The Vanier Cup experience

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By Caroline Alphonso

I never thought I would see so many buff guys in one room, let alone have authorized access to see them strip down and get naked.

The football team must have been surprised to see me, the only female in the room, walk proudly across the floor as they were changing after their game.  But all I have to say to this is hubba-hubba.

Let the truth be known:  I don’t understand football and have never been to a game.  I’ve tried watching game son television, but to me, it’s just a bunch of guys in tight pants tossing a ball across the field and wrestling each other to the ground.

Surprisingly, I jumped at the chance on Saturday to cover the Concordia Stingers and Saskatchewan Huskies play for the Canadian university football championship trophy, the Vanier Cup.  And when I was told I would be allowed to enter the dressing room, there was no chance in hell I’d give the story away to another writer.

I grabbed my press pass at the gate and dashed to the media room at the SkyDome.  I was a sports writer.

Well, not really, but I could pretend to be one.

 

Gametime 

As I sat down in my swivel chair, I noticed all the excitement and, more importantly, the football players down on the field.  Although my pass didn’t allow me access to the field, I knew I had to get down there somehow.

Acting innocent as well as being a little sneaky and conniving, I asked Kevin, the elevator guy and my new friend, to please take me down.  He didn’t ask for my pass.  Perfect.  After riding the elevator about five times in one day with Kevin, I showed my appreciation by giving him a Molson Canadian toy football I got from the field.

Down at the field-level, I was able to turn my attention back to the football players.  I was on the sidelines, close enough to smell them (which I did towards the end of the game).

I think I must have been on television for about 25 seconds when a Concordia player ran into me on the sidelines as he dove for the football.  I nearly fell to the ground, but I didn’t mind a bit!

 

Fan support?

Since I’m not an avid football fan, the game seemed to get a little boring after a while.  I knew the football players would still be there when I got back.  I decided to gauge the atmosphere among the fans.

 

I met up with three green Martians from Saskatchewan — actually, they were just a couple of guys who had their faces and upper bodies painted green and white — and had come down to Toronto the day before the game.

To get on TV, they each had a letter of The Sports Network (TSN) painted on their body and they were excited to get their brief spotlight.

Andrew McDonald, one of the three “Martians” told me that at one of their games about 10,000 people showed up — their stands can only fill about 4,000 people.

Wouldn’t it be exciting if Ryerson had a home game where there were more Ryerson supporters in the stand than the visiting team?

And would Ryerson students drive across the country to watch their team play in a championship game?

But enough thinking.  I should return to the football players, umm, I mean the game.  For someone who doesn’t like football too much, I really started getting into it.  But my knowledge of the game is definitely limited.  I even mistook a Toronto Argonaut player for a Stinger.  My face turned red when I went up to Andre Kirwan of the Argos and began talking to him about the game.  “Are you part of the Concordia team?” I asked.  “No, I’m an Argo,” he said.  Embarrassed, I started talking to him about the game, or more specifically about what he thought of the game.

But this embarrassing moment didn’t fluster me because the most amazing part of my day was about to begin.

With only two minutes left on the clock, the Huskies, who were tied with the Stingers, recovered a Concordia fumble in the end zone for six points, finally ending the game.

 

The dressing room

Saskatchewan won and now it was time for me, a certified member of the media, to enter the dressing room and gather players’ thoughts on the game, or something.

Players began filing into the dressing room after talking to the press and getting their pictures taken.

I definitely wasn’t going to stand by the door, so I made my way to the back of the Saskatchewan dressing room where I saw a few guys taking off their uniforms.

Players sat along the sides of the dressing room and as I walked down the middle, and I heard one of the players say, “Cover it up, guys.”  After all, I was the only female in the dressing room.  I certainly didn’t want them to overdress just because I walked in.

I surrounded myself with a few of the Saskatchewan players and asked for a group picture with me in the centre, of course.

One of the guys, who I guess was a little shy, decided he should cover his upper body, but all I said to him was, “the less you have on the better.”

To which another player said, “Let’s get naked guys.”  Of course, they were not completely naked, just their upper bodies.  When they asked me to do the same, all I said was “I don’t think so.

On that note, I decided to slowly, very slowly, make my way out of the dressing room and let them continue their celebration.

And oh, by the way, if you’re interested, the Saskatchewan Huskies beat the Concordia Stingers 24-17.

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