Mind of McCabe: How is life without football? That’s up to you

Are you done with the constant mental parade?

Why do I have to deal with this pandemic? Why do I have all these restrictions at school? Why won’t people listen to the medical advice? Is the media really lying to me? Why can’t I just play football and ignore it all?

I think it’s safe to say everybody is a little tired from our mind going into overdrive this year. Everybody is dealing with the same types of questions I’ve listed above, and there’s large factions fighting to uncover the truth on every side of the debate. The topics may change, but there’s always a debate, and because we’re human we feel compelled to pick sides.

However, our experiences will vastly vary even from those who might appear to be fighting the same fight on the outside.

I hope you’ve already come to peace with the situation wherever you may be, but even if that’s the case there still could be a little bit of knowledge for everybody to pull from the oncoming onslaught of ideas that’ve been brewing in my mind since the day we were introduced to COVID-19 … So hold on tight, not like there’s many places to escape right now anyways unless your happiness hinges on the election down south. Good luck to both sides on that mental adventure.

Funny thing about it all when you take a step back, we’re searching for ghosts. The answers will not materialize the more time you waste thinking about them. Even if they seem very logical like asking “Well, somebody had to be the first to spread COVID? I need to know who because they’re to blame!” … Good luck ever finding the answer to that one, so might as well move on with the show.


It’s human nature to be frustrated when our bubble pops, and the reality we’ve tried so hard to cultivate has vanished. We try to warn prospects at a very early age that football won’t last forever, but it’s an experience not a thought. Even though you can comprehend the words, that doesn’t mean you’ll comprehend the emotions behind them – and ultimately how to deal with them.

Here’s a different way of looking at the pandemic as a prospect. How about considering yourself lucky to be going through this experience right now? Lucky to receive these lessons earlier than most in life? Lucky to work towards being a better person today while patiently awaiting the day you can bear the fruits of your labour on the field again.

I understand how crazy that may sound in the moment, and it may take another 10 years before it makes sense, but if you keep an open mind I can try to explain my logic after taking a long time to come to this realization through my own experiences as a high school kid who had to leave the game behind because of too many hits to the head, and was never able to truly confront this reality until COVID forced me to change my perspective on life.

If you’re reading this article right now, you must have some attachment to football on a deep level. For most prospects, it can make up their entire identity. For most of your peers, the first thing they think of when you enter a room is football, because that’s everything you appear to represent. At least that’s the reality you’ve built in your mind.

When the calendar flipped over to 2020, you were playing the role of a football player. Now the script has changed because the director decided there was no need for the high school football player role anymore, but somehow you’re still supposed to be a part of the movie.


Why has this happened to you? I wish I had that answer, but I stopped searching to write this article instead.

Well, that sucks doesn’t it? You rehearsed all the right lines. You practiced in front of the mirror for years at this point. Dreamed about the bright lights of Hollywood many nights. Never got paid a dime for any of your efforts yet.

In your world, it’s what you’ve been working towards every moment since you first strapped on a helmet and decided to faithfully take on the role.

When you opened this article, you might’ve even thought you finally found the answer you’ve been desperately seeking every workout since the lockdown began. Your whole identity taken away – or at least a significant chunk of it – and there’s nothing you can do to change it but sit in the gym with your own emotions just wondering why. Almost like losing a close relative you couldn’t fathom life without.

You can’t find the director responsible for the script change, and nobody can help you find them because they have no idea what’s going on either. Unfortunately you can’t even call up the Prime Minister and sweet talk him into recasting the role … just ask the Canadian Football League executives how that plan went.

Any answer they provide would be a lie based on a belief, which is why I didn’t address the subject directly on CFC because I would’ve just misled you with my own false hopes even if I thought it was true in the moment.

For all intents and purposes, high school football as you anticipated this year has been taken away from most of you reading. That could be prospects, coaches, fans, journalists. It’s everybody and anybody who wrapped up some portion of their identity with the game. Unfortunately you weren’t given the luxury of coming to terms with the end before it arrived. Even the day before they officially announced the news, most of us still held onto hope the morning wouldn’t come.

