Landry: We have Kickoff
Welcome back, CFL fans. Let’s kick it off.
The object of your enduring passion returns, bringing the promise of another journey that might lead to joy or to heartache. No matter the final destination, there will be plenty of both along the way. But you already knew that.
I adore summer football. I always have. While many extol the virtues of the autumn drive towards the playoffs — “football weather,” they call it — I’ve always loved the beginning of the season and its warm nights under the lights with breezes blowing and the smell of hot dogs and beer drifting by. Maybe it’s because I love summer so much that I love summer football. Then again, perhaps I love summer so much because CFL football has always been a part of it in my lifetime.
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Fall football is wonderful, for sure. Snow globe Grey Cups too. And we’ll get there. But we don’t arrive before first departing and that is what summer football is all about. What CFL kickoff is all about. The excited anticipation of what’s to come as we take our seats and the train pulls out of the station. The feeling that there are good things ahead, surprises to be sprung. Unknown names about to become household ones as the already established stars dazzle us the way they always do. Amazing catches and hellacious tackles and incredible comebacks and inspiring moments. And new buddies to meet. Even if some of them are wearing the wrong colours.
This is the time of year when possibilities take flight. When fans of the good teams anticipate victories aplenty and when those of rebuilding teams are sure that last season’s despair will not be repeated. In Winnipeg, there is the hunger for a quick return to the throne. More than that, there are weighty expectations of it. In Toronto, fans have their own expectations; that the Argos will show that they can shed their recent history of bust following boom. At the other end of the spectrum, in places like Ottawa, Edmonton and Saskatchewan, there is the anticipation of steps — if not great leaps — forward. Great leaps being much preferred, of course.
What will we see along the way this season?
Are the Blue Bombers as good as ever, or has father time caught up with some of their stars? Is Bo Levi Mitchell embarking on a glorious new chapter in Hamilton? Will Trevor Harris usher in a season of prosperity in Saskatchewan? Can Cody Fajardo find himself, again, in Montreal? Is this finally the year that BC Lions’ quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. shows excellence, not in spurts but consistently, week after week? Is Toronto’s Chad Kelly really a starting quarterback in the CFL? Can Bob Dyce, at long last a head coach, oversee the return of the Ottawa REDBLACKS to competitive excellence? Is the Chris Jones overhaul in Edmonton poised to pay dividends? Can Jake Maier truly make the Calgary Stampeders his team?
Optimism reigns and where it might be absent, there is always hope. Abundant hope. The renewal of that hope is part of what makes CFL kickoff so great. So does the knowledge — quite opposite to the melancholy that creeps in on Grey Cup Sunday when you start to confront the reality of another season ending — that all of the bounty is still ahead. So many weeks, so many games, so much to delight a football fan. And we grab it all, hungrily, with both hands. The feast begins, after a winter of fasting.
It’s here. Time once again to celebrate your team’s successes and jeer your rival’s shortcomings. To lose your voice on game day. To feel, again, the exhilaration and the maddening frustration, and the happiness and the despair. Time again to hug it out afterward, the way CFL fans do. Your friends might root for a different team, but that doesn’t matter quite so much in the end because you’re all bonded in a very special way. Because you get it. You understand.
Because this is the time of year that feels so incredible to you and to them too.
Right now, your team has just as good a shot as any other does to lift that big, beautiful mug come November. Because right now, there are no certainties yet, only possibilities.
God, I love this time of year. I know you do too.
The great northern league has returned and it’s time for our hearts to beat faster again.
Happy kickoff, CFL Family.