Category Archives: Canadian Football League

A fall without football

I said I’d do it, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to follow through.

I’ve followed through.

The college football regular season ends in a few days. The Canadian Football League season has ended. (I haven’t cared about the NFL for several years.) I’ve not watched one football game this summer or fall, a promise I made a few months ago.

Why? There’s fundamentally something wrong with a sport that turns its players’ brains to mush.

I’ve made no secret on this blog that the amoral NFL combined with its lust for corporate dollars led me to boycott the league five seasons ago. The other day, when my family and I were visiting friends for Thanksgiving dinner, I sat through roughly one half of one game (not my house, so I couldn’t demand the game be turned off), and at one point my younger son turned to me and asked, “Dad, when did you last watch an NFL game?”

For those of you who also want to know: the New England-Seattle Super Bowl.

Ditching the No Fun League was easy, but tuning out college football and my favorite league of all — the CFL?

Because there’s fundamentally something wrong with a sport that turns its players’ brains to mush.

I’ve railed against the hypocrisy of the NCAA before; the organization touts its efforts to put the student before the athlete, but in reality the NCAA will not stand up to its corporate overlords or make reasonable accommodations good for the athletes. (Tournament games starting at almost 10 p.m? Come on.) Moreover, I’ve demanded for years that college athletes be paid, an idea the money-loving NCAA leadership believes would permanently damage college athletics.

And then there’s the CFL. I have no gripe with the league, but earlier this year I could no longer deny that professional football leagues on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border were not doing enough to prevent head injuries/concussions, strongly sanction players who committed penalties while targeting players or offer the highest level of care for the players once they moved into retirement.

Put the lust for dollars and the hypocrisy about amateurism together and I was still willing to look the other way and watch college football and the CFL. But once I could no longer deny the horribly long list of players dying young (or showing signs of CTE or dementia at too young an age), I knew what I had to do: Stop watching. Stop supporting.

But could I really do it?

Yes, there are some days I think I’ve made my point and should give in. (Following my many Canadian and American friends on Twitter as they celebrated in the days leading up to the Grey Cup game last weekend was not easy; I’ve been to two Grey Cup games, and the fun and the camaraderie matches anything that I’ve experienced in the U.S.)

I can’t give in. And not out of some faux superiority that suggests because I started something I will stick with it. Rather, I can’t give in because I don’t believe that over the past few months that anything substantive has been done to make the sport safer.

I’ve read too many stories about men my age (and younger) who are shells of what they used to be; their families living each day with the uncertainty of how their football-playing husband, father or son will feel physically, mentally or emotionally.

I could live with the hypocrisy of amateurism if I believed college football was safe. It’s not. I could embrace the CFL again if I believed professional football was safe. It’s not.

I’m not on some crusade; you won’t find me at any point leading some kind of protest against football or advocating for legislation to kill the sport. And I won’t call you out for watching the sport.

But, for me, there’s fundamentally something wrong with a sport that turns its players’ brains to mush.

Here we go again: Local government told to fork over millions to build a sports stadium

Photo: Anthony Moretti, 30June2017

The Star Halifax has the story.

The municipality released the details of the proposal from Schooner Sports and Entertainment (SSE), submitted in late August, on Sept. 26. The ownership group hopes to build a 24,000-seat, $100-million stadium in Shannon Park in Dartmouth.

It’s proposing that the provincial government double a tax on hotel rooms in the municipality and create a new tax on rental cars and pay all the money to SSE’s lender. It’s also asking the province to waive all harmonized sales tax on the construction. All told, that could mean up to $130 million in provincial tax money.

 

CFL fans

An open letter to my many fellow CFL fans,

I share your enthusiasm for the upcoming 2019 season, but I’m choosing to not watch football for the forseeable future.

I cannot support a game in which too many former players — many close to my current age — are either crippled, riddled with brain injuries and mental health issues, or already dead.

Something is fundamentally wrong with the sport; until I see evidence those wrongs are being made right, I will continue to ignore football on all levels and in all leagues.

The sport’s leaders — especially those in the NFL and the NCAA — have not done enough to ensure that the players’ short- and long-term health is guaranteed. Those leaders have surrendered their ethical compass in choosing to seek a game that is faster and with more energy while forgetting that the men who play it are fragile, despite their presumed amazing strength.

The list of players who have suffered because of this absence of responsible leadership grows longer by the day, and news story after news story reminds all of us that the brain cannot withstand the constant pressure it faces from violent collisions.

We have shared many good memories, off-the-wall tweets and exciting CFL games together over the past few years. I admit, I will miss those June through November exchanges in which we celebrate what our teams did or grow ever more frustrated by what they didn’t. I count many of you among my friends, and I hope that won’t change even though I’m turning away from the sport.

The Grey Cup weekend, whether I was in attendance or not, is one I’ve relished; it was our opportunity to enjoy a few laughs, tip back our favorite beverages and, yes, make those of us who are not Canadian just a bit envious of those of you who are. Perhaps I’ll see between now and late November a firm commitment to make the players’ health the top priority across all leagues; if there is, I’ll be ready for the Grey Cup in Calgary.

Sadly, I have no confidence that league commissioners on both sides of the border and NCAA officials are investing the time and money it will take to ensure that no more players are physically and mentally damaged for life because they played the sport they’ve loved since they were a kid.