An article in the Hamilton Spectator by Ken Peters back in 2007 captured some telling thoughts from Casey Printers. "As a wise man once said, 'Kids, get your popcorn ready'. Folks when you get home, get your chips and cakes all ready and kick back and let's play some real football. I'm ready to go and hopefully this is the start of something great."
Well, I guess the kids can finally put their popcorn down and start watching another quarterback lead the Lions into the foreseeable future, as the wise man has been shown the door. Neither life coach, nor offensive coordinator could change Printers' disruptive style and I-me personality. The magic in ‘04 that was so desperately sought after for the past four years by two CFL franchises has proved to be more elusive than Printers himself was in that "Shooting Star" season of 2004.
I have closely watched and listened to the DeSoto, Texas native's every move since he came to this great league. It was a brilliant beginning to a seemingly long, successful CFL career, but even the ‘04 campaign ended in disbelief. Why? Because Casey Printers, the CFL's Most Outstanding Player that season, did not even start or participate in the championship Grey Cup game. Nope - even back then Wally Buono went in a different direction, foreshadowing this latest change of heart. Dave Dickenson got the call to lead the Lions against the Toronto Argonauts that day. Now, six years later, Wally has gone to another version of Dickenson; a bigger, stronger, faster one in Travis Lulay.
The decision to not play Printers in ‘04 was a puzzling one that to this day pundits can't wrap their heads around. The decision to go away from Printers this time around, though, is more easily understood.
You can talk about it all you want. You can try and say all the right metaphors and preach the obvious, but you can't jam a square peg into a round hole. Once an I-me guy, always an I-me guy. If you don't put the time in at the quarterback position you will be exposed on the field of play. The lack of preparation and respect for the game will come back to haunt you sooner than later, and your true identity will be revealed to those who matter the most - your teammates.
And those teammates know. That truth manifested itself for all to witness last week and it proved to be the final nail in Casey's coffin when he berated a teammate after making an ill-advised throw. That pass, the last one Printers will ever throw as a Lion, was easily intercepted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Deon Beasley, completing the most improbable comeback I have ever witnessed in my 28 years of being associated with the CFL.
This is the ultimate team sport and there is no room for ripping teammates and pointing fingers. With that said, when you do point a finger at someone, you have three more pointing right back at ya! Real leaders lead by example and let their actions speak for them. Real leaders dig down deeper when times are tough. Real leaders find a way to lead when no one else wants to or has the energy to muster up the strength to do what is right or necessary.
That being said, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It's not easy.
You're probably thinking as you read this article, “Wow Matt, you are really piling on and that's not like you. Turn the page already and quit kicking a dead horse.” Well a part of me says "Yeah, you're right, move on," but another part of me, the “Texan” in me, wants to set the record straight.
Ultimately, the magic Printers generated in the ‘04 season could not be recreated and the "I" in Lions has been sacked, fumbled and intercepted for the last time.
Travis Lulay, here's the ball - now go out there and play some real football!