A chanting, dancing, tired and champagne-spraying group of enthusiastic Argos celebrated their Grey Cup victory in style on Thursday afternoon before a relatively packed audience of supporters at a relatively small Maple Leaf Square.
The players soaked some of the crowd of about 1,000, soaked Judy Tanenbaum, wife of co-owner Larry Tanenbaum, soaked anyone they could reach within distance. And if possible, did it some more.
“As exciting as it was for the other championships, this was even more exciting,” said Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, who has overseen an NBA title by the Raptors, an earlier Grey Cup by the Argos, an AHL championship by the Marlies and an MLS crown by Toronto FC. “The way this team came together, the chemistry of this team, it’s just unbelievable.”
Tanenbaum went on to call last Sunday’s 24-23 Grey Cup win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers “an absolute classic. I have watched Grey Cups for the last 70 years and I’ve got to tell you this one is the best one.”
The Argos players, coaches, staff, and family in attendance weren’t about to disagree. While the event was something like an awards show — a whole lot of meandering speeches going nowhere — the emotion was pure and absolute.
Coach Ryan Dinwiddie admitted he’s barely slept since winning the title on Sunday night. Many of his players said the same thing.
The coach paid homage to his staff and his players. The general manager, Michael (Pinball) Clemons, did likewise to his head coach and the club president, Bill Manning, paid tribute to Clemons.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house — but that had more to do with champagne than anything emotionally spoken at the celebration.
This was the first public celebration since the win, but linebacker Henoc Muamba, voted the game’s Most Valuable Player and top Canadian player, hasn’t really stopped his celebrating since Sunday night.
He carried the Grey Cup to a Maple Leafs game on Monday, a Raptors game on Wednesday, and in between he’s barely let the trophy out of his sight.
On stage at Maple Leaf Square, Muamba shared the Argos attitude about the cold in Regina, claiming: “It’s not cold enough,” and then followed that up by taking off his top and reducing his clothing to an undershirt.
“I still can’t believe this happened,” said Muamba, the second-year Argo from Mississauga. “Did it really happen?”
After Muamba began to take his clothes off, other Argos followed suit. This team is so close, when one player does something, another is sure to follow.
After the ceremony ended, backup quarterback Chad Kelly declared that he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in the CFL and ready to take on the Argos role if free agent McLeod Bethel-Thompson chooses not to return next season. MBT, appearing on-screen from his American day of Thanksgiving, did not indicate whether he would return to the Argos or the CFL next season.
Like a lot of players, he thanked and praised his family for giving him the ability and time away from home to play pro football.
This Grey Cup triumph is monumental for this Argos team, a possible one-and-done as a championship roster in the CFL. They have no shortage of free agents upcoming, including Bethel-Thompson, receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr., running backs Andrew Harris and A.J. Ouellette, Grey Cup heroes Robbie Smith and Muamba, and defensive stalwarts such as J’Gared Davis, Shane Ray, Wynton McManis, Chris Edwards and Shaq Richardson.
That puts a certain pressure on GM Clemons, especially when young Canadians such as Gittens and Smith are certain to be in demand around the league.
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But all of that is for tomorrow. Today — and yesterday — and maybe for the next few days the celebration will continue.
Chief Stacey Laforme, from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, got the event started Thursday morning with some words of wisdom.
“I want to thank the Argos for giving us a reason to celebrate,” he said to the crowd. “Tomorrow we go back to whatever we go back to.”