Where Technicalities End, Where Heart Begins
Such a simple word, yet such a meaningful one.
I've been absent for a couple weeks, much like the Riders, unfortunately. I come back to tell you about what playoffs mean to me, and why the playoffs are truly where technicalities end, and where heart begins.
I don’t know about you, but I love playoffs. They are the satisfaction at the end of a football season. Let's say the regular season is a steak. Well cooked, thorough, tasty, and definitely worth it. The playoffs are like the seasoning that really brings out the flavour of the steak, and can certainly make or break the steak.
(If that analogy made no sense, don’t blame me, I don’t cook.)
Sometimes people get caught up in the technicalities of the playoffs, certain matchups and so on. Don’t get me wrong, game planning for playoffs is very important. So is having the right personnel, the right sets, knowing the opponents tendencies, etc. (Wait, I just described game planning. Whoops.) It can be the difference between a victory or a defeat.
But the key word in that sentence is can.
I truly believe that what the game comes down to is heart, hustle, the will to win, whatever you want to call it. I'm not a technicalities guy. I don’t know football as well as most hard core Rider fans like myself. The one thing I do know, however, is what it takes to win.
It's cliché. The whole idea of heart is cliché. But it’s the deciding factor for any game, especially a playoff one. It's simple; the team that leaves more out on the field will be the one that comes away with the victory. Just look at the different Grey Cups we have played since 2007.
2007: Unfazed by losing Kevin Glenn, Winnipeg comes out firing, taking an early 7-0 lead. James Johnson runs in a pick to tie it up, and Congi gives the Riders a field goal to end the half at 10-7. Chick forces a fumble, Congi kicks, 13-7 Riders. A blown Johnson coverage creates a touchdown for Winnipeg, but Johnson makes up for it by picking Dinwiddie off the next series. Congi kicks again, 16-14. Andy Fantuz scores an incredible touchdown breaking tackles and diving into the end zone. 23-16 Riders, game ends 23-19. Turnovers are the difference. James Johnson produces three, based purely on great timing and also great hustle. Chick's sack/forced fumble after chasing down Dinwiddie; pure hustle.
2009: I refuse to talk about 2009. I was nine. I was also heartbroken.
2010: A somewhat boring first three quarters leads to an exciting final period. Jamel Richardson pulls one down that he shouldn’t have caught and sets up the touchdown that makes the difference. Fantuz set up our touchdown that made it a three point game by simply willing himself to the 1 yard line. Durant fights for every inch but ends up throwing a pick. Final score: 21-18.
2013: A killer first half leads to an early 31-6. Momentum carries as we end the game 45-23. Considering the only reason Hamilton scored was because the Rider D got lazy, and the fact that Kory Sheets rushed for 197 yards (which is pure heart by the way), I think heart wins this one.
It's a small sample size, but I also have firsthand experience. I've played in big games. I know who's quitting at certain times and who's not. I know that records don't matter, game plans don’t matter (as much) and hustle wins no matter what.
To prove my point: in Grade 6, our team was quite easily the best basketball team in RCBA. We had the best players, we had great coaches, we had a game plan and we were ready to go. Unfortunately, we didn’t play with any heart over the course of the two games and got severely out played.
Opposite end of the spectrum: I was on a hockey team that didn’t perform very well in the regular season. We were middle of the pack, but we stuck together, had a great group of guys and a very good motivational coach and ended up getting third place. We beat a team we were never supposed to beat in double overtime. We ended the game with people collapsing they were so tired. It was the most tiring game I have ever played, and yet also one of the most satisfying.
Here's the thing: I don’t remember what gym I played those basketball games in, what the score was, or even who all was on my team, and I'm not a guy who forgets things. But I remember exactly what the score was, where we played, and who was on my team for that hockey game. You know why? Because one game I gave it 110% and the others I didn’t. I recognize that now. It doesn’t matter what the records are, who has the better players, who has the better team even. It's all about who plays with more heart. It's that simple.
Random thoughts about last week's game:
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