I am a football fan. I like pretty much any football – Canadian, American, college, junior, heck even midget and pee-wee. I love the strategy and tactics of the game. Football is a giant chess match played with rather large pieces and at a full contact pace. To anyone who says that football players aren’t intelligent, I dare you to read and understand a playbook. Even once you know the playbook you have to constantly adapt and make split-second decisions. Football is truly an intellectual sport. I love the challenge of sitting in the stands or standing on the sidelines and predicting (with decent accuracy too) what play is going to come next or what the defensive response is going to be.
But there’s another reason I love the CFL. The players. You’d be hard pressed to find another group of professional athletes as devoted to their communities as the CFL players are. Players on any given team make hundreds (yes hundreds) of community appearances each year. Most of these are done quietly and with very little fanfare. For example, Taylor Robertson of the Toronto Argonauts set up his own foundation last year – the Life on the Line foundation – dedicated to raising money for Breast Cancer research. Taylor makes dozens of appearances for his charity over and above what he already does as a member of the Argonauts. These are on his down time. After a long day of practicing or on a rare day off, he chooses to go out and make a difference. It’s not an Argo thing either – I can cite examples on every single CFL team of a player who goes above and beyond.
Like Marwan Hage of the Hamilton Tiger Cats. (Why does it seem like the biggest guys on the team are the softest touches?) Not satisfied with simply bringing a minor football team to every game to watch from the “Hage’s Heroes” seats (which in itself is pretty awesome), Hage also gets involved in the Hamilton food bank and with kids at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Let’s not forget the Ticats QB Kevin Glenn who, in partnership with local Tim Hortons owners in Hamilton is bringing 250 kids from the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation to the game on Saturday. Wow.
I’m not going to list every single CFL player who has a charitable organization – the list would be too long. But even if a player hasn’t founded or partnered with an organization, it doesn’t mean that they’re still not active in the community. I have been going to CFL games for 30 years now (yep since I was an infant!). I have yet to see a player refuse a fan an autograph. I have more often than not seen players who were hot and tired after a hard-fought game wanting nothing more than to jump in a hot tub or a cool shower stay and sign autographs for waiting fans. That, more than any other reason is why I love the CFL. This Is our league.