The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

October 25, 2007



Cool, detached, just report the facts, Ma'am. Don't feel. Just write. Feed the famished fan. Churn out the crap. File to the website. Rehash the same, stupid cliches over and over again to fuel the fire that is professional sports.

Bullshit. Athletes, like a lot of people, will feed you pap and are like that if you let them be like that, and don't show them you care about what they say and who they are and what they feel...what they really feel.

This post is about me making connections with people who make an impression on me as a person privileged enough to meet and talk to individuals who play pro sports for a living and are asked for autographs all the time.

And specifically, this post is about one of the most gentle, kind souls I have ever met, a guy who just makes me smile, who greets me with a smile or even a hug every time I pass him by, just one of those people you can't help but like.

Because of my position as a sportswriter who covers him, which means I don't want somebody to Google his name and potentially find this post, I'm just going to call him Stevie. His pictures are below.

In the group pic, from his college in the U.S., he's the guy on the right.

Up here in Canada, we love football (not as much as hockey, but...). We have the Canadian Football League. It consists of eight teams and is our version of the National Football League.

As with any other comparison between Canada and the U.S., it's the mouse-and-elephant syndrome.

But you know what? Not everyone can be 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds. But neither is everyone who's only 6-1 and 215 a bad football player. So what the NFL rejects, the CFL often gladly accepts.

And that's what our game is about. Americans who couldn't make it in the NFL came up to Canada and became and still always become our star players. Many have returned to the NFL to become big stars.

But for the most part, they don't. At least half the players on the team I cover in Canada are Americans who'll never get a shot at the NFL.

And those are the guys I really appreciate, and that traverses every sport I've ever covered.

It's the guys who aren't the stars -- like Stevie, for example -- or players who compete at the less obvious and media-savvy positions like the offensive line that I've always found the best, most intelligent of athletes.

And the reason, I think, is that they HAVEN'T had the attention and they're a lot more down to earth and thankful for what they have. They're the athletes who've had to fight and scrape for whatever they've achieved.

Unlike a lot of the biggest stars, who've been blessed with so much talent they don't HAVE to think and are coddled from Day 1 by coaches, agents and teams, these athletes get cut from teams or get shuffled to minimal roles.

They develop a sense of gratitude and strength that comes with failure and they have to fight harder to succeed.

And once they do -- once they get to the pro level -- they're well-rounded people who love what they're doing.

Stevie is the most awkward-looking defensive lineman I've ever seen. He's exceptionally pigeon-toed and when I see him run fast, I almost shudder thinking he's going to break his feet running that way.

But it works, for HIM. He overcame something you'd think he should not have been able to overcome.

And while he's not a star on the team I cover, and in fact was cut once, then cut by another team and then returned here, he's a happy-go-lucky player who has a smile for everyone he meets.

I could never say it to him, but he knows I'm rooting for him.

There have been horrible stories about some of the world's most high-profile, elite athletes getting involved in everything from doping and impaired driving to murdering and beating their wives, cheating and dogfighting.

Stevie and most other athletes I've known or covered are not like that.

It's guys like Stevie and the other non-stars that allow me to tolerate all the sound-bytes and cliches thrown out for mass comsumption by the so-called "superstars" who have been thrust into those roles as the sultans of sound-bytes.
As much as I possibly can, I try to avoid those heavy hitters, who actually have the littlest to say of any consequence to anybody. I prefer to seek out the more humble, quiet, feeling and contemplative wherever I go.
Stevie B. is one of those people. And I admire him.