It’s game day for the Ottawa RedBlacks. They kickoff the regular season this evening in Winnipeg. It’s been a long road to get a sustainable football team back in Ottawa. We suffered through a Riders team that constantly teetered on the brink (and eventually disbanded); we were toyed with when Grant White came to town; and we were given the Renegades, a team that was as poorly run as the Riders’ final days but without having built up any good will with the community to try to pull them through.
Last month, I wrote about the idea of being a disenchanted CFL fan for the Ottawa Citizen:
I was born 274 days before Tony Gabriel made The Catch in the 1976 Grey Cup, Ottawa’s last championship. Needless to say, I don’t remember it. I spent the 1980s and some of the ’90s rooting for perennial losers. Such was the fate of Ottawa fans of my generation, but, regardless, I was a fan.
As much as I loved CFL football, we eventually broke up. I watched CFL commissioner — and current Toronto mayoral candidate — John Tory scold fans for not supporting the team (even though we regularly outdrew the Grey Cup-winning Argonauts). I watched as former mayor Jim Durrell attempted to patch together a plan to salvage the team.
But there was no salvation.
So here we are with the RedBlacks. The team seems better than any Rough Riders or Renegades team we have seen in over thirty years. It’s a time of hope for fans. And even if they don’t win many games, they’re already a success.