind the Ottawa bench, and admittedly there were quite a few empty seats in the area (which is a problem that’s very hard to solve, apparently, but I am going to keep going to Argo games until this works!)
And quite a few people snuck down to our section – and a BMO staff person was politely shooing them away. Many were, I think, parents of the large dance group that was performing at halftime – and the staffer asked them to come back when halftime started when a lot of people leave anyway, just not right now while the game’s still on – but some were just fans wanting a better view than the one they’d paid for. I don’t envy the BMO staffer having to be the heavy, but they have a job to do.
So should you move down?
Well, let me modify that. You could try, but if someone calls you out on it, you should move back to your original seat.
It seems tempting, doesn’t it. What’s the harm if I sit in that unoccupied seat?
This is strong language, but you are cheating and stealing from the team if you do that.
Try this the next time you’re on an airplane. Can I sit in that empty business class seat? We’re all flying to the same place. It’s going to take the same amount of fuel whether I sit in the back or not. Forget the fancy meal, I just want to sit here. Can I? I suspect they’d say “no.”
People often wonder why a team with lots of empty seats doesn’t give away a billion free tickets either. Both things have the same answer: It cheapens the product. If people know they can pay $20 for a cheap seat and move to a $90 expensive seat later, why would they buy an expensive seat? Or why wouldn’t they just wait for a free ticket? You’re sending the message that the experience is only worth $20 or less.
It’s bad for business, IMHO, and we all want our team to succeed, we need all the seats filled with paying customers.
Randy Cohen, the former New York Times Ethicist columnist, wrote about this years ago. I like Randy – former Letterman writer – and I bought his books, but I think he’s wrong. (He was also wrong about whether you should recline your seat on the airplane, but I think I straightened him out on that one.)
Here at blog.hayman.net, we are not afraid to discuss the big issues, the topics that matter, the truly important questions that unite us all.
Be that as it may, today we’ll do some football nitpicking.
The Argos played Montreal in a very entertaining “home” game in Moncton last weekend and although the outcome wasn’t quite what we wanted, there were some great plays.
Including this one.
Which everybody – TSN commentator Rod Black, even the CFL’s official account – wants to call a triple reverse.
Let’s watch it again, shall we? Here’s the official call. See our additional video analysis below.
OK. I am no football expert, but I’m pretty good at counting (and I have the math degree to prove it.)
A reverse is where you hand the ball to one player A who runs one way, and then he hands it to player B, who’s running the opposite, or reverse way.
In a double reverse, player B hands it to someone else – maybe A, maybe a third player, but let’s call them C – who is running the opposite way, which is now the original way.
Still with me? A double reverse has TWO reverses in it, right?
A triple reverse is incredibly rare. C would have to hand the ball off to D, who is running the opposite opposite opposite way. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one. (If you find a video of one, let me know.)
So what’s going on in this play from Moncton?
* The quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr, hands off the ball to #24, Jeremiah Johnson
* Johnson runs to the sideline, hands the ball to #9, Jake Wieneke.
* Wieneke heads the other way, back towards the quarterback. This is a reverse.
* Wieneke pitches the ball back to the quarterback. This is not quite a reverse, the quarterback isn’t moving the opposite way
* The quarterback throws it down the field and … well the rest isn’t important.
And yet, TSN’s Rod Black called it a Triple Reverse and the CFL has even bragged about it. Just because there’s three guys handling the ball doesn’t make it a triple reverse.
Here, then, is our investigative report.
followup: my thanks to Anthony Reimer who kindly pointed out, post investigation, and beyond the point where I felt like editing the video any more, that the best terminology for this is probably a reverse, followed by a flea flicker.
(Some thoughts condensed from a series of tweets you might have already read.)
Last night Nick and I greatly enjoyed seeing the Argos beat Winnipeg for their first win of the season. It was a very entertaining game where the Argos overcame a 20-0 deficit to win 28-27.
As usual the process of logging in to Ticketmaster to download and print my tickets was a pain – yeah, I know, I should use the app, I really do know a thing or two about apps, but I also like having paper tickets. (I like paper boarding passes at the airport too.)
It was a great night in the CFL. Saskatchewan beat Hamilton in the late game – The two home teams win exciting games in the last minute, and their big rivals both lose too. Wish it could be like this every game day.
Also as usual everybody is wringing their hands about the number of empty seats at the game. Here are some thoughts I jotted down.
Most articles you read about a football game focus on the football details, the minutia of passing percentages. The Xs and Os, as they say.
But IMHO, that kind of talk won’t get enough people out of their living rooms to come to the stadium.
Here are Reasons to come to Toronto Argos games:
great dance team
free CNE admission (at the next game, anyway)
the best fans
Why don’t we hear more about the game-day experience, the NON-football parts? I wish more media would write about the actual fan experience. What’s it like going to the game? What did you do, what did you see, what was the music like, what was fun or hilarious or strange or amazing in victory or soul-crushing in defeat?
There are certainly lots of reports of the Xs and Os of the game, of which team ran what play and why, about specific minutiae on the field. That’s great, keep those coming – but non-football-experts would read that and think, “I’ll never understand this, why should I go?”
