Just as Blue Bomber quarterback Buck Pierce took the snap, pulled back into the pocket and surveyed the field for a catch that would give Winnipeg a decisive edge over the Ticats, someone two rows in front of me stood up out of their seat and cried, “My god, what is that thing?!”
Section S of the Canad Inns Stadium has always maintained somewhat of a notorious reputation due to their enthusiasm for game day drinking. But on the night of July 2, Section S reached deep within itself and created something beautiful. Meandering its way both across and down nearly 20 rows of spectators was an enormous, somewhat majestic, plastic snake.
At first I had no idea the nature of the beast at which I was looking. What kind of trickery is this? My first guess was that some enthusiastic individual had brought into Section S one of the largest beer bongs in history. Of course, I was wrong. In reality what had happened was that hundreds of Bomber fans had collected their empty beer cups and had then stacked them until dozens upon dozens of containers formed one gigantic, plastic arm.
And it wasn’t the first time either. Fans in Section S had apparently got the ball rolling at the June 13 exhibition game against the Montreal Alouettes with a smaller version of the snake.
After that first time in June, the beer cup snake (BCS) reappeared in Section S during both of the Bombers’ next two home games, July 2 and July 9. In slightly less than a month, the activity of building the plastic serpent became so popular it threatened to dethrone Buzz and Boomer as the football club’s most recognized mascots. Only the stalwart strength of Dancing Gabe could keep the BCS from becoming the number one star in town.
But like all smash successes, there comes a point when the good times must end; the BCS had been soaring too high and was inevitably going to have to fall from grace. For days following the July 9 loss to the Toronto Argonauts, there had been rumblings that the Bomber brass were going to come down hard on the snake. Reports of complaints to the front office and even a number of cup related injuries signaled dark days for the BCS. On July 24, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers released a statement on their website commenting on the Bomber code of conduct at Canad Inns Stadium.
“Regretfully,” read the statement, “we witnessed the beer cups being thrown at the conclusion of our home game of July 9 which resulted in several minor injuries to our fans as well as many emails and communications to our office voicing concern and displeasure from our fans.”
“Management of the Winnipeg Football Club treats any issues concerning the safety and well being of our fans very seriously and as a result and effective immediately, club management will now implement a ‘zero tolerance’ policy.”
With the statement, the Bomber head office has let it be known that any individual who acts outside of the proper code of conduct will be subject to eviction from the stadium as well as further disciplinary action that may extend as far as prohibition from future game attendance. While the football club didn’t outright say “no more beer cup snakes,” they did give security staff enough wiggle room to confront any beer cup stacker being belligerent or downright jerky to his or her neighbours.
The BCS may not be officially dead but at the moment it is certainly on life support. In an effort to avoid raiding various blogs and message boards for anonymous opinions on the matter, the Manitoban (i.e., myself) took to the streets to get the lowdown from actual students — actual spectators — who frequent Section S and who were there for the emergence of the BCS. This is the real nitty gritty.
“It is such an awesome feeling of communitas,” Bomber fan Anna Cwikla said of the BCS experience. “It’s probably the only time you don’t mind getting hit in the head by a flying beer cup because you know it is meant to contribute to the common good! At least the people around me didn’t seem to mind.”
While a large number of fans from Section S are pro-BCS, there are still some who remain ambivalent.
“I am rather indifferent to the beer snake,” said Section S ticketholder Ian Brown. “I would never instigate one myself, but at the same time people seem to be having fun making it so what’s the harm there?”
“I do not support binge drinking, violence or taking away from other people’s enjoyment of the game, but isn’t that why Section S exists? Like-minded, rowdy individuals — who, I might add, are die-hard Bomber fans — have a place to watch the game where they won’t annoy quieter fans, or fans with young families. I’m not saying anything should go in Section S, but I am saying that you need to consider the circumstances.”
A common complaint among BCS detractors is that those involved spend more time drinking and constructing the creature than they do actually watching the football game. The only problem with this theory is that there seems to be a direct relation between enthusiasm for the snake and the on-field success of the Bombers. In the July 9 game against the Argonauts, the BCS stood strong only until the game started to slip away from Winnipeg in the 4th quarter.
“I noticed that once the game itself seemed out of reach, the desire to keep the stack going diminished. [ . . . ] Cups started to fly after Toronto got that late field goal to make it a two score game,” Cwikla noted.
Part of the game or not, the BCS has drawn much attention outside just those within Section S. Attendees from all over the stadium seem to have at least a passing opinion on the future of the endangered animal.
“They’re doing something that’s unique, there’s something novel about it,” said season ticket holder Lisa Robertson. “Obviously if people are being reckless about it then there’s a problem, but if you don’t bother the people around you there’s no reason it shouldn’t be allowed. There are much worse things people could be doing than making a beer cup snake.”
What the whole controversial issue comes down to is the comfort of the patrons. If the BCS is an animal that cannot exist without lashing out at innocent bystanders, then it should rightfully be put down. If, however, it can be rehabilitated and turned into a gentle beast then there’s no reason it shouldn’t at least be given a second chance. In this case, the future of the BCS might actually rest in the hands of its creators.
“I’ll admit it can be a little annoying,” Brown stated on the future of the snake, “but not more annoying than the wave. The only thing the Bombers are doing by banning it is taking away yet another ‘fun’ aspect of the game day experience and one, I might add, that is shockingly harmless compared to some of the other nonsense that goes on during the games.”
Anna Cwikla, Ian Brown, and Lisa Robertson are all U of M alums and all regularly attend Blue Bomber games at the Canad Inns Stadium.