Let's face it. There's a lot that sucks about Toronto. Sunglassed and besuited jerks in stupid cars who give you the finger. Yuppies in deathly furs who elbow past you, knocking over small children while cradling designer frozen dinners in the supermarket. The Leafs. The Raptors, too. I haven't seen a single score this year, but I'm pretty sure the Toronto Rock suck. They have to. They come from Toronto.
But nothing sucks worse than the Toronto Argonauts.
Naturally, a zealous group of Hamiltonians are the leading promoters of this hard and cold reality. These steel-suckers are so committed to Argo suckdom that their collective vocation - argos-suck.com - was the impetus behind an unsanctioned opening-night Grey Cup party at the Horseshoe Tavern, where two bands who didn't suck performed for zany CFL fans united in their unlove for everything Toronto.
"When we found out a few years ago that the domain 'argos-suck' hadn't been taken, we couldn't believe it," effuses co-founder Steve Bunn, while ladling great spoonfuls of the most foul-tasting Vietnamese noodles in a hideously lively and well-lit restaurant on Spadina Avenue. "We all pitched in $20 and started the website, and now it's become a vector for everyone's dislike of Toronto, if in a totally playful and healthy way."
Born out of the deep historic rivalry between cities, the chant "Argos suck!" is to Hamilton sporting culture what the Sign Man was to Philly Spectrum hockey, Aunt Hildy was to Dodgers baseball and "Potvin sucks!" is to Ranger hockey fans. Tabbies fans chant "Argos suck!" no matter the opposition. "It's something that Ti-Cats fans say pretty much every day of the season ... " said one large fellow from Dundas, Ont. "If the cash machine won't give you cash - 'Argos suck!' If you run out of gas - 'Argos suck!' If your girlfriend dumps you - 'Argos suck!' It's the sort of sentiment that's always easy to apply."
In recent years, the "Argos suck!" phenomenon has come under attack, not by Toronto football fans, mind you (who, judging from many of the double-bluers I met at the 'Shoe, find the chant strangely endearing), but by the Tiger Cats themselves.
A few years ago, new owner Bob Young tried to banish the phrase, worried that it was giving the impression to potential ticket holders that Ivor Wynne Stadium (the Tabbies' park) was nothing but a cauldron of large hairy swearing men for whom "sucks" was merely a springboard to more unruly behaviour. He was right about the large hairy football fans, but even the argos-suck.com mavens proved to be intelligent, funny fans of the CFL for whom "Argos suck!" is a catch-all expression of distaste, ending crowd profanity before it begins.
"Bob had all of these ideas about how to change the Cats," says a fellow named Will, one of the website's driving forces. "In a lot of ways, he saved the franchise and had great ideas, but his attempt to ban the chant only hardened our resolve, and made the chant more popular. He held a $1,000 contest for fans to come up with a new chant, but 'Argos suck!' evolved naturally and you can't script something like that."
One Argonaut fan at the Horseshoe who wanted his identity concealed remembers a time before "Argos suck!" when wading into Hamilton for the Labour Day Classic and other games was to flirt with preciousness of life.
"Once, my drunk friend fell over and was knocked into an enormous Ti-Cat fan at Ivor Wynne who ended up with a spilled beer. Needless to say, he wasn't very happy.
"Even though we tried apologizing to him and offered to replace his beer, he pretty much made it clear that he wanted to fight. He was eventually tossed by security, but he waited for us after the game, where he jumped my friend, pinned him down and bit off part of his ear.
"We scrambled trying to help him, but as we did, this old Hamilton woman who'd been watching the fight came out with a cold glass of water, picked up the piece of cartilage that had been chewed off, and put it in the glass. The doctors tried to stitch it back on and couldn't, but the whole event - and the divot out of my friend's ear - kind of represents what the Argo-Ti-Cat relationship has become. We hate each other, but we also know that, as CFL fans, we're in it together."
One of the great things about the CFL, the Grey Cup and Grey Cup week is that it makes room for the beautiful freaks who live, in unity, on Canada's cultural and sporting fringe.
As the Horseshoe evening played out, the crowd became coloured with Roughie fans wearing carved watermelon rinds on their heads; Lions' supporters in bloody orange and black with plush toys strapped to staffs; a single Ottawa Rough Rider fan; staunch Argo men and women wearing vintage blue; Bombers agitators in gold with beads slung around their necks; and an Eskimo fan who'd recently lost his foot in an accident, but who'd slogged through the evening's freezing rain to reunite with the football-sick
I was told by a Hamilton north-ender at the end of the night: "Where else could you get so many drunk men and women in one place and not have any fights?"
On the heel of his words, one group of fans standing near the end of the bar clenched their fists, bared their teeth, tipped back their heads and bellowed the classic Toronto lament, "Argooooooosss!" while their Hamilton dance partners lurched toward them and shouted: "Suck!"