"I have loved football as an almost mythic game since I was in the fourth grade. To me, the game wasn't even grounded in reality. The uniform turned you into a warrior. Being on a team, the mythology of physical combat, the struggle against the elements, the narrative of the game..." ~ Steve Sabol (NFL Films)

Sunday, June 6, 2021

"It Was More Than Just a Game...."

So, as you take a look at the two videos below you may be thinking, this isn't CFL or for  that matter even football related. Oh dear reader, rest assured this is not click bait, but rather an ode to what it is that makes all of us root for our leagues and teams, the passion of being a fan.  As a Cubs fan from my earliest days (1977 to be exact is when baseball became part of my world) I think I know a few things about being not just a fan, but a long suffering one. I am also a die hard Arizona Cardinals fan, as well as a Bears and Sox fan, and like with many of the women who I have dated, I know disappointment.  However, that is not not why I am writing this, but rather to remind you, the reader, that whenever someone questions you on your CFL or XFL loyalty and passion, tell them to go stuff themselves, for they don't know what a true fan is if they are questioning your passion or loyalty for leagues and teams that many have neither heard or or care about.

Being a CFL fan, in a city like Chicago, is much like being a fan of the Hiroshima Carp in Tokyo (that is a shout out to Lanny and Scotty), everyone just looks at you with that confused look.  Not that the Cubs are similar in the 21st Century, but back when I was a kid being a Cubs fan was not cool. But being a fan is not about being cool, but rather it is about following your love and passion and being who you are.  For me, as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for the obscure and was an "otaku" (Japanese word for nerd or geek) ever since I learned how to read.  Especially the newspaper, which is where I first learned that in Canada, they play football!

With that knowledge coupled with the fact that I loved reading about things in encyclopedia's (I loved the World Book!), I learned how to use the library next door and learned as much as I could about this magical place called Canada.  Sadly it was not until sometime in the 2000s that I saw my first CFL game on TV, since back in the 20th Century I did not have cable as a kid and when I did finally have it, I was too busy chasing women.  I am sure I am not the only one who got sidelined from sports by the fairer sex.  However, with that said, my curiosity of the CFL never abated and when I finally got settled in to my own house and with the help of the Internet and the magical devices we now use to communicate, my CFL fandom began in earnest.

As I have watched seasons and Grey Cups roll by I have discovered one thing, the true fans of the CFL
are much like those true Cubs fans, except that we root for a league rather than one specific team. Yes, I know, Argos fans don't root for the Riders, but those true fans know that without the Argos, the Riders and other teams in the league will likely cease to exist. 

In the CFL there is the true concept of team unlike another other sports league I know, for the fans know that while it may be ok to be divided on team loyalties, ultimately if the league is not successful than their team may not be around.  The sum is truly greater than the parts. I honestly hate seeing those empty seats as much as every other fan north of the border does, and I see the CFL as the best form a sports league can aspire to be, one that represents the people it serves.  The NFL does not represent the Americans it plays in front of and truth be told, this past season, it proved it doesn't need fans, as was predicted by George RR Martin in his short story "The Last Super Bowl."

I see in my CFL friends a passion for all that the Canadian game stands for, and the importance of history. The history of the NFL is something that only few in the US appreciate, and for the most part American professional football history is something that even NFL Films no longer seems to care about.  All you have to do is spend a week watching the NFL Network to realize that the history of the game, places and faces who shaped it are no longer relevant as they once were back when the Super Bowl was in its infancy. Whereas in Canada, in every broadcast, there is always in some way a tribute made to the players and founders of the Canadian game.

If the CFL ever goes away (which it won't!) and people ask me in the states here why I mourn the loss of a foreign league, I would tell them simply that the CFL is more than just a game, and if you are a Cubs fan, you will know what I mean. The CFL is about underdogs and ordinary working men playing a boys game in stadiums that are a bit smaller than other pro teams and surrounded by fans who not only know the players, but know the history of where the teams have been.  

True Cubs are just like that, and even though the millions have ruined MLB, the money I don't think will every ruin the CFL (though money of course is the problem currently, but I digress).  The men who play in the CFL are very similar to heroes of the pro game in America before the now billions in dollars hijacked the NFL and turned it into a money making machine. 

So as I end here, enjoy both Cubs tunes and videos, for they always bring a tear to my eye and make me think deep thoughts that take me back to my childhood and make me recall the joy of innocence and watching my heroes, be they on the diamond or gridiron, in front of a 19 inch analog television attached to an aerial tuned into Channel 9, WGN as Jack Brickhouse called the play by play.


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