BLOG: A win is nice, especially on home turf

One of my earlier blog entries prompted the following question: When the Ticats lose, does it put a damper on you guys, or a cloud of sadness?

As a rookie cheerleader, it didn't take me long to find out where the Tiger-Cats stood

One of my earlier blog entries prompted the following question:

"When the Ticats lose, does it put a damper on you guys, or a cloud of sadness?"

So I've been thinking of how to properly answer your question, D Rock.

The truth is the idea of losing didn't affect me much at first. When I initially joined the cheer team I knew nothing about CFL football, but it didn't take long to find out where the Tiger-Cats stood.

"You're Hamilton Tiger-Cat cheerleaders?" asked one man at a promotional event I attended.

"Yes," we all smiled and nodded.

"I'm sorry," he replied.

Along with statements like these from complete strangers, I had my father to thank for my low expectations of the games.

Before we went to the Rogers Centre for the July 3 game, my dad didn't hesitate to tell me that "we were going to get killed" by the Argos.

But this is where the old 'expect the worst, hope for the best' saying comes in. If you don't think things will go well, then you will be right if they don't, and happily surprised if they do. It's a win-win situation … but likely without the actual win.

We all met in Burlington, Ont., to take a bus to the Rogers Centre. My friends were impressed.

"They got you a Coach bus to go to the game? That's pretty nice."

"Uh … no," I replied. "It's a school bus." Right on track with the low expectations.

When we got there, we soon discovered that someone had forgotten to separate our change room area from that of the Toronto Signals Band. If you are unfamiliar with this band, I suggest visiting their website: "The age of band members ranges between 18 and 77 with over one-half of the membership in the 50+ range."

I didn't think I'd be seeing the pale skin of a 60-year-old man in his tighty-whities for another 40 years or so, but life is full of surprises.

The next surprise for me that day was the reaction of the Toronto crowd to our dancing. Almost 31,000 people, primarily Argo fans, had me a little nervous. The Rogers Centre is a much more intimidating venue than our home turf at Ivor Wynne. And as we ran out to centre-field to perform our dance, we were met with more than a few angry yells from the bleachers.

But as we finished and ran back to the sidelines, all I could hear were cheers of support. Not a 'boo' or a 'you suck' to be heard. And I was in for yet another surprise.

We won! 32-13. The gaggle of Ticat fans made up for their small size with a boisterous celebration. And the wide-eyed smiles of the veteran cheerleaders made me realize that they hadn't seen a win like that in a very long time.

Even the two and a half hour bus ride home from Toronto — due to highway construction — couldn't dampen our spirits. It would have been more fun to win at home in Hamilton, but we were happy nonetheless.

And even happier Aug. 7 when we did beat our rivals at Ivor Wynne.

So when the Labour Day Classic came around, I was full of confidence that we would once again dominate. The stands were packed; the Hamilton fans were full to the brim of excited energy for the annual faceoff. Our squad even joined in on The Wave as it circled the entire stadium three times in a row. All I could do was stand there with a silly grin on my face.

Until things went sour.

As the Argos cemented their lead in the final quarter, the Hamilton crowd turned ugly. I felt especially bad for the Argo cheerleaders, who were booed and ridiculed after a — shall we say — provocative dance to Katy Perry's song "I Kissed A Girl." It was after this that I learned the Argo girls have had beer bottles thrown at them in the past, so I suppose the verbal assaults were better than the alternative.

Then there were the three rowdy men who felt obligated to run onto the field in the midst of the game, and had to be beaten down by various members of the security task force. Eventually uniformed officers joined in on the action, prompting one fan to call out "That looks like police brutality to me."

So I suppose it's the atmosphere in the stadium that affects my mood as a cheerleader the most, rather than the actual score. When an opposing team annihilates us, it generally feels much worse than if it's a close game. I think the Labour Day Classic — though a close game — was an exception because Hamilton was expecting to come out on top and the disappointment was too great. They wanted the win badly.

And while it felt good to win at an away game, it's not half as good as a victory at Ivor Wynne. The Hamilton fans are so much a part of the game for me that I need them there to share it with.

Three home games left. Here's hoping.