The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

June 7, 2007

Life is just a football game

As usual, I find myself covering the annual training camp for our local football team, when players come to our city from all over North America to make the club.

It's a tough job I have, admittedly.

I have to (shudder) sit in the stands of our stadium under (usually, but not lately) a warm spring sun watching about 70 good players compete for jobs.

Then I have to interview them afterwards and find out fascinating stories about how they came to be here.

It's a tough life, but someone has to do it.

Football in Canada isn't quite the thing it is in the United States, not nearly as well attended or popular, but it IS a big event, probably the most popular sport we cover without an NHL hockey team here.

One of the things I most love about it is it combines Americans and Canadians playing the same sport, Canadian style, that is so popular in the U.S., an event that winds up every January with the Super Bowl.

Because of Canada's colder northern climate, our championship, the Grey Cup, is played in November. And even then it is usually unbelievably cold, I'm sure, for a lot of these Americans.

Football players, often considered big muscle-headed lugs, are the most intelligent of the professional athletes I've dealt with over a 27-year journalism career.

Maybe even more suprising, if that above statement was at all, is that the most intelligent athletes I've talked to in football are the biggest of the behemoths -- the offensive and defensive linemen.

Journalistic ethics and objectivity dictate that I'm not really supposed to have friends among the athletes who are members of a team I'm reporting on. And for the most part, that's true.

But nothing can stop or change the way a person feels. When we meet someone, we like them or we don't like them. They make impressions on us, we make impressions on them.

There are, in most cases, some shared experiences.

For example, there's a 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive tackle named Dan Goodspeed from Florida. He is just a fantastic guy. He and I hit it off. He sits after practice in the dressing room, constantly eating.

He has a big hole to fill in his stomach. I'm about half his size. But he always has a smile. He's approachable. He loves to talk. He's a great quote. And he and I both have had total knee reconstructions.

I'm writing a big feature on that. We got a picture taken with our knees together. My operation left me with big scars on my right knee. His, 20 years later, has virtually no scars.

He and I are buddies, in a sense. He gave me a hearty, warm, bear hug when I went up to him this spring and told him how happy I was to see him recovered from his injury and back with our Blue Bombers.

There definitely are some true doinks in professional sports. The pros should not be considered the ultimate heroes that we have always thought or wanted to believe that they were.

But there really are a lot of them left. And Dan Goodspeed and so many others, even on this team in Winnipeg, are among them.

And so many are Americans, they're always the stars and understandably the best players at the most important positions, but so many are Canadians too. I like that together, they're beautiful people.

As far as the training camp itself goes, I think it -- and the game of football, generally, but this could be extended to soccer or hockey or most other sports -- really is so much like life.

At least in training camp, it's about a whole bunch of people from different backgrounds coming together in one place and trying to make themselves heard, to make themselves a home.

There are a lot of arguments and fights initially, just like dogs or other animals establishing their initial territory. But they generally do that pretty quickly, and then the strongest and most intelligent survive.

That's kind of the way a football team's training camp goes. Some make it, some don't, just like in life, and the ones that don't have to find some other place or time or circumstance where they can succeed.

Me, I just document the comings and goings. Whether they make it or not, all of them are fascinating in their own ways. And in the end, it's all just a game in one way or another. Some win. And some lose.


  1. Is this insider snippet to be used on a 'Kneed' to know basis.

    I find it very interesting that the huge lugs are the philosophers.
    This defies our expectations because male humans instinctively respond to SIZE and huge males can accomplish a lot in their youth through sheer intimidation. SIZE MATTERS when you are young.

    When males get older other societal qualifications come into play...but it is still pathetic that we generalize Big Guys as being automatically dumb, except for Hockey Players.

    Hockee and Baseball playerz never hav two finash no fancy high schoolin' or nuthin' to play in de NHL,

    but talented Football and Basketball players usually get a scholarship to get through College or University on their way to the NFL. How is that for BS?

  2. Now this is a mighty interesting piece of man-watching !
    When you wrote : and find out fascinating stories, I thought : I am curious, I will ask an example. But while your story went on, you illustrated your point. Good stuff.

  3. Homo (Long Bomb) Escapeons:

    All I know is I've gotta give 110 per cent.

    In my experience, all the lesser lights are the smarter, more thoughtful and most eloquent ones.

    Football, hockey, you name it.

    The athletes who AREN'T hugely naturally gifted are the ones who have to find other ways to compete.

    They have to be smarter, they have to use their intelligence rather than rely on some God-given gift like exceptional speed or jumping or throwing ability.

    The huge guys are TOO big to be fast, so they have to use their brute strength effectively.

    The small guys are too SMALL, so they have to find other utility roles and be fast and agile and quick-thinking.

    It's no different from the survival adaptations in the natural world.

    The other thing that makes the big guys so smart, I think, is they're never IN the limelight.

    They become observers and deeper thinkers and they've had to fight harder to survive against other big guys.

    They've had to try harder, so they develop the perspective and grit and experience the super-skilled guys haven't had to.


