This Saturday will be the last regular season game at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. There is a chance of a playoff game, but here in 2012, this is it.
For me, in many odd and realistic ways it is my football mecca, with a combination of youthful experiences and adult moments that set my personal motivational direction to see how far I could go in a sport that has thousands trying to do the same.
I am sure that everyone has a physical structure that they identify as significant - a building or a location that was a building block or area that shaped perception. Perception of the future and what you want to do with it.
For me it was that stadium. I go back as far as when the home of the Tiger-Cats had grass, which transferred to AstroTurf and not field turf. At certain points it was very pristine and perfect, at other points in its history beat up and run down. But the charm of that football stadium will be within my mind forever. From my very first CFL game watching Joe Zuger punt with such unique excellence, to the last game I played knowing the end was now...to this Saturday afternoon, that bunch of concrete and steel was my original gladiatorial place of experience.
My stories of motivational influence would take a small book to express in detail, but it will never be the same. And I am not the only one? Many people I have crossed paths with have a similar affection whether they have played or not. Just moments and memories of feelings that are emotionally frozen in the subconscious.
I remember when the old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto was imploded. The next time I drove past the previous location I could only say very quietly, wow. It was like a block of time was erased from my memory bank - I no longer had a reference point to work with, only thoughts. I remember being in Dallas, for the Steeler/Packer Super Bowl, driving by the previous location of Texas Stadium and it too had been imploded and leveled and was no longer there. All I could say very quietly was, wow.
And I know it will happen again. Driving in Hamilton and I will look in a certain direction and what I have seen will no longer be there. Wow.
Ivor Wynne's charms were in its brutality. It was not comfortable to play in. Quite the opposite in fact, it was painful, but because of that it brought out the best in you. From the first time the security guard let me step on the field to "touch" the AstroTurf, three decades ago, to playing on that field knowing it was ruining my body, even my painful memories are now my fondest of thoughts. From the fights in the stands as a spectator to no hot water after the game as a player, the collection of easy to identify moments over time is surreal.
And soon, that reference point will no longer be there in the present. I just hope now that nothing happens to my Aldershot high school stadium, because if that is eliminated my reference points will go down to zero.
Things change that I accept and the new home of the Ticats will be better than the old home of the Ticats and somewhere, someone will have the same affinity with the new stadium as I had with the old one. But not me. Because for something that does not breathe, has no life and will end its existence, it certainly did a lot for me.
This year has been a very difficult one as I lost two dear friends I played with; there is a void I will never fill. And as I would never compare a person to a stadium, a new void will be there. Only memories and pictures of friends, only memories and pictures of experience. I hate getting older.