‘Coach LaPo? That’s my mother****er!’: reviewing episode six of Behind the R

Screengrab courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

The final episode of the inaugural season of Behind the R gives R-Nation a peek into camp life and the efforts undertaken by the coaching staff to build camaraderie.

It opens with head coach Paul LaPolice discussing how he was concerned about the need to build a strong culture in Ottawa right off the bat, given the fact that so many new players from across the league had joined his team.

From movie nights on the field, to a water balloon toss, to actually having players bring their families on the field and introduce them to the rest of the team, LaPolice took many steps to foster the bond he was hoping to instil. That last initiative, in particular, stood out to me because I find the concept fascinating.

Often people like keeping their work and family lives separate and distinct in order to compartmentalize. Clearly, the Redblacks are leaning hard the other way, which only works if the team as a group buys in. The players seemingly have.

The star of the ten-minute video is easily defensive back Patrick Levels. Whether it’s him bragging about winning Rock, Paper, Scissors, chatting with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli about how he graciously gave up the number eight to his QB1 but still insisted on getting a single-digit, or saying the colourful words in the title of this article, Levels’ personality shines through the camera. Shoutout to editor Josh O’Connor — and his bosses — for yet again not censoring the episode.

The decision to feature Levels so prominently is a good one because although he was undeniably a big-name free-agent addition, he’s not the kind of player a casual fan would be familiar with. Rightly or wrongly, the average CFL fan can name quarterbacks and other offensive stars. Too often the contributions of defensive players are overlooked, which means they toil in obscurity.

Another thing that stood out was Masoli’s mindset of working towards winning a championship. That sounds obvious but it would have been very easy for any off-season additions to come into town and be content with striving to make the playoffs. When you listen to Masoli speak, it’s clear he has zero interest in simply getting to the post-season; he wants to be hoisting a trophy in late November.

That kind of attitude is exactly why general manager Shawn Burke went out and inked the 33-year-old. When your leader is aiming high, everyone will follow along and set their sights accordingly.

Speaking of Burke, his speech on having up and down days, both in football and in life, is a good reminder to the viewer that the players on the field aren’t just athletes, but rather people with their own problems, emotions and families at home too.

Specifically, I really liked Burke’s line about how when you’re a part of a team, you have to be willing to grant forgiveness when mistakes are made. That’s a powerful and beautiful sentiment but over the course of a high-pressure, 18-game season, it’ll be interesting to see how capable the man in charge of the roster is of living up to those lofty words when mistakes result in losses.

Finally, right at the end of the episode, the man behind the camera finally makes his on-screen debut. Before getting into what O’Connor said, can we please take a minute to acknowledge that Room Rater would give him a solid 10/10 for his decor? There’s a customized signed road jersey with VIDEO and the number 21 on the right side of the frame, an immunized Packers’ quarterback Fathead on the left and a trio of framed Anthony Bourdain pictures in the middle. There’s also a splash of green with a plant. Talk about perfect balance.

As for why he’s on the screen, O’Connor thanks the viewer for tuning in and announces that this season of Behind the R is officially over and will only return in December, following the conclusion of the CFL season.

For those of you worried about the pause, O’Connor promises that he’ll be filming all season long and that when Behind the R does return, it’ll have more behind-the-scenes footage than any other team.

Reflecting back on the first season of the show, the Redblacks deserve huge credit for providing so much access and giving other teams a blueprint for how to generate in-house content. On the West Coast, the Lions have their Arrow Up series, the Edmonton Elks announced their GoElks series — although so far there’s just a single episode on the combine — and teams like the Toronto Argonauts are constantly sharing minute-long video clips from practice and meeting rooms.

Hopefully Behind the R’s success signals the start of each team churning out their own behind-the-scenes content, because as R-Nation’s reaction has demonstrated, if you film it, fans will watch it.

Behind the R is the brainchild of Josh O’Connor, a video dude and content creator for OSEG — and much like F1’s Drive to Survive — takes fans behind the curtain to show what goes down in the team’s front office. Click here for reviews of Episodes One, TwoThreeFour and Five.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).