CFL community rallies to remember young journalist Tyler Bieber
As he thinks back over his many conversations with Tyler Bieber over the last 12 years, Kent Ridley remembers the attention his friend paid to details.
“To describe him you pretty much have to start with how he was such a generous, genuine person,” Ridley, a longtime CFL scout said on Sunday afternoon from his home in Nashville.
“He was always willing to give up his time and he was always interested in the things going on in other people’s lives.
“He was the guy who whenever we called to ask about a high school athlete in Saskatchewan, we didn’t just get, ‘He’s this size and goes to this school.’ We’d always get, ‘He’s this, he’s a straight-A math student.’ You always got other details. He always paid attention to that. That was always such an important thing.”
Canada is a giant, sprawling country, but the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash reminds us just how small of a world we live in. Since Friday, we’ve seen the tentacles that a mass tragedy like this can spawn, how far it can reach and how many people it can affect. Bieber, the Broncos’ play-by-play voice and a volunteer high school football and basketball coach, was one of the 15 casualties on that bus. He was only 29.
Tyler Bieber was one of those Canadian football people that you knew, but maybe didn’t realize that you knew. He was the person behind the Twitter account CFL Daily, an aggregator of headlines and insights from across the league. The account had over 10,000 followers at one point, before going dormant in June of 2017, when his responsibilities with coaching and his work with the Broncos took him away from it. Between 2010 and 2012, he was a contributor to CFL.ca. When he wasn’t building his Twitter account and website, he was out in his community, trying to make a difference in any way he could. One of his last tweets on CFL Daily was about helping out at Humboldt native Kelly Bates’ football clinic.
Definitely one of my favourite weekends of the year… Kelly Bates camp.
— CFLDaily (@CFLDaily) April 30, 2017
Tyler Beiber was a good man. He helped us every year at our football camp in Humboldt. Whether as a coach, helping with video,helping us hand out subs to the boys, or helping us clean up at the end of it all. It did not matter…he was selfless. Just a good human being.
— Kelly Bates (@KellyBates59) April 7, 2018
“He always volunteered his time, whether it was coaching football, coaching basketball,” his older brother, Brandon said by phone on Sunday afternoon from Humboldt. Brandon played high school football at Humboldt Collegiate Institute, where Tyler would eventually coach, and played junior football with Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ star Andrew Harris with the Vancouver Island Raiders.
“I’m sure even his job on the radio, if he didn’t have to get paid, he wouldn’t have taken pay. He’d do it for free. That’s the kind of guy that he was.
“He’s a big, big football fan. He did the CFL Daily and he religiously researched football. You could ask him any stats and he knows. His involvement in the community, the coaching he did, he never asked for anything back. He just loved doing it.”
Through the outpouring of grief this weekend on Twitter from those who’d met him, worked with him or simply talked football with him online, Tyler’s selflessness was abundantly clear.
Brandon marveled at the depth of his brother’s selflessness, but said it’s a trait that runs through his entire family.
“We have a sister and she has down syndrome. We take care of her,” he said.
“Just living with someone with a disability, you tend to take more care and pay more attention to people. My whole family is kind of like that, always looking out for other people. (Tyler would) look out for other people before himself anytime. It was cool.”
Ridley said that Tyler was excited about taking the Broncos job. He wanted a career in the sports world and Ridley thought being the voice of the Junior A hockey team in his hometown was the first step on a big journey for him. Brandon saw a similar path for him.
Working and living in Alberta, Brandon didn’t get a chance to hear Tyler call a Broncos game until last weekend, when he went home for Easter.
“I was like, ‘Holy s—, he’s actually really good!’ He sounded really good and everybody really liked him,” Brandon said.
“I was like, ‘Tyler, man, you’re awesome. You’re going to go somewhere, you know, whether it be hockey, the NHL or something.’ I always thought he was going to be a football coach. I thought that my whole life.”
Speaking outside in a quiet moment alone, Brandon sighed with every anecdote, sometimes every few sentences. The pain, the shock and the disbelief were all very present. The outpouring of support — NHL and MLB teams paying tribute to the Broncos on Saturday night, NHL coaches making their way to the town of around 6,000 people on Sunday, politicians from across the country and around the world offering condolences and a Go Fund Me page that topped the $4 million mark Sunday evening — has let him and the community know they’re not suffering this heartbreak alone.
“I can’t believe it, just looking at my phone and on Facebook,” Brandon said. “I can’t believe the generosity of people. Donald Trump, everybody’s talking about it. I didn’t think it’d go this big.”
As it does to friends and colleagues, life pulled Ridley and Tyler apart over the last year or so. But as he processed the news on Saturday morning, Ridley began to notice something the more he read about his friend on Twitter.
“The amazing thing that I’ve seen is that even though so many of us had different aspects, different types of relationships with Tyler, a lot of our stories are the same. You just need to remove the date,” he said.
“If someone says, ‘We were at Grey Cup in this year and it was great hanging out with Tyler,’ there are 20 other stories where if you just change out that Grey Cup year, it’s the same story. He was that guy. He was consistent, just a joy to have around as a friend and just amazing. To me, I find it really amazing that everyone’s story is really similar and it really shows where he was as a person.
“I’m still kind of in shock that he’s not around. I know it’ll hit me again when it comes time to plan that next football camp in Saskatchewan. I’ll probably write that email and realize that there’s nobody to receive it.”