by Staff Writer – Jason Langvee
As fans of the CFL, it is our job to support our favourite teams week-in and week-out. We show up to games clad in the home-team threads. We roar and scream when our teams are doing well. We support and encourage when our teams aren’t doing so well. The job of a fan is seldom appreciated in many professional sports; the CFL seems to be different.
When asking players of the CFL what fan interaction means here, compared to other pro football leagues, Rob Murphy of the Toronto Argonauts simply stated “In the CFL, it’s the lifeblood of this league, and the lifeblood of Toronto.” Murphy was not alone in these sentiments. Anthony Calvillo of the Montreal Alouettes went on to say “Every team will say the exact same thing; you want the home-field advantage with a crowd that’s loud and noisy and causing problems for the other team. We’ve added another 3,000 seats to our stadium to make it even louder in there, and we’re excited about that because we can take full advantage of it.“
Astonishingly, it’s not just the generalities of fan participation that gets CFL players motivated. Outside of the game, most CFL players look forward to getting in touch with the fans. Patrick Kabongo of the Edmonton Eskimos tells “The fans mean a lot to me. They only see us with our numbers on and our helmets on. When I play, I’m a different person then when I’m on the street. You have to be aggressive and play with a lot of intensity; you want to be dominant on the field. Off the field, I want to interact with the people, it’s one of those things, fans are important to me because they support us. I wouldn’t be doing this without them.“
This interaction between doesn’t seem to be limited to the stereotypical relation between fans and their idols. CFL players seem to be in tune with how their respective cities worship them. “Once you play in Hamilton, it takes time to understand the dynamic of the city. It’s all about the fans, its different from other cities; you can’t sell them much. The only thing you can sell them is play on the field and being genuine with them. If you lie to them, they’ll be honest with you, but you have to respect that!” stated Marwan Hage of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Weston Dressler (Saskatchewan Roughriders) added “[The fans] are a great part of the team because of the passion they have for the Roughriders and the game. You just want to go out and play for them.”
Clearly, the fan-player interaction paradigm has shifted in the CFL. Thanks to loyal fans and grateful players alike, the barriers separating the two are slowly disapearing. Using events such as last week’s FANtasy Camp in Barbados, the CFL Players Association is striving to change the way fans interact with the players and teams in the CFL. Going forward, fans should continue to keep an eye on the CFLPA website, twitter feed and Facebook page. It is the intent of the player’s association to get fans as involved in the game as possible!