by Stephen Johnson
photos by David Johnson
Growing up in Saskatchewan, one of my fondest childhood memories was going to Saskatchewan Roughriders games with my parents. The game-time excitement and food options like fries and ice cream were perfect for an eight-year-old Steve. Recently, my family–Sandy, David and I–attended a REDBLACKS football game. I hoped they would enjoy the football experience as much as I did as a kid.
I wanted to arrive early to the REDBLACKS game. The atmosphere at Lansdowne Park equals that of any stadium in the Canadian Football League. The combinations of pubs, restaurants and coffee shops allows everyone to be well-fed before game-time. Ottawa fans have also embraced their own traditions with many dressing up as lumberjacks – or jills, sporting the red, black and white colors of the REDBLACKS.
For David, there were plenty of fun kid things to do before the game. There is always a kids zone outside the stadium with inflatables and face-painting. In the tradition of not-so-healthy pre-football food, I bought David an ice cream cone.
It was getting close to kick-off so we made our way into the stadium. David enjoyed seeing all the different fans with face-paint or decked out in various costumes. The REDBLACKS made a dramatic entrance with a smoke-filled tunnel and fireworks. The REDBLACKS were facing their arch-enemies, the Edmonton Eskimos, who defeated them in the Grey Cup last year.
O Canada was sung and the game got underway. I would not describe David as the biggest sports fan but he got right into the game. I designated him as the official photographer of the evening. He must have snapped at least fifty photos in the first half alone. His favorite was taking pictures of quarterback Henry Burris.
After a brief break at halftime, the second half started. It was fun explaining a few of the rules to David and Sandy. I also promised David that every time the REDBLACKS scored, I would do the chicken dance. He loved that idea. With each field goal or touchdown I sent David into uproarious laughter with my bad dancing. I am just glad it got lost in the general excitement of the crowd with the REDBLACKS scoring.
The REDBLACKS came back in the final few minute of play with a field goal sealing the victory. All of our voices were hoarse from cheering. We easily got back on our OC Transpo bus and made our way back home ready to cheer on the REDBLACKS at their next game.
I found the atmosphere at the game to be very family-friendly. People were having a good time but were always respectful. The stadium staff were very helpful and friendly. As mentioned, I would recommend arriving early to take in the pre-game atmosphere. Also, people are allowed on the field fifteen minutes after the game is finished to collect photos and autographs. Your game ticket is a pass on OC Transpo before and after the game.
For more information and tickets, visit www.ottawaredblacks.com