August 6, 2014

Cauz: Getting philosophical about Football

Adam Gagnon

Instead of breaking down one specific game, heaping more praise on Drew Willy or spending 2,500 words on why Toronto’s 31-5 win over Montreal was a masterpiece of a football game, I’ve decided to go big picture/philosophical.

We live in a time where it can be difficult to enjoy football. It can be hard to root for some players when you find out their salaries, while concussions has made it “morally tricky” sometimes to root for massive hits. So what I wanted to do is to dispense some tips on how to enjoy the great game of football just a little bit more.

First you should try to be a football agnostic. I do not worship at the alter of just one league, and nor should you (but if you can’t, I’m fine with that, but more on that later). I love the collegiate game. Whether it’s McMaster taking on Western or Alabama vs. LSU, the college game is fantastic with its myriad of offensive philosophies and who doesn’t love collegiate bands and fight songs?

Also there is something oddly satisfying about watching a guy make it big in the CFL that you have been following since he was a freshman. I was like that with Jason Pottinger and Andre Durie with the Argonauts and Michael Botterill in Montreal. Remember, before guys like Drew Willy (how could I leave him out??) or Darian Durant were starting CFL quarterbacks they were setting records for their own respective schools.

Why not be that annoying sports fan that proudly announces they were a fan of Player X before they became famous. It’s the equivalent of saying you remember watching Band X in an empty bar before they hit it big. By the way, did I mention I saw Arcade Fire perform live at the Danforth Music Hall in 2005?    

Then there is that big, bad, behemoth known as the NFL (or National Football League for media heads who are trying to sound smart/dramatic). Part of the motivation for writing this article was the start of the NFL pre-season and some of the annoying reactions that come with this. I love the NFL.

I’ve been hooked since 1990 when the New York Giants upset Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. But do you know what happened the following year? John Candy, Rocket Ismail, Bruce McNall and Matt Dunigan were all part of the Argonauts winning the 1991 Grey Cup and for better or worse I became an Argonauts fan.

Despite what you may hear from many sports fans, you can enjoy both games. However around the time of the first pre-season game you start seeing trickles of tweets from “football fans” proclaiming the NFL is back and that all other brands of football are now irrelevant.

I have never understood the motivation to scream from the mountain tops that CFL fans should turn away from three down football just because the NFL hath returned. I understand if you don’t enjoy the atheistic of a certain sport. Hey there are only 24 hours in a day, you’re not going to love everything. I’m cool with that. But this all leads to my next sports watching life lesson.

If you can’t be a football agnostic, if you are monogamous (and I guess after the previous paragraph I can’t condemn you for this. I don’t understand being loyal to only one league but I guess whatever floats your boat) to just one style than please do not spend your time detailing why another brand of football stinks.

What are you hoping to gain? I have written this in the past, I will never understand the motivation behind NFL guy demeaning the Canadian product or the ardent CFL fan who tries to explain that by only endorsing the NFL that somehow makes you less Canadian. Both view points are ridiculous.

Though the rules are different and the players down south are bigger and faster, the game is still essentially the same. There are pros and cons in both versions and I like it that way. Nothing would be more depressing if the two products mirrored one another, how dull would that be!

So far I have exposed on the joy of enjoying all forms of football and that if you can’t do that, than at the very least keep an open mind. Now I want to get to one of the most important lessons I hope to impart: Stop caring about what 99 per cent of the world thinks about the sports you love.

I noticed this odd phenomenon during the World Cup where soccer fans would be so indignant if anyone professed their dislike for the game of soccer. I was amazed just how thin-skinned these fans were. But you see this with so many other fan bases.

Hockey fans get upset when people comment about how the game has never really taken off in America. Canadian basketball fans feel disrespected about the lack of coverage. And yes CFL fans in some parts of Canada get their backs up when they have to endure hearing about how much better the NFL is.

I understand why any of these fan bases would be agitated by a barrage of negativity that is heaped on a daily basis through a variety of social media portals. Well there is one way to combat this. Stop caring. Remember most of the people that hurl baseless insults on Twitter are not that bright. I’ll be even more blunt, they are dumb, often inconsequential people.

Do you really want to expend any emotional energy on what dumb people think? If you love CIS football above all other brands of football, awesome! Enjoy your Saturday afternoons and don’t let other people’s opinions sway you. I work in Toronto so I often have to deal with other people telling me I’m nuts for wanting to watch Ricky ray & Co.

But that doesn’t impact the joy I take out of the game. I don’t really care about their opinion on this issue and neither should you.

So with the CFL season in full effect, the start of the NFL pre-season and with college football just around the corner I say now is the time to embrace all versions of football instead of picking and choosing which ones are superior and which ones are acceptable to watch.

That last sentence makes me feel like one of those cheesy twitter sites that sends out obvious inspirational messages that fall into the category of “duh”. So than I’ll just end on an obvious point, football in all its incarnations is fun.