Controversy breeds interest and it has often been said in recent years that the CFL needs more bulletin board material. Thankfully, it seems a new hero has stepped up to fill the headline-generating void ahead of the 2021 playoffs.
Montreal Alouettes strongside linebacker Patrick Levels already turned a considerable amount of heads earlier this week when he guaranteed a victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Sunday’s East Semi-Final. With a chance to walk back his comments on Saturday, he doubled down with the most colourful media appearance of the CFL season and was utterly unrepentant concerning the guarantee.
“That’s not going to change,” Levels stated matter-of-factly. “The goal is not to make the playoffs. That was never the reason that we showed up to play the season, so anything less than winning this game right now is a failure of the season. That’s my mentality, that it’s all or nothing. I’m putting all my chips on the table right now, because I don’t have anything guaranteed.”
The former CFL all-star is completely comfortable putting himself at the center of a little controversy in the interest of executing that approach, but he has been surprised by many peoples’ reaction to his assertion. The guarantee apparently drew a laugh from Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence, but others on the outside looking in took serious issue with his inflammatory remarks as potentially detrimental to the team.
“It was kind of mind blowing, but then I also understand everybody can’t put that pressure on themselves, if that’s what y’all want to call it. Pressure busts pipes, not people, so I don’t see the pressure. I don’t feel the pressure. This is what I do,” Levels countered.
“I’ve been playing this game since I was three years old. I still get butterflies, but the difference is my stomach doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s like an adrenaline rush that I get. Whenever I start feeling that coming out, the smoke, I’m prepared.”
“Like, you’re a pro. As a kid, you just went out there and played the game and didn’t know what was going to happen. I have an expectation. Now I know what I’m going to do. I’m prepared. My teammates are prepared. Our coaches prepared us. So to say anything besides that we’re going to win would be a slap in the face to all the preparation that my coaches had put in,” he continued.
Montreal and Hamilton met twice in the regular season, splitting the games with one win apiece. The Ticats beat the Als by a score of 27-10 in late August, before Montreal exacted their revenge with a 23-20 overtime win in early October.
Levels believes strongly they can repeat that performance despite some late season disappointments and he has some extra motivation to make it happen
“I don’t think y’all understand that it’s nothing after this. I go home. My mama don’t want to see me yet. I don’t want to see her yet. I love her to death, but I’m not ready to see my mom. I love you, mom. Not ready,” he quipped.
“Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, I missed it. I don’t have anything to look forward to yet because by the time you win a Grey Cup, Christmas would be coming around. I got about a three week span of free time, so I’m not trying to go anywhere.”
Other than a desire to avoid family, Levels is also drawing inspiration from the cinematic realm. Namely a shirtless Gerard Butler urging a very finite number of Spartans forward before kicking someone into a hole.
“I’ve been watching 300 all week and that’s why my mentality is what it is. The people in the back are just as important as the people in the front. We all got a job to do and we’ve all left home,” Levels explained.
“It’s not 300 of us, it’s more like 50, but we’re in a hostile environment. All black, murder scene, ready to destroy me, destroy Stanback, destroy my team, destroy our hopes and dreams. Nobody here wants to see us win and I know that.”
Nevertheless, he won’t shy away from being his authentic self and making bold declarations. It isn’t the right strategy for everyone, but it is for him. Just like Leonidas, Levels will back up his statements or die trying.
“Everybody’s not a talker. I know that. Everybody can’t do this. I guarantee you I’ll be ready tomorrow. It won’t be just a whole bunch of smoke, up and out. It’s going to be a real life, bullets flying, people getting hit, stuff going down, great football game,” he promised, before drawing a little inspiration from another antiquity-themed film.
“Tune in, everybody watch. That’s what we’re here for. It’s the entertainment business. Y’all want to be entertained. Are you not entertained?”
After a CFL season where entertainment was harder to come by than ever before, we just might be tomorrow.