    That is one tiny story of thousands. Just today I wrote about a small guy who missed three years -- once with a separated shoulder and two years because of a severed Achilles tendon.

    He's 30 now and he's trying to make a comeback. Incredible.

    At the other end of the scale, there's a quarterback who was told yesterday he wouldn't be making the team, but he could hang around if he wanted to help out.

    He's a young guy from Eastern Michigan. He agreed to stay. He must be crushed, but he agreed to stay.

    I feel for him.

  4. Too much clothing involved in football.

    *tunes out*

  5. MJ:

    Right, sorry, forgot you go for those Euro guys with the shorts who call soccer "football."

    (**Runs away, dribbling a soccer ball and laughing**)

  6. so are we going to get to see the picture of your knees?
    reporting on the teams sounds like a fantastic way to spend some fine weather!!! and i'm here freezing my ass off!!!

  7. Angel:

    You mean the picture of his knee and my knee together? Sure, if I can find it or get a copy.

    How can it be freezing in South Africa? Better question: how do you define freezing? 10C?

  8. My country's national sport will be egg-and-spoon racing.

  9. Bring on the knee photos!

  10. Stace:

    Sounds interesting, almost matching lawn bowling in athleticism, I should think...

    Laurie: knees or the big guy's...or both?

  11. that's not football - not what WE call football anyway ;o)

  12. Ziggi:

    Admittedly, Wonderful Witch, it is not. I realize we North Amuricans stole that term from you.

    We call your game soccer, of course. We realize that we're out of step with the rest of the planet, including FIFA, the International FOOTBALL Federation.

    We also realize that our game, technically, is played more with the hands than the feet.

    Couldn't you just wave your wand and turn us all into a bunch of centipedes to teach us about feet?

  13. Laurie:

    That will take a while. Besides, my leg looks like a toothpick next to his...

  14. You are back posting and you did not buzz me?


  15. What an interesting piece! Thanks,WW
    Yep!It's a tough job.And I now know why it's called the Grey Cup...cos the weather usually is!
    'course, Im a Rugby Union girl from 'way back, but I like to cast an eye on other codes from time to time.I'm not sure what a line backer is or does, but I went out with a chap who was or did that for Green Bay.(shuffles back to the Retirement Viallge...)

  16. Gautami:

    No, sorry, the long distance charges to Delhi are a little steep...

    I am not REALLY posting again and I'm finding very little time to visit other blogs (*runs away in guilt*)

    I'm trying, Gautami. I'm posting something when I have something to say rather than finding something to say so I have something I can post.

    See the difference?


    Yeah, Girl, the weather usually is grey...but it can also be a cloudless sky filled with ice crystals.

    Regardless, the Grey Cup is almost always cold!

    Hey! Forget about the retirement village! Who was the Green Bay linebacker?

    Don't tell me Ray Nitschke...

  17. I've never even seen a football game, just snippets. Darn.

  18. **I'm trying, Gautami. I'm posting something when I have something to say rather than finding something to say so I have something I can post.
    See the difference?

    yes :) ok then Mr.WW!


  19. Menchie:

    What, Snippets from Spaceship Orion, you mean? Football is a very physical sport.

    But increasingly, there are girls who play it, with boys. But when the boys get too big, the girls drop out and often go to rugby...


    :-) You got it, huh girl?

  20. I so want your job...

    It is only natural to like some people more than others 2000 years of evolution and the pheromones still win. Just need to keep that in mind when your writing...

    NFL is not big in Aus, even less so the canadian version. Aussies are into Rugby (ike NFl but played by people without necks) AFL, JOcks kicking a pig skin and slapping each other on the but and Soccer, The game of the gods.

    Talking with the legends of the future, you will have some awesome claims to fame in a few years, First person to interview (mr X) before he became a big name..


  21. That would be a violation of the "Kiss-and-tell Code."
    (Besides, he may also still be alive!)

  22. Aidan:

    The pheremones DO win...thank the stars or whatever that we still have SOME of our evolutionary past left in us.

    By the way, you can't have my job.

    I know something about the AFL and soccer. I've covered rugby and soccer before, but never Aussie Rules Football.

    It looks pretty monstrous, actually. I wish they'd have a test match here so I could cover it...

    I've talked to many athletes, actually, who went on to become superstars.

    My biggest story ever was covering Wayne Gretzky's unbelievable performance to break Gordie Howe's all-time points record in the National Hockey League.


    Oh, COME ON! The Kiss-and-Tell Code is made to be violated! Wussy...

    Who cares if he's still alive? Do you think he's going to read my blog?

    Linebackers are usually characterized as the meanest, most ornery players on the football field. They eat running backs' hearts for breakfast and bulls' balls for snacks.

    Their supper is usually reserved for quarterbacks. And their night-time h'ors doeuvres seems to be pretty young thangs from New Zealand...

  23. Wow! I never saw THAT side of ***.And, yes, I'm code-keeping wuss!

  24. Dinahmow:

    Well then, what's with the wuss part, girl?



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