I had a couple of things happen this week that show how great the fans of the CFL are and how special it is for all of us to be part of this league.
First and foremost it was great to see how quickly the ALS challenge has and will continue to help bring awareness and donations to help fight the disease. The players and people of the league are always eager to help whenever possible.
I have a few interesting stories about interactions with fans and although it is a little weird for me to be recognized at times it is usually a nice thing meeting the many fans of this league.
I was at a restaurant by the airport in Toronto after the Argo game Sunday night having a late dinner before I checked into the Airport hotel. I was at the bar and a young guy came over and said he was from Winnipeg and he wanted to say hi. He was a season ticket holder for the Bombers and was very complimentary and said that he was disappointed in what had happened to me when I was released. I told him I appreciated the kind words and I have been doing fine since that day. As he and his friend were leaving they said goodbye and asked about the new regime for the Bombers. I said he should be excited in the guys who are running the team now, I would call them all friends of mine and I have great respect for them. He was excited about continuing to see the season unfold. A while later I went to pay my bill and the bartender told me the two guys who left had picked up my entire bill! When they asked to buy me a beer, I said I was fine and I appreciated the offer but they didn't listen and paid for the whole thing! It didn't need to be done, but the gesture was and is appreciated.
I still live in the City of Winnipeg and the people are very positive and great to interact with then and now. I remember after my first year in 2010 we had a CFL-record nine losses by four points or less. I was outside the house the day after the season and an elderly gentleman walked by and said, "you the Bomber Coach?" I said "yes" and he said "tough season" to me and I replied "yes, I was expecting a lot more." He didn't miss a beat as he kept walking by and said "SO WAS I". The same day I picked my daughter up from day care and a father with his kids said "nice season coach" positively and I said "you and I got different ideas of what good is". He stopped me and said "it will take time and you will get it turned around I believe". Both are examples of great CFL fans.
I received a note and a Bomber jersey with my name on it and green numbers with 82 on it this year. This baffled me until I read the note. It was from a woman from Quebec who told me in the note that she was a big football fan and had her ninth (yes, ninth) child at the start of the 2011 season. She would PVR the games and watch them during the long nights with the baby. The Bombers became her favourite team and I (along with Marc Trestman) became one of her favourite coaches. She had a great time during those sleepless nights with the baby watching the Bombers' season, winning first place and advancing to the Grey Cup.
In 2012, she actually went out of her way and contacted Plymouth State College - my alma mater - and asked them to find my number in their archives. She actually got herself a Bomber jersey before the season and added green numbers (which were my college colours) to the Bomber jersey with my name on it.
She said she was sorry to see that I had been released and had some kind words of encouragement as well as the jersey she had made up.
These type of letters and E-mails and correspondence with people are amazing and mean a lot to all the players and coaches in the league. This letter and gesture meant a lot to me and shows how connected the fans are to the game we all love.
My last story happened this past Tuesday night. I was helping with the ALS challenge at a friend's house and I met an individual who is a big Bomber and CFL fan. But instead of talking about the season or about TSN, he wanted to tell me about when Matt Dunigan came to a fundraising breakfast when he played in Winnipeg years ago. He went on and on about the function and how great it was that Matt came and how well Matt did at the breakfast. It's safe to say that Matt only met this person once and it was years ago but he remembers it still and Matt made such a great impression on him for helping with the cause. A Hall of Fame QB who had the time for a charity breakfast to help out - that is what makes the CFL a great league, how approachable all the players are.
Well to the guys who paid for dinner the other night, "thank you, you didn't have to" and to Anne Catherine, "thanks for the kind words, my head is up, I love the jersey and God bless you for raising nine kids!"