It's a subject that's tough to broach, a topic that should lead one to hang one's head in shame, not reflect with great affection.
As a young boy, I wasn't familiar with the concept of love, yet there was no doubt I was in it. There was also very little question I was on the verge of a relationship with another that would alter my life.
The conduit between that young, naive boy and the grizzled, somewhat more mature adult is about to leave us, and in this space that third wheel will be celebrated.
As a 10-year old boy I had a passionate romance with baseball. I liked hockey, would view any sport at all without really knowing what I was watching. But there was only one love in my life. Playing, watching, listening to, collecting playing cards, it didn't matter - baseball was my raison d'etre.
Then, what would become my true love entered the equation.
In the 1970s in Kingston, Ont., you couldn't play organized football until you entered high school. There was no CFL team within a two-hour drive. For most Kingstonians, their initial exposure to the sport was going to a high-school game, or going to watch the Queen's Golden Gaels play.
I vividly remember going to a game at Richardson Stadium for the first time. It was the early 1970s. The stars of the team were Dave Hadden, Darrel Penner and a receiver who would later become an integral part of university's ability to replace the stadium, Stu Lang.
On that bright, sunny day, Richardson Stadium was an explosion of colour. The perfectly manicured green grass of the playing surface, the bleachers mimicking the Gaels tricolour flag of gold, blue and red, the trees with their multi-hued autumn leaves surrounded the stadium and provided a prefect frame for the setting.
Entering the stadium from the Johnson St. side never failed to supply a jolt of adrenaline. The championship banners fluttered atop the scoreboard. The players - dressed in the all-gold uniforms that were either beloved, or a punch line depending on your affiliation - would be going through the pre-game warm-up rituals that puzzled someone who had yet to play the sport.
As that young lad eventually hit high school the ritual changed. A Queen's game became more than just the three hours between the opening kickoff and the game clock hitting zeros. The procession from the main campus would become a rite of passage for people who grew up in the downtown core.
We would assemble at my friend Tim's house. It was situated on a corner of Union St. That was the route that a parade consisting of the Queen's Band, the cheerleaders and the student body would travel the two-and-a-half kilometres from the main campus to the stadium, inconveniently located on the west campus.
During high school the routine was the same. We would lose, er, play our game on Friday, then some of the team members would reassemble for the post-mortem the next day. It was usually the same handful of us who would make the trek, a group that was discovering the same love for a sport that would last a lifetime. A couple of the regulars would later coach the sport, another would do play-by-play, yet another would appropriately become the P.A. voice at Richardson for Gaels games.
For most Kingstonians, certainly for most Canadians, hockey is the sport that in some cases helps provide people with a sense of social being. Countless hours spent at a rink for games and practices, many others on road trips. From the day that their kids are able to skate, some parents who have not been involved in hockey beforehand find themselves spending more time than they thought possible around Canada's national winter sport.
Football isn't engrained on the Canadian sports landscape in the same way. The number of people involved just isn't as large as the puck crowd. But for those who have been exposed to football, whether it be as a player, coach, parent or fan, there's something different about it.
Maybe it's a greater sense of ownership. There's a sense of protection that's evoked when someone says something negative about the sport, especially in terms of Canadian football. Those involved can get defensive, at times overly so, in a matter of seconds.
Football is in my blood. I admit to having an open love affair with it. At some point the ten-year old boy's adoration of baseball became an even greater passion for the sport played on the gridiron.
That flame was ignited by watching games at Richardson Stadium. The building was always flawed, the scoreboard was placed so that the sun would shine on it in the dying moments of a game, making it unreadable, but it became part of the 'charm' of the experience.
The adage that 'Father Time remains undefeated' applies here. The stands became unsafe. The field would become almost unplayable after a major rainfall. The concept of a natural-grass surface is now deemed antiquated.
It's time to move on. A shiny new toy will be unveiled in time for next season. From a practical perspective the old building won't be missed.
From a purely emotional level, it can never be replaced.
The final game at Richardson was anything but memorable for the home side. Carleton jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and coasted to a 39-8 win. Only 1,234 showed up send off the stadium and many, if not most, were gone by halftime. Jesse Mills led the Ravens with a 334-yard, three-TD passing day. Nate Behar hauled in eight of those passes for 158 of those yards. The early lead helped dictate play selection, but Queen's only mustered 61 rushing yards. The Ravens defence was relentless, sacking Nate Hobbs seven times, recording eight tackles for a loss, forcing three fumbles and picking off a pass.
That's the defence that will have to show up at Guelph this weekend if the Ravens have a chance of eliminating the Gryphons.
