There are those who would look at the score of the 48th Vanier Cup and say that it was all for naught. There are those who would argue that the most important game was lost and that everything before was a historical footnote. Those people are very wrong.
Speaking not only as a fan, or as a person who has had the pleasure of covering this team over the last two years, but simply as a McMaster student, I can say that the Marauders football team has been a source of pride for this school, its students and this community.
That is not only an optimistic inference; the presence of Mac football pride is tangible here on campus. Speaking with school president Patrick Deane before the game, it was apparent that not only were students partaking in the excitement surrounding this team and this sport, but it was everywhere – in every hallway, in every office and in every classroom.
Regardless of the records and the history at stake, the outcome of the national championship game almost didn’t matter.
There were 37,098 fans in attendance for the game, breaking the previous record by almost 5,000. More than 30,000 (and that’s being generous to Laval) were there to support the Marauders.
It was a sea of Maroon blanketing the blue bleachers of the nation’s most recognizable football stadium (sorry Riders fans), and if I had closed my eyes as Mac ran out of the tunnel it very well could have been Sunday.
At one time or another, 3.3 million people watched the broadcast on TSN and RDS – nearly 10 per cent of the country.
Taking the GO train on the day of the game was an experience I will never forget. Waiting for the bus to take me to Aldershot, school busses loaded with Mac faithful, decked out in their school colors, left the campus in droves. Upon arriving at the station, the platform was full of Marauder fans.
Every car was filled, and at every stop between Hamilton and Toronto, someone supporting our school boarded, dressed for the occasion.
The support, to my surprise, extended to a much greater community, bound not only by the geographic area of this beautiful Westdale campus, but by a much higher purpose.
From the start of the 2011 season, the headlines, all of the stories and a record of 22-1 (21 in a row) had brought McMaster to the pinnacle of Canadian university football.
Facing a Laval team that they had defeated in what was widely considered the greatest game ever played, at any level, the Marauders had a chance to win back-to-back national championships.
The intrigue that had developed nation-wide for this game was evident. This year’s game was the most watched Vanier Cup in history – and you’d better believe the Marauders had something to do with that.
Win or lose, Mac had done something that no other team in history was able to do. I am not talking about a national championship or a winning streak. I am talking about putting CIS football on the map.
To those who argue that Laval winning their seventh Vanier is the real piece of history here, I say congratulations.
But there were six national championships in their cabinet before 2011, and never did they draw a crowd quite like the one at Rogers Centre on Nov. 23.
This year’s Marauders will go down in history as the team who made a great impact on the progress of university-level football. This paper, this school and I are all extremely proud of this team.
Go Mac Go.