The state of football

"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that."

– Bill Shankly

A body lies broken and scarred, beaten down by an enemy it could not defeat. Deep inside though, a heart still pulses–a heart that is filled with determination and a lust for something that the common man has no knowledge about. To hold your head high, to look your opponent in his eye and laugh. To know that when you are on the edge of failure, you can come roaring back like an uncaged animal, making believers out of those who turned their backs and walked away in shame.

For Dinos football, now is that time. With a paltry record of one win three losses, the beast in each one of those players must be unleashed. The month of October will be a field of blood for the boys. There, they will establish themselves as a team with a heart capable of seeing them through the depths of hell or… they will fade away like another withered corpse that couldn’t meet the onslaught.

In the beginning, when the sun shone brightly and the future even brighter, an individual took his place on the battlefield and led his army to a glorious victory. The win, over the arch-rival Golden Bears from the University of Alberta, was truly great. The air attack was seamless, the running unstoppable and the defence truly masters of their domain. Dinos 36, Golden Bears 21.

Unfortunately, even the best of us meet our match, and two weeks later the Dinos met theirs in the wastelands of Manitoba. A Canada West record was set by a 127 yard return by Bison Mike Plante and a knife was driven deep into the heart of the Dino football team. Manitoba 32, Dinos 11.

Humbled, but still full of hope, our soldiers returned home. The next war would be one which would show the power of heart, the hunger of soul and the ability to overcome any obstacle. As the U of C army faced the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the heart was full of fire, the soul was an unfed lion but the mighty Dino could not conquer the final obstruction. Huskies 28, Dinos 23.

Badly broken, the football team nursed their wounds and prepared for the next invasion. This time, the attack came from the west in the form of a Thunderbird. The Dino was torn to shreds as the powerful Bird swept down and ran amok through Calgary. Bodies with the names of Ian Schafer and David Swagar fell and the points tally rose. University of British Colombia Thunderbirds 43, Dinos 9.

When you’re a vet, the wounds are a little deeper; the scars take a little more time to heal. You remember a time when the power of the game wasn’t quite as powerful and all you could do was stand back in awe. Now though, that power seeps through your body and each loss is like a little death.

For fourth-year cornerback Alex Barton the season so far has been "horrible. There’s nothing to describe it. It’s the worst we’ve ever played. I don’t know how to explain it."

When you play this game, an uninjured body can become reminiscent of a car wreck victim. The healthiest of players brought to their knees in a fractured moment of time. For fifth-year Dino, Ken Watt, "It’s hard seeing our depth at each position go down with injuries throughout the entire year. It’s pretty tough to see and because of that we’re 1-3."

A few battles may have been lost but the war is not over for the Dinos. Is morale low? In the words of Barton, "definitely low. We’ve got a lot of things to accomplish this weekend. We play the Rams (University of Regina) and we don’t want to be the first ones to lose to them. We have to win. Whether or not everyone’s ready for it, it’s up to them."

The animal must run. The soldier must kill. For the Dinos to survive, they must win. In the final year of the millennium, history will not be kind to those who fail. This knowledge seems to smoulder in the Dinos and the chance to alter a history yet to be written can be all-consuming. For Alex Barton, Ken Watt and the rest of the Dinos football team, October will be that month. Time has run out; the cage has been opened and the knives unsheathed. As Watt says, "We’ve got to play the best that we can play and rely on one another. We can take it to the next level and get it done."

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