No. 10 Carleton (5-3) at No. 5 Guelph (7-1)
James Roberts makes the Guelph offence tick. The strong-armed pivot has given the club a legitimate deep game. He was third in the conference with 18 TD passes, but was his 10 interceptions was just one shy of the worst total in the CIS.
Jacob Scarfone was fourth in the country in receiving yards, just missing the 1,000-yard plateau. A'dre Fraser gives Guelph an outstanding one-two punch in the receiving corps, but don't go to sleep on Johnny Augustine. He has a very good set of hands out of the backfield.
Augustine averaged over 100 yards per game for the Gryphs this season and will be the man the Ravens will have to key on. Watching his production will be an interesting game within the game.
It is on defence that the Gryphons have made their reputation. They are exceptionally hard to run against, allowing just 125 yards against per game, second best in OUA. They picked off 13 passes, recovered eight fumbles and recorded 25 sacks. They did everything, seemingly, but score. Oddly, neither did Carleton, making them two of just nine CIS teams that did not score a point while on defence.
Linebacker John Rush led the country with 60 tackles, but this is truly a defence that relies on everyone. There may not be the dominating superstar, but there are no glaring weaknesses either. It's just a talented, hard-working, well-coached group.
These two teams met in the last week of the regular season, with Guelph winning 44-12 after leading 27-2 at halftime. James Roberts threw four TD passes without an interception, while Jesse Mills threw two picks without a touchdown. Jahvari Bennett did have a nice day on the ground for Carleton, rushing for 142 yards.
Winning at Queen's is one thing. Defeating the Gryphons at Alumni Stadium is something completely different. With that said, do not sell the Ravens short. They are young and talented, but will still have to play almost flawlessly to win on the road.
No. 9 Laurier (4-4) at No. 2 Western (8-0)
To win a Yates Cup you have to be playing your best football at this time of the season. The Laurier Golden Hawks are getting hot at the perfect time.
Last week they went into McMaster and knocked off the defending Yates Cup champions 29-15. Dillon Campbell was the star of the show, carrying the ball a ridiculously high 39 times for 285 yards. It wasn't two or three long runs that gave him that total, as his longest run of the day was 34 yards.
Campbell was relentless. When the Marauders knew he was getting the ball it didn't seem to matter. He also showed no signs of fatigue in the fourth quarter when he carried 14 times for 105 yards. Again, that was in the fourth quarter alone. In Laurier's last series, trying to run out the clock, Campbell was at his best, carrying the ball on five successive plays for 8, 3, 1, 17 and 10 yards. That despite every player on Mac's defence knowing the Whitby, Ont. native was getting the ball.
With Campbell's return to dominance of late, the Hawks are more willing to take their shots deep. It doesn't always work, but the threat has to be respected.
That said, Campbell may have to be even better this week.
Western's defence was awesome this year. It allowed fewer than 14-points per game, third best in the country. There is a bit of a statistical oddity with the Mustangs defence though. Most of the team's games were out of hand early. One would think that teams would be forced to throw the ball more, abandoning the running game, yet the 'Stangs allowed 240 passing yards per game, eighth in the CIS, while surrendering 142 rushing yards per game, twelfth in the country.
Western led the country with 29 sacks and was tied for the CIS lead with 15 interceptions and five defensive touchdowns. Malcolm Brown and Josh Woodman each had four INTs, while Ricky Osei-Kusi led the way with seven sacks, one half sack more than John Biewald.
Offensively the Mustangs are well balanced, deep and talented.
Will Finch is the maestro that leads the orchestra. He passed for 327 yards per game despite never having the throw the ball after halftime. He threw 17 passes against just six interceptions. Matt Uren is the 'X factor' on offence. He'll line up in several spots, led the team with 35 catches, but will also run the football. George Johnson also provided Finch with a nice receiving option.
The Mustangs running attack is insanely good. The team led the CIS with an average of 368 yards per games, 128 more than Calgary, who was second in the country. Alex Taylor was second to Campbell in the CIS with 1,068 yards on the ground, but he recorded that on just 99 carries for a ridiculous average of 10.8 yards per rush. Yannick Harou gives the Mustangs awesome depth at the position.
For what it's worth, Laurier led the country in time of possession with an average of 32:24 per game. Western on the other hand was dead last, averaging 25:52 per game.
These teams met September 12 with Western hammering the Hawks 59-9, limiting Campbell to 74 yards on 13 carries. Taylor more than doubled that, accumulating 159 yards on 15 carries.
Those numbers may need to be reversed if Laurier is to pull off what would be a massive upset.
For a more in depth look at the road teams in this week's playoff games, click here for last week's 'In The Huddle'.