As a Canadian, I am proud of the fact that my country is (relatively) scandal-free. Yes, we have seen the likes of doping scandals with Ben Johnson back in the very early 1990s, and Maxime Bernier, Canada’s foreign minister, ended up having to resign after leaving sensitive NATO documents at then-girlfriend Julie Couillard’s home in 2007, but really, Canada is not a nation known for its scandalous nature.
This is particularly true when you look at Canadian football. I’m not a huge football fan, but I generally know when the Grey Cup – Canadian football’s equivalent of the Superbowl – is happening, and even though I am not watching the game, I know that everyone who is a Canadian football fan is loving the East versus West showdown between the Toronto Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders. We are not even going to let a little snow bother us; The Weather Network is reporting that Ottawa is hosting a snowy Grey Cup, but this is Canadian football, so we are going to play and embrace the moment.
I know that our Canadian football players are not near as well known as the American ones. Save for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who had a short-lived career with the Calgary Stampeders in 1995, I would bet there are few Americans who could actually name any Canadian football players, and you know what? That is perfectly fine. Our Canadian football players are made of stern stuff, and I think you will find that perhaps outside of a few exceptions, there are many who are humble enough that they would shrug and continue on with their days should they find their names are not at the tips of American tongues.
If you try and Google “Grey Cup scandals,” there simply are none. You will not see the likes of Nipplegate or Deflategate in a Canadian football game, particularly when it comes to the Grey Cup, and that is as it should be. Our halftime shows do not feature the biggest names in music, though they feature the biggest names in Canadian music. For the 100th Grey Cup, we had Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench, and Gordon Lightfoot taking the stage, and this year, it is none other than Shania Twain. No, you will not see Justin Timberlake, and you will not have to worry about someone losing part of their costume – unless, of course, it is a toque or a glove. This is, after all, Canada in late November.
According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, there are some very tangible differences between the size of the field for Canadian football – ours is bigger, thank you very much – and that for American football, but I think there is also a tangible difference in the players themselves. I’m fortunate enough to work with some former Canadian football players at the high school I teach at, and they are some of the most humble guys I have ever known. You would never know that these men are former CFLers, and when I consider the television appearances of and news articles about some of the American players, I cannot help but feel pride in the men that play Canadian football.
While I am certain that there are many humble American football players, I think that Canadian football players have that certain modesty simply because six months of the year, they are toiling at the business of real life. They do not make the millions that their American counterparts make – Sports Illustrated reported that Canadian Football League rookies make $50,000 CDN, while estimates peg the salaries of experienced CFLers at closer to $80,000 – and so, their ongoing connection to the “real world” and not the mansions and parties that some might dream about keeps them grounded and still loving the sport in a way that is tangibly noticed on the field.
To be clear, I know there are American football players that continue to play because they love football; you don’t throw on a uniform and risk being pounded by a man as big as, if not bigger, than you simply because of the salary. I do believe, however, that Canadian football players play the game with greater heart and tenacity than you might see south of the border, and that is something that Canadians everywhere should be proud of.
[Feature Image by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images]