Hamiltonians are used to being Toronto's butt of all jokes. To them we're a lunchbucket town, "the mistake on a lake", "Canada's Pittsburgh"... all kinds of nicknames which refer to many decades when Hamilton was the chief supplier of Canada's steel. So when the Tiger-Cats beat the Toronto Argonauts on their own home turf last week Hamiltonians were given a much needed nudge to boost civic pride. Even the Toronto based Globe & Mail found the victory significant enough they published an editorial about it:
Upset honours tradition
Rarely in any professional sport can a game in the second week of the season be considered "must-win." But for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Thursday night's visit to Toronto came close. That they succeeded in pulling off a stunning upset, trouncing the hometown Argonauts 32-13, was good news not only for Hamiltonians but for all fans of the Canadian Football League.
The CFL is fond of boasting that the Argos and Tiger-Cats share the oldest rivalry in professional sports. It is one rich in tradition, with fans of both teams customarily making their way along the Queen Elizabeth Way to invade each other's stadiums. As with the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos, even regular-season matches between the two teams typically take on a playoff atmosphere, with regional bragging rights at stake. But a rivalry ceases to be a rivalry in the absence of competition. And in recent years, the Tiger-Cats have been incapable of competing.
Coming into the game, the Tiger-Cats had lost nine straight to the Argonauts and had not won in Toronto since 2001. They have fared little better against the rest of the league, winning just 12 of 54 games over the past three seasons - most of them late in the year when they had already effectively been eliminated from contention. It is no wonder that while Toronto had its largest crowd for a home opener in 16 years, few Hamiltonians made the trip up the Queen Elizabeth Way. Having admirably supported their team through its recent struggles, they had finally lost patience - as was evident from the sparse attendance at their own home opener the week previous.
Now, they finally have cause for optimism - not just because the Tiger-Cats won, but because of how they won. Quarterback Casey Printers appeared to have regained the form that made him the league's most valuable player for British Columbia in 2004. Running back Jesse Lumsden, a local hero, was virtually unstoppable. Hamilton's much-maligned defence appeared vastly improved. The Tiger-Cats played with pride.
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, normally neutral, reportedly described Thursday's result as "good for our league." He was right. As the CFL attempts to fight off encroachment from the National Football League, the return of competitive football in Southern Ontario marks an encouraging start to the new season.
A not so charitable review of Hamilton was recently published in the Kingston Whig-Standard by Ben Rutledge. He was lamenting the debate Kingston was having regarding modern day commerce and transit issues in an historic downtown. Here's what he had to say about Hamilton:
Downtown Hamilton is gotham grim, to the point where one might expect to see the Bat Signal reflecting off the clouds at night. A mishmash of eras and architecture, Hamilton's core is not for the faint-hearted . Back when the dollar was lower, Hollywood would even come knocking when looking to film inexpensive ghetto scenes.
Gore Park, the heart of the city, looks like a miniature version of New York's seedy Times Square from the 1976 movie Taxi Driver. It needs to be pressure-washed for about a month.
Down the street, Copps Coliseum looks like it could do with a bit of scrubbing as well. Built a quarter of a century ago in the hope of attracting a National Hockey League team, it was used by hockey clubs across America to leverage better deals from their municipal landlords during the 1980s and '90s. I've had some great times at Copps (including at two concerts featuring The Tragically Hip), but I can't help thinking it symbolizes Hamilton's inability to play with the big boys.
Beside Copps Coliseum is Lloyd D. Jackson Square, an urban mall that has become a partial ghost town. Nonprofit organizations have filled in some of the holes, but huge swaths of it are unoccupied. Corridors that bustled with shoppers when I was a kid are now completely devoid of humanity. The last time I was there, I left wondering why I would ever bother to go back.
I don't want to diss Kingston over this although I will say I loved visiting the city -- when I was a university student -- 18 years ago. I don't know if I be so open minded today if I went back to see what "progress" had been made in that once stately Victorian neighbourhood near Queen's University which was then and I presume is still known as "the ghetto".
Whereas Kingston may be known for its historic buildings and peaceful setting along the eastern shores of Lake Ontario it should be known that here in Hamilton, we're pretty rich in our own history and architecture. Here's a wonderful photo gallery of old stone buildings which you may assume are Kingston's, but are actually Hamilton's. Here's some more nifty photos of Hamilton. This my own gallery of Hamilton photos.