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Wednesday, November 19, 1997

Heroes' welcome for awesome Argos

By CIARAN GANLEY -- Toronto Sun

Toronto went "argonuts" yesterday as 18,000 jubilant fans crowded the downtown area for the Argos' Grey Cup victory parade.

Boisterous Argo lovers - from kids skipping school to Bay Street suits - jammed the parade route and packed Nathan Phillips Square to celebrate the team's first back-to-back Grey Cup championships in 50 years.

Pennant and flag-waving supporters - many with faces painted in Argo blue - cheered and screamed the names of their favorite players as they rode past in open cars.

A blizzard of ticker-tape and shredded paper fell on them from Bay St. office towers and giant confetti was fired from cannons set up along the route.

Hundreds of fans swamped the players' cars for autographs, especially to shake hands with Mike "Pinball" Clemons.

LOUD CHEERS

Loud cheers erupted when the last car - carrying MVP quarterback Doug Flutie, Canadian MVP Paul Masotti, coach Don Matthews and the heralded Grey Cup - came into sight.

"I love the Argos - I grew up watching them and I'm here to support them," said Derek Fox, 18, a security guard from Tottenham who chose to spend his day off celebrating with his football heroes.

Tom Drilios, 20, screamed his appreciation while holding a cardboard Argos sign over his head.

"I love this - this is the best," said Drilios, who said his loyalties will always be with the double blue. Even if the NFL comes to Toronto, I'm going to stick with the CFL," he said.

"Once you're an Argo fan, you're a fan for life - you've got double blue in your blood," said North York's Brian Wood, 48, who was Argo Fan Of The Year in 1976 and had the honor of drinking out of the Grey Cup in 1983.

Police estimated 15,000 revellers jammed the parade route from Union Station up Bay St. to City Hall.

RABID FANS

Another 3,000 rabid fans packed Nathan Phillips Square where out-going Mayor Barbara Hall proclaimed yesterday Toronto Argonaut Day.

"I was in Edmonton for the Grey Cup and these guys were great," said mayor-elect Mel Lastman.

"This is amazing. Let's fill it up next year," said Clemons, who led the players in his classic Who's In The House? pep rap cheer.

"I'd like to thank each and every one of you. I love this league, I love my country and I love all our players," said Masotti of Hamilton.

"This is fantastic - let's keep it going next year," said Flutie, who added the "door was wide open for me to sign next year."

"Today is very, very special - this makes it all worthwhile," said Coach Matthews.

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