Hamilton is a very cool city. No really, it is. There are awesome pockets hidden away, beyond the grubbiness of the steel mills and the poverty, places like Westdale and Locke Street and Augusta. The art gallery is much better than the bland façade would indicate, and Hess Village is only truly slutty on the weekends.
That being said, Ivor Wynne stadium is a dive.
Nothing against the Ti-Cats and nothing against the CFL, but I was not won over by the walk from the used car dealership where we paid to park to the prison-like gates at the front of the stadium. There were no attempts to spruce up the exterior. Barbed wire ran across the length of the fence. The “Platinum VIP Area” to which our tickets gave us access was a cordoned off parking lot filled with plastic chairs and domestic beer.
But, I was trying to stay positive about the whole experience (something that is hard for me when sports are involved), so I hitched Abby up a bit higher in her carrier, gritted my teeth, and headed in. Erin bought me a large beer. That helped enormously.
We, of course, had come in at the exact wrong end of the stadium, so we had to navigate set after set of dangerous concrete stairs before finally finding my in-laws. They were proudly decked out in the Ti-Cats black and yellow, as were 95% of the people arranged around the rest of the stadium. An old man in front of us was ogling a recently purchased cheerleaders calendar. A woman in front of us was gently reminding her son not to use his vuvuzela between plays.
The whole atmosphere, in fact, was not at all what I had expected. It was… pleasant. Happy. Fun without the angry boisterousness that I usually associate with sports. I found myself enjoying the game, despite not really knowing what was happening. (I mean, I understand that football involves moving a ball in some way while other people try to stop you from moving it, but then there is this arbitrary kicking aspect that I can’t seem to figure out, as well as confusing rules like “no holding,” which seems a bit silly when violently tackling another person is de rigueur.)
As the beer settled in my belly and the sun warmed my Ergo-attached baby, I realized that a football game was not the worst place for me to be. Not by a long stretch.