Thrown off a little by the title? Don't worry, I haven't changed the subject matter of this blog, but what occurred last night made me do a little thinking. I will tie this all together with the CFL, but allow me to start by going a little off topic.
Last night, ESPN aired "LeBron James: The Decision" (which aired in Canada on TSN and could be streamed live on TSN.ca). This was a one-hour love-a-thon dedicated to where LeBron James, arguably the best basketball player on the planet, would play in 2010. While I sat and watched this spectacle, I couldn't help but feel uneasy about the whole thing. Something was amiss, but I didn't know what it was. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks:
"Why am I watching this? Why am I partaking in this disgusting exhibition of excess?"
I won't lie; I am a big basketball fan. I have a long-lasting love affair with the New York Knicks, and I held out hope that LeBron would sign with them. That said, even before he made his decision known, I had the above epiphany.
People can blame the United States all they want, and say that it is a product of their culture, but that's simply not true. In Canada we have "Free Agent Frenzy" for the NHL, and TSN aired the whole LeBron fiasco. In Europe, the major soccer clubs (for example, Manchester United in England and Real Madrid in Spain) fork out billions of dollars every year to pry the best players from other teams. This is not an American phenomenon; it goes beyond that.
I don't blame LeBron for this; I blame us. We, the fans, bring about this behaviour in modern athletes by lionizing them as if they are kings (some even take on the moniker, like a certain "King" now residing in Miami). I don't blame Alex Rodriguez for taking a $250-million contract from the Yankees. If my employer agreed to pay me that much, I'd take it too.
Then we have the CFL. The players don't get rich playing in the CFL. They don't go broke either, but they don't play the game simply to cash a large paycheque. They truly play because they love the game of football.
I have been critical in the past of fans who champion this notion and revel in the fact that the CFL has some sort of pro-sports superiority because it isn't all about the money. After last night, I have done a complete 180º. We CFL fans don't have an "Anthony Calvillo: The Decision" show to watch, and we don't have to hear about petulant athletes declining a 3-year, $21-million contract because they have "a family to feed."
Now, more than ever, I stand proud in calling myself a fan of the Canadian Football League.