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COMMENTARY: 2020 without CFL football cuts very deep

Monday brought up a whirlwind of emotions for me.

At around 10 a.m., the Canadian Football League announced it has cancelled plans for a shortened 2020 season. It was expected, even though there was a glimmer of hope a few days prior, but knowing the decision was coming didn’t make the disappointment any easier.

I feel very sad, I feel very angry, and yet, I also feel very hopeful, which is weird.

Let’s start with anger so I can just get that out of the way.

My hope was the CFL would get hammering away at a return-to-play plan from the moment they postponed the season.

Then, out of the blue, it asked the federal government for upwards of $150 million of assistance, a request that was not thought out very well.

The feds wanted the players to be a part of the package and thankfully now they have received government support by way of the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy.

Speaking of the players, for three months the CFL kept the CFL Players Association out of the loop before finally coming together in late June.

I sit here with a “what could have been” feeling. What if the league and the players got to work quicker on a plan? Might we have seen football played this fall? Questions whose answers we will never know and that leave you feeling empty inside.

What could have been feels more like what should have been. I believe in my heart CFL football should have taken the field next month in Winnipeg to give the country a great showcase.

Now the sadness, and this is a long list.

I’m gutted for so many people who make a living within and around the CFL. I feel for the fans. I feel for the players, coaches, football ops departments and for the jobs the league creates within teams and stadiums.

I’m very sad I won’t see the inside of a football stadium for who knows how long. I’ll miss the practices, the conversations with players, coaches, managers, trainers and equipment staff, especially Dwayne Mandrusiak and Chappy (Brent Kassian).

I’ll miss the game prep in the early morning and late at night. I’ll miss the feelings on game day, the anticipation, the excitement, the pre-game hype, and that distinct roar than you can only hear at a football game.

I’ll miss the chatter in my family about the CFL. We are all fans and have grown up with the game. It’s part of our fabric. Hopefully, we have that Grey Cup party in 2021.

Not calling games this season with Morley Scott is gut-wrenching. This year would have marked 10 years together in the booth, on a plane, in a cab, in a restaurant and at a stadium. I’ll miss talking and spending time with my media colleagues in Edmonton and throughout the country, talking with members from the opposing teams with whom you develop a great relationship over time.

I’ll miss working with Blake Dermott and learning so much from him and laughing at countless stories, many of which we can’t air on the radio. I’ll miss Brendan Escott on the sidelines. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Brenden has the chance to dry off now from working too many rain games at Commonwealth Stadium.

I’ll miss waving to Reid Wilkins from his seats in front of our booth. I’ll miss our statistician Paul Shanks, as he’s my extra set of eyes during home games and how he makes me laugh. I’ll miss Eskimos stats guru Brian Desjarlais and our pre-game chats, which include his wife’s amazing baking. I’ll miss our entire CHED crew, which helps put the games on the air.

I’ll miss the fans whom I interact with throughout a season. I’ve formed good relationships with many over the years. I have dropped the mitts with several others and that’s OK.

Now let’s try and leave on a good note.

I’ve called 295 games over my time and in the back of my mind, I’m a little concerned Nov. 17, 2019, is the last game I will ever call. I don’t believe this is the case. I love the CFL and yet the league can’t exist going forward in its current form. This is the chance for the league to come together and forge a true partnership with the players to ensure a brighter future.

It’s time for the CFL to become united and to understand every part of the country and every fan base. To support the green and gold, the red and white, the green and white, the blue and gold, the orange and black, the black and gold, the red and black, the double blue, and the bleu, blanc, et rouge. And maybe down the road, the Schooners from Halifax.

This league needs to find a way to get back on its feet in 2021. I believe like the phoenix rising, so will the CFL.

Dave Campbell is a sports anchor for Global News Radio 880 Edmonton as well as the colour commentator for Edmonton football on 630 CHED. 

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