There I was, minding my own business just after halftime in a section 129 aisle seat at the Rogers Centre as the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tigercats clashed on Sunday in the CFL’s Eastern Division final, when I ended up with a ringside seat for the circus that has enveloped the City of Toronto. Yes, I came face to face with Rob Ford.
He was right beside me as I recognized the cause of the commotion, his hand thrust out at me. I shook it out of instinct and my deeply-bred Canadian politeness, still somewhat in shock and not thinking clearly. As he moved on, an aide put a gold-embossed business card and an infamous “Ford for Mayor” fridge magnet into my hand and the circus continued down the aisle. He was mobbed as he moved to his seats about 5 rows in front of me, around the 10 yard line. My first thought? You’d think he’d have better seats.
The circus show quickly overshadowed the game, as people crowded down to touch Ford’s cape (actually he wore the infamous Mayor Ford Argos jersey), offer high-fives and pose for photos. Our section was quickly invaded with everyone standing watching Ford, making watching the game near impossible. A Hamilton touchdown shortly after his arrival passed with scant notice from our section. In fact, the Argos would go scoreless after Ford’s arrival, losing their half time lead, as the Ticats punched their ticket to the Grey Cup.
Media also descended on our aisle from the press box to document the madness, and security moved in to try to move people back to their seats and ticketed sections as fans, particularly Hamilton fans, grew increasingly irate at their inability to watch a pretty good football game. Toronto Police removed a few fans who got abusive with a security guard, but otherwise they managed to settle things down. Ford would leave with under two minutes left, and the Argos still making an ultimately fruitless last-chance drive.
To answer the obvious questions: I did not see him consume any beverages or eat anything (make your own joke on the last one) and I didn’t witness any booing or negative comments. Everyone either wanted a picture or a high five, or just wanted to watch the damned football game.
I bet Ford, other than being disappointed with the Argos loss, left the game feeling pretty good about himself, and like he had a lot of support. And that would be a mistake. While there were undoubtedly some Ford Nation diehards present, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case for most.
For most, it was a carnival, a circus freakshow with Ford as the main attraction. Like many pseudo celebrities, he’s become famous not for his accomplishments, but for his misdeeds. He’s an ongoing train wreck we see nightly on our televisions. It’s our own reality show, and it has gone global. Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Anderson Cooper 360 – it’s that crack guy they’re mocking on TV, let’s get a photo with him and Facebook it, will be hilarious.
I tweeted the other day that I never knew the Alateen meetings my parents made me attend as a teen would later give me such insight into municipal politics. I wrote about Mayor Ford a few months ago. We didn’t know the crack allegations were true then, but we knew enough. At the very least, we know the man is an alcoholic. He’s an addict, and he needs help. He needs to come to that realization on his own and he clearly hasn’t yet. The apologies offered are far from genuine – they have all the hallmarks of political calculation. And he seems to be surrounded by enablers unwilling to be truthful with him – anyone who would has been chased away.
Mayor Ford needs to hit rock bottom, before he can acknowledge his problems and truly begin to work them. He’s not there yet, and I worry, with all that has happened already, what rock bottom for him will look like. But I hope he gets there soon; for his own sake, and for the city’s.
Until it does, the circus will continue. And to the degree it ever was funny, it’s becoming less so every day. Now, it’s just sad.
|What football game? All eyes on Rob Ford.|
|The media, including this CP reporter, invade the aisle to document the madness.|
|This fan did not make friends with Rogers Centre security trying to keep the section free of lookey-loos.|
|Toronto Police escort fans from the game.|