Rooting for people instead of teams during the playoffs

This is my favourite Kevin Glenn story.

One day roughly mid-way through my second year on the Ticat beat – which was also Glenn’s second year in Hamilton – he asked me to bring him a milkshake. Demanded it actually.

“You talk to me almost every day and I give you all these great quotes and you never bring me nothin’,” he said. “I want a milkshake. Strawberry.”

Glenn has this way of saying things that can sometimes make it tough to know if he’s being serious and I was still, in many ways, pretty new. Naïve even. So I couldn’t really tell if he was joking or not.

But he wouldn’t let it go. Every day for a couple of weeks he pestered me about it. Where’s my milkshake? I need my milkshake. I’m going to stop talking to you if I don’t get my strawberry milkshake. He was relentless.

I didn’t want to give in but I also wanted him to stop hassling me about it. So one day I went to the McDonald’s just a couple of blocks from what was then Ivor Wynne just before practice was set to end. I bought a bunch of small milkshakes and returned to the stadium. I handed them out to the offensive line with the caveat that they had to drink them while standing just outside Glenn’s media scrum. This wasn’t a tough sell: they were lineman and the milkshakes were free.

So we all stood there drinking milkshakes as Glenn slowly realized what was happening. He laughed, faked getting mad – you bought everyone a milkshake except me???!! – then seemed genuinely touched when I pulled out a strawberry just for him.

I got to know KG a little bit over his three seasons in Hamilton. My first big feature involved going to Detroit to spend the day with him, travelling around to all these haunts in his old neighbourhood. I met his parents, sat with his wife at her kitchen table. I watched KG wipe snot from his son’s nose after an epic sneeze in the back seat of his Land Rover, joking about his glamorous life as a pro quarterback.

Last week, 3DownNation’s Josh Smith ranked the CFL playoff teams on likability. I loved that piece but it isn’t exactly how I experience the post-season. As a journalist, I don’t cheer for teams – especially not the Ticats, much to the chagrin of some fans – but I do find myself wanting to see players I’ve come to like and respect do well.

Kevin Glenn would be right at the top of that list. He’s been an excellent quarterback for a long time and a guy who I think has gradually earned the appreciation and respect of fans around the league (players and coaches have always held him in high regard.) I think he’s come to terms with his legacy, whether it includes a championship or not (he’s never won a Grey Cup.)

And yet, I think it would mean the world to him. It would mean a lot to his father, who has a personalized Glenn jersey from every team his son has played for (and wears them to every game he can get to.) A Grey Cup won’t necessarily change Kevin Glenn’s legacy but it would certainly cement it.

There are other players around the league that I’ve come to like and respect as well, usually guys I’ve covered at one time or another. Peter Dyakowski was a fixture in Hamilton for eight years and his esoteric sense of humour was tremendous to be around – the Ticat locker room wasn’t the same without him in 2017. Receiver Bakari Grant is another guy I’ve always enjoyed talking to on all manner of subjects, from free agency to fatherhood.

It’s not just current Riders. Edmonton guard Simeon Rottier gave me one of the most awkward interviews ever at the CFL Combine in 2009 then a few years later, we talked at length at why he named his first child Townes. Calgary punter Rob Maver, Edmonton linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Toronto defensive back Rico Murray are all players I’d be happy to see succeed, for one reason or another.

Nor is it just players. I’ve also come to know coaches and personnel people across the league and I know how much work they put in, the sacrifices they make and what a title means to their careers and to them personally. To be clear, I’m not saying I know these people beyond the various stages of a professional working relationship – they aren’t friends in the true sense of the word – but they are no longer just sources to be plied for quotes and information. There’d be plenty of players, coaches and staff currently in the Ticats organization that this would apply to as well.

And so I won’t be cheering for the Riders or Stamps, the Argos or Eskimos over the next two Sundays. Instead, I’ll hope the people I’ve come to like and respect win the thing that means the most to them.

But especially KG. After watching so many of his contemporaries drink from the Cup, he deserves a taste too. It probably won’t be a milkshake but I’m willing to bet it would taste much, much sweeter.

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