I think it would help to see reports from the casual fan perspective too. Hey, Pinball gave a great pep talk before the game. Pluses and minuses of the halftime show. How did that guy get the trivia contest right? It was cool watching them frantically set up the TD cannon.
Who are all these dancers? What is the deal with the marching band? They’re all 14 year olds from Burlington? Cool. What’s it like sitting with the craziest of crazies in the end zone? Can you actually get a $5 beer?
Report on the whole game day event, not just the game play.
The kid who held up the sign that he was beating cancer, so the Argos should beat the Bombers, and got a standing ovation. The air force pilot honoured during a break. Former cheerleaders back for a reunion. I want to read about all this too, not just pass completion stats.
While we’re at it, if we want more people to come to the games, then instead of just saying “Only in the CFL” when something like this happens – how about explaining what the heck is going on to potential new fans and why it makes the CFL game special?
If you can’t tell, I love the CFL and the Toronto Argos, I want the league to thrive so some day I can bring my grandkids to the game. It’s a great game day experience, a great outing win or lose, even for non experts. But I’m worried when I see so many empty seats, league-wide.
Here’s our view of the game winning last minute touchdown. I wish more people could experience how much fun the whole environment is, before, during and after the game, from the fan’s perspective. But you’ll never know that, reading about the game afterwards.
My point, and somewhere in here I do have one, is that just selling people on the merits of the football itself isn’t going to do it. There aren’t enough football experts to fill any CFL building. Gotta sell the whole game day experience and atmosphere to get folks to leave home. I know everybody at MLSE is trying hard to do this. I’d love to see reporting on the game day atmosphere once in a while too.
Joe Badali’s restaurant – sadly, now closed – was a great friend of Argonotes. It was the closest thing to a sponsor we ever had.
Nick and I went to the Jays home opener yesterday, which I think was the first time I’d been back to Skydome since the Argo era there ended. This triggered lots of fond Argonotes memories of course. Especially the old tradition of emptying the spit valves on the statue of Ted Rogers.
But I was sad after the game as we walked back to Union Station to see that Joe Badali’s Restaurant (at Front and Simcoe) has closed, and the building it’s in is being gutted, and the adjacent parking lot is now fenced off. Yet another office tower is going up.
Badali’s holds a special spot in Argonotes history. Before our very first game in 1995, we barged in there to play “Argos Rule the CFL” – to a reaction of befuddlement and confusion. But it got better.
For over 20 years, it was where we started and ended every performance. “Meet at Front and Simcoe 90 minutes before kickoff” was the usual rule. We’d gather in the adjacent parking lot for a warmup – where we’d make sure nobody had tuned their instruments, ever – and play for the crowd there, and then head over to Skydome, crashing other restaurants along the way. And we’d always wind up at Badali’s after the game too, for drinks and conversation.
For a few years, it was the official post game Argo bash spot, and everybody would gather there – players, dance team, fans, band – and former manager Mike O’Connor always made sure there was a reserved table for the band. And free beer and appetizers too. I couldn’t believe it. What had we ever done to deserve this grand treatment? A packed restaurant full of people celebrating an Argo victory – and there’s a reserved table for 30 people for the band? This is great, but why?
(Well, I always thought it was part of an unspoken arrangement: we’ll buy you a beer so long as you don’t ever barge in here and play “Argos Rule the CFL” ever again. go crash the Lone Star and Boston Pizza and East Side Mario’s all you want though.)
Doug Flutie came and sat at the band table once. Doug Flutie! The greatest quarterback in CFL history! And he came and sat at OUR table! I can’t imagine that happening in the NFL. Players mingling with ordinary people. (Naturally we asked him if his Flutie Brothers Band needed another 40 members, and he pointed out “I already have horns in the band.” Well OK then.)
Even after it was no longer the official spot – for one awkward year, the official post game restaurant was Frank D’Angelo’s “Forget About It” Supper Club – fans and players continued to celebrate or commiserate after the games at Badali’s.
Badali’s was also the gathering spot for several CFL Pep Band Summits – wonderful Grey Cup get-togethers with Argonotes and our great friends, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep band.
This is the 2012 Summit, possibly history’s largest gathering of CFL Musicians. And there’s Bob Mossing, Member of the Order of Canada, Founder of the Roughrider Pep Band –
(Note, former BC Lions band leader Dal Richards is also a member of the Order of Canada. I presume they eventually give this to all CFL band leaders. I will keep an eye on my email.)
Hanging out with the Rider band provided some of my greatest Argonotes memories – and we kicked off the 2007 “Not The Grey Cup Parade” from the Badali’s parking lot!
I celebrated both my 40th and 50th birthday parties at Badali’s, surrounded by all my band friends and family. I was looking forward to celebrating the next big birthday there too … But the Argos moved to BMO Field, the band got ignored to death, and I hadn’t been back to Front and Simcoe until yesterday.
Thank you to Mike, who’s moved on, and all the wonderful staff at Badali’s over the years who treated us so well. We miss you.