It really is an accomplishment to win in pro football. As a former player, I have had great singular years followed by difficult - and at times disastrous - seasons.
It is tough to win, and it's even tougher to keep winning. But the team that keeps winning in the CFL are the Montreal Alouettes: three straight Grey Cup appearances and two straight wins.
Each of the last two seasons it seems as Montreal is rejuvenated. They start fast and win a lot of regular season games and it seems like they're on a mission, but a similar mission that seems new every year.
Yes, the on-field talent is there; the coaches are there; Jim Popp is there: almost repetitive conversations about the Alouettes' reasons for success.
But head coach Marc Trestman's ability to concentrate, to live in the present, and most significantly, to pass that quality on to his players is a true reason for the Als' success.
He says it all the time and the players believe it all the time: that last year has no significance of transferable quality to this year. Every year is a new year in Montreal.
At my desk at home, I have three words written in a spot that I can easily see all the time. It simply says, "Concentrate on concentration."
To me, it makes complete sense and is a mini-mantra that I maintain all the time. Focus with high intensity on what is happening now, not in the past, not in the future; just what you want to accomplish in the next day, hour, or minute. Turn your TV off, turn your radio off, turn your phone off and do only what is important, and do it right now.
It's not so much self-discipline as much as it is an awareness. And because it's not a self-discipline, I don't associate anxiety or pain to concentration. Because it is an awareness, it seems normal, and normally when you concentrate on concentration, you get things done, with quality and quantity.
I bet the Alouettes' meetings are very quiet, and I bet their practices are very precise and with purpose because when I watch their games, I see excellent and consistent focus. Everything happens in the mind first and the body second, but it happens so fast in the mind we don't always recognize it.
The Alouettes players are great minds as much as they are great players. Somehow, and I am not sure how, Trestman gets his players not to play great football, but to first concentrate on playing great football. They are assignment clear, adjustment aware, and continue to improve every year.
Sure, they will miss Avon Cobourne; sure, Anthony Calvillo is one year older; and sure, it is tough to win when winning is all you have ever done. But you try harder, or perhaps I should say you concentrate more.
My favourite game – outside of football – is chess. All the pieces with all the different moves, trying to anticipate what your opponent is going to do, all the while planning what you're going to do sounds like football without the hitting.
If I ever have the opportunity, I would like to meet Calvillo, not to talk football, but to play chess. Or maybe I could play Anwar Stewart, or even Trestman.
I don't know if I could beat them, but I would like to try, because in chess you have to really concentrate. I know I can do that, and I know they can too. It would be a great game.