As Thanksgiving Monday approaches- and boy, where has the time gone lately?- we are reminded that the annual turkey and stuffing binge (or ham if you prefer that method) with our loved ones is just the latest tradition that might not feel the same in 2020. At any rate, we all have plenty to be thankful for. Whether you are still indulging in Thanksgiving celebrations with a smaller bubble or simply catching up with loved ones and friends on Zoom, we can all agree times like these make us appreciate the better ones. And it will be extra special once we have the green light to abolish social distancing and spend more time out in public with larger groups.
From a CFL and Lions perspective, Turkey Day usually means the weather is getting colder (or in our case, wetter) and the intensity week by week is ramping up as teams make a push for the playoffs. All of that is on hold for 2021. But as you prepare for your annual early October feast, here is a list of things we can all agree we are thankful for!
Who else was intrigued to see just how many more tricks Bryan Burnham had up his sleeve this year? The human-highlight reel only elevated his game in year one with Mike Reilly, giving both his teammates and fans plenty of excitement. Simply put, he has lived up to his last name. Always on fire with seemingly no ball ever uncatchable. Yeah, we’re definitely thankful to have number 16 wearing orange and can’t wait for him to start making up for a season’s worth of lost circus catches!
Recently, a list of his opponents voted unanimously that he has the best hands in the CFL. Was there ever a doubt?
Yes, despite a disappointing 5-13 record in 2019, Reilly proved he is still the CFL’s best at the quarterback position. Sure, we’re biased but we also believe it to be true. If not for his wrist injury suffered early in game 16, he would have easily eclipsed 4,000 passing yards for the fourth straight season and fifth time in his brilliant career. His 20 touchdown passes were the third-highest total he ever it and he played even better with the improvement of the offensive line in the second half of the season.
But we are also thankful for the humourous nature in which Reilly conducts himself in one on one interviews. Let’s face it. Last season being what it was in the wins and losses columns, we all needed a little levity in our day. And the quarterback saved his for the Lions TV camera and microphone!
We are truly thankful to have Reilly for his play on the field and his funny antics off of it. Bring it on in 2021!
Adult movies? Where did ‘get off the schneid’ originate? You never know how the conversation is going to go….@Rikester13 also talks serious football matter with @BakesTakes84 ahead of big rematch with the RedBlacks. pic.twitter.com/bLRONftQtO
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) September 19, 2019
And as you can see below, Reilly’s hassling of yours truly is usually a pretty big hit with the fans and followers on social media.
We’ve given the offence some love, now we have to salute how thankful we are for big defensive plays and a few of the veteran studs we have on that side of the ball. Who can forget the amazing goal-line stand where TJ Lee stopped Eugene Lewis short on third down to help beat Montreal at home last year? Lee and Aaron Grymes still have plenty of football left in the tank and will give the squad a nice veteran presence in the secondary.
Free agency will answer plenty of questions at all position groups. It will also be intriguing to see where first overall pick Jordan Williams fits in with the linebackers.
Any way you slice it, we hope to see more big stops in our future!
Confession: Throughout the pandemic, I have spent a lot of non-working hours falling down YouTube rabbit holes of classic Lions and CFL highlights. The platform has become somewhat of a library archive for classic CFL games and kudos to those who have uploaded full game highlights. I recently watched the entire 1994 Western Final victory in Calgary.
That amazing day in Lions history is best-remembered for the game-winning drive in blizzard-like conditions engineered by quarterback Danny McManus who hit Darren Flutie for the winning touchdown with no time left in the clock. But you forget a couple of things about that win. For one, the snow didn’t really start falling at all until early the fourth quarter. You wouldn’t know it had you simply started watching when Ray Alexander’s blocked field goal attempt to keep it a five-point Calgary lead set the Lions up with good field position with under two minutes to play.
Another thing that may have slipped your mind was the Lions trailed 34-21 at one point in the second half. It seemed no matter what Kent Austin or Danny McManus did, Doug Flutie and the Stampeders always provided a counterpunch. The visitors simply refused to lay down and die.
Fans of a younger vintage would probably point to the 2016 Western Semi-Final victory as their favourite playoff comeback. Jonathon Jennings and the upstart Lions rallied from 12 points down in the 4th quarter to stun the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 32-31 at BC Place in the most recent Lions playoff victory to date.
They may provide some nervous moments, but comeback victories in November are yet another example of things we are thankful for.
You Great Fans…. Super Thankful
We should have mentioned off the top that this list wasn’t designed for any particular order. As someone who interacts with you great ones every day at practice or on game day, I can say with some conviction that the Lions organization is super thankful to all of our great fans.
They truly are what this league is all about. I was purchasing some new running shoes on Thursday, and in the store was lucky to meet two great Lions fans-one who said he has had season tickets dating back to Empire Stadium- who can’t wait to be back in the stands cheering us on, hopefully as early as 2021 depending on what a return to play might look like. We’re always confident.
So cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to all the great Lions fans who help make our jobs with the team all that more enjoyable.