HAMILTON - Down in the "heckle zone" at Ivor Wynne Stadium the local zealots have their target for the night.
"Evan ... Hey Evan ... Eeeeeevvvveeeennnn! Hey water boy, why aren't you playing?"
Mr. McCollough, a Toronto Argonaut defensive back of some talent who is currently backing up, has given the signal to the crowd they've been waiting for -- he answered back.
Can't really pick it out, it's too loud. But you can read his lips.
"I can't hear you. What was that? What was that?"
While saying that, he was pointing at his eyes, for unknown reasons.
Everyone laughs, even the Argo fans.
A couple of quarters later, Mr. McCollough intercepts a pass deep in Hamilton territory and carries the ball triumphantly back to the sidelines where he shows it off. That's how you get back at the heckle zone.
If there's a better seat in the CFL than the front row (called Row 3) of Box H you'd be hard pressed to find it.
The nearest Argo is about 20 feet away and they can hear everything that's said. They say some things back too.
This is the Canadian Football League in a sweaty, humid July night microcosm. Fans close to the players, experiencing the kind of intimacy they don't always get down in the No Fun League.
These folks clearly know what's up, as well.
"Hey buddy, let's compare paychecks and [well, you know]. Mine are bigger."
The former might actually be true, given the size of some player contracts in the CFL.
There's a lot of "Argos suck", with variations on a theme such as "You suck, Argos," or "You still suck, Argos" or "Nobody sucks like the Argos."
But there's a lot of creative work as well.
"Hey Argos, need help? I've got my resume right here."
"Hey Ray, my sister throws better than you do. Want to meet her?"
A group of ladies in the front row, two of them there with husbands, have been behind the visiting bench for about five years and they wouldn't go anywhere else now.
Their best moment? A couple of years back when Montreal QB Anthony Calvillo, who never loses his temper normally, finally cracked and tossed a water bottle. One of the ladies was splashed.
Best of this night was when a beer seller went by, stopped hawking his wares, leaned over the rail and yelled "Argos suck." Tough town. Never see that at the Rogers Centre.
From a pure football standpoint, being this close is heaven. The players suddenly grow six inches and put on 50 pounds, and you can hear the collisions a long way.
Along the bench you can catch one coach yelling, another explaining quietly what happened and how it should be fixed. You can, as a great old line said, smell the sweat.
This kind of closeness is disappearing from the CFL.
Ivor Wynne is down to six regular season games. Winnipeg moves to new digs next year. Even Saskatchewan will have a flashy prairie home in four years it was announced Saturday.
Strangely, you can buy seats in Row 3, Box H for games to come.
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