VANCOUVER - There may be B.C. Lions’ fans as passionate as Monique Gendron, although that’s extremely doubtful. But there is little doubt that she is the most successful Lion fanatic when it comes to winning contests.
For the third year in a row, the 28-year-old BCIT student is off to the Grey Cup, and she hopes her favourite team will join her next week in Toronto.
Gendron won a trip for two to the 100th Grey Cup, at Rogers Centre, through Nissan Canada, which asked CFL fans to post videos of themselves reciting the official team chant on Facebook. The “most passionate fan” in the video submissions, as determined by a viewer vote, won. Gendron did.
But this is nothing new.
Earlier this year, Gendron, with fiance Jeff Green behind the video camera, represented the Lions at a CFL Players’ Association fantasy camp in Barbados. Her video was selected as the most imaginative entry from the West Coast, earning her another football trip -- this time to the Caribbean.
And, two years ago, in yet another video contest, she won the grand prize, sponsored by Gibson’s Finest, of a trip for two to the 98th Grey Cup in Edmonton. She posted a video of her Halloween custom: Gendron dressed up as “Empire Field” (the Lions’ temporary home while B.C. Place was being refurbished) complete with turf, goalposts, and the team’s fight song, “Roar, You Lions, Roar”, on her back.
She got to award the rookie of the year trophy to Lions’ linebacker Solomon Elimimian at the CFL awards gala that year.
“I like to enter contests, but I never enter the same one twice,” Gendron explained. “Somebody’s got to win them, so I figure I might as well enter. It’s just me being creative, and goofing around. But I don’t want to win them all. I very much encourage others (Lions fans) to enter and win.”
Hooked on a career in television and radio production, she originally enrolled at BCIT for that purpose. But Gendron later did a 180-degree turn, and switched to the medical radiography program because of her interest and fascination with cancer treatment. Her older brother, Roger, was stricken with lymphoma and she was part of the family’s journey through the experience. He has been in remission for the past 10 years.
Gendron was captivated by the Lions and the CFL early on. As a young girl, Monique accompanied her dad, Garth, to games at BC Place and quickly developed a love for the team. Garth Gendron had season tickets for the Lions, extending from their time at Empire Stadium, the team’s original home.
Monique is at the centre of a boisterous group of loyal fans which occupies section 229, in the end zone seats at BC Place. And they’re not hard to miss.
Section 229 is identified by its “Arland Bruce, No. 1 banner” and the group’s inclination to rise from their seats, en masse, and imitate the referee’s signal whenever the Lions record a first down.
Gendron hopes the section will be constantly undulating throughout Sunday’s West Division final against the Calgary Stampeders.
“Calgary is a good team,” she said. “I feel like it will be a tougher game than if we were playing Saskatchewan. I know it will be close. It will be tight. But I feel like we’re going to win.”
For that to happen, the Lions must limit the damage done by Stampeders running back Jon Cornish, a double nominee for the CFL’s most outstanding player and Canadian player of the year.
Cornish, by chance, grew up right across the street from the Gendron home, on Fourth Street, in New Westminster.
“We talk on Facebook, and joke around,” she explained. “I think he’s pretty funny. Definitely, I haven’t liked seeing his bum every game (Cornish can’t seem to keep his pants on). He needs to get a smaller sized pair of pants. It’s hilarious. But he’s a really nice guy. I’m so happy he’s doing well.”
Earlier this season, Gendron posted a video of herself on a road trip to Calgary, in her Lions get-up, fraternizing with tailgating Stampeder fans. The sort of vitriolic, angry, usually inebriated CFL fan who wears his underwear too tight and takes the game waaaaay too seriously, might regard it as a sellout, consorting with the enemy.
But the uniqueness of CFL fans, at least the great majority, is the sense of camaraderie, playfulness and good-natured needling they exhibit, when supporters of rival teams are in the company of each other. The Grey Cup game is about a championship trophy, but Grey Cup week is about a fan convention, with thousands of representatives from all eight CFL cities mingling together.
“It’s such a cool experience,” Gendron said. “Being a student, I probably couldn’t afford to be there if it weren’t for these contests.”
Two years ago, in Edmonton, she was accompanied by Jeff, who was then Gendron’s boyfriend.
Next week, it’s dad’s turn to go with the repeat Grey Cup contest winner.
“He’s (Garth Gendron) over the moon about it, except for Justin Bieber (teen heartthrob featured in the half-time show),” Monique said. “He’s not a big fan of the Biebs.”
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