I walked into Atlantis this morning, and just like every other morning, ordered a medium dark roast and a blueberry muffin. Unlike every other morning, I forgot my wallet.
“No problem,” said the guy behind the counter, “We got this one.” Small thing, but it still put a little skip in my step, and now I’m writing about it.
“Go out and make a difference today.” That’s how Matt Dunigan would send his kids off to school. Read it last night in his autobiography. Dunigan was my all time favourite Quarterback in the CFL. I watched him play… like a linebacker, and he’s got the concussions to prove it. In 1988 I sat in the stands for the Roughriders’ first playoff game since 1976. It was bitter cold. We were supposed to roll over a BC Lions team that was thought to be soft because they’re from Vancouver and the weather is nice… and also because they’re from Vancouver.
Dunigan had us off balance all game long. He ran these play action bootlegs with the guile of a magician. He’d hide that ball, pull it out, throw it deep, run if he choose to, and most significantly, play the game with a passion and fire so palpable, you couldn’t help but be caught up in it. I’ve seen great Quarterbacks play over the years, but none could touch Dunigan’s force of will over a football game.
In 1996 he played his final game in Hamilton against BC. He was in the midst of a great season, playing the game for love (cuz the Ti-Cats that year weren’t writing him any cheques). BC blitzed their halfback from the hammer position and blindsided Dunigan so hard the ball came loose. Dunigan’s head bounced off the turf, and the world went sideways. He should have stayed down, but he didn’t.
Instead he ran after the ball and took another hard hit. Walking towards the sidelines with the trainers at his side, he knew he was done. He knew his career was over. For the first time ever, he felt a crack in his armour. Still, Dunigan was not one to sit on the sidelines. He told no one about his concussion and went in for the next offensive series.
Two plays later Dunigan took a shot to the head, ear hole to ear hole, and never saw the football field again. Pieces are still missing from his memory.
I’ve been spending time channelling Dunigan lately. I’m basing a character in ‘Highwaymen’ on him. I’m going to be writing about the final moments of his career. I want the audience to fall in love with this guy, and I want them to get their hearts broken when he falls.
Ultimately this series will be about the ‘self’. Who are we and what makes us that way? I’ve been reading Descartes, I’ve been reading Locke, I’ve been reading Hume, and I’ve been reading Dunigan to find those answers.