We all knew this was inevitable though right? Just like a Hall of Famer who’s entered the twilight of his career. They may get to wear a fancy gold jacket until the end of their days, but that doesn’t mean they escape the same question you’ve been forced to face right now. We all know the ride will come to an end at some point, but it’s the ones who are afraid of a world without football that decide to delay the inevitable just a little bit longer. Then just a little bit longer after that, because it can take a long time to come to terms with any of your fears even if you’re revered as one of the greatest of all time by your peers.

Why are they afraid? That’s the whole goal isn’t it? Whenever they hear my name the crowd will rejoice in my greatness? Football immortality? Mission accomplished … right?

This is where it may get a bit abstract, but it’s because that’s what they’ve relied on for happiness likely their entire lives. There’s some people who wrap up their entire mind in the world of sports, and it can become unhealthy for young prospects who are driven by the fear of not being as good as their peers, and every other doubt that comes along with the recruiting trail. Or in other terms, chasing the same football ghosts every Hall of Famer thought they needed to catch at one time or another.


All of us at one point in the journey try to fight the teeter-totter where we’re only happy when we win, and always angry when we lose. We’re happy when we receive praise from our coach, and upset when we get scolded. Happy when we complete a pass, and angry when it falls incomplete. Proud when the crowd claps, and embarrassed when they boo.

Even worse, terrified when the crowd is gone. I could go on, but either you’ve got the picture I’m trying to paint by now or I lost you long ago with my ramblings.

And if I’ve lost you, that’s fine. Few are fully prepared for a life after football, even though they might appear like nothing could possibly scare them on the outside. The Hall of Famers who we dub with football immortality, it’s all a mirage to help ease the pain that their source of happiness in life was taken away never to return.

We all know the stories of athletes we admired as the epitome of greatness as children, only to learn they got lost somewhere along the way after hanging up their cleats. That’s how a fan can have their reality crushed, because they can wrap up their happiness in the success of others … Happy when “your” team wins on Sunday, and always angry when those damn refs miss that blatantly obvious pass interference call that the entire world saw. Just to spite you and ruin Sunday dinner with the family … again!

So at this point you’ve stuck around to read my nonsense, and might believe I’m saying football doesn’t make you happy. That would also be nonsense because it’s actually the complete opposite.

You might not be able to play football right now, but don’t let that dictate how you view the world. When you’re working out, don’t sit their and wallow in your own pity because if COVID didn’t exist you’d be on the field with your buddies right now pursuing your dreams of football immortality. You’re wasting precious time worrying about something you have zero control over.

Just be happy you’re still physically able to workout in the moment to improve yourself as a human being, and don’t hinge your entire mood on whether this is the workout that will make the difference once you get back on the field. Because it isn’t, and no workout ever will be, so why chase that perfect workout that will never come just to leave the gym doubting yourself more and more every time you visit.


I imagine if that were the correct way to live your life, Jerry Rice would still be practicing the route tree as we speak. You’re always going to feel like you could’ve done it better, but why ruin the moment with negative thoughts when you’re playing the greatest game known not only on this planet, I’m willing to say in the universe … Unless the aliens have cooked something up with more drama than the NFL.

Be happy with every personal best along the way instead of comparing yourself to your peers. You’ve just done something great, and instead of feeling happy, you’re filled with anxiety about if you’re still doing enough … Of course you are!

You just hit a personal best didn’t you? Be happy about your achievement in the moment and not what it may lead to down the road. Let’s say it does lead to greatness on the field at some point down the road, once again just be happy you’re out on the field in that very moment enjoying the fruits of your labour in the gym. No need to start asking yourself was that tackle good enough? Did that mistake just ruin my chance with the scouts? Did my coach notice I missed that assignment on film? Is he going to point me out in front of the entire team? Will they think less of me because of my mistakes on the field?

You don’t know when you’ll be back on the field, and as we discussed, anybody who suggests they have the answer is flat out lying. So what if you spend all this time working out, studying film, zoom calls with your coaches, creating highlight reels, talking to scouts, worrying about not only yours but everybody’s assignments on the field, practicing your footwork like a ballerina in cleats … And then for some unknown reason, this pandemic consumes the 2021 football season as well? You’ll feel the same type of anger as if you lost a championship game, because you wasted all this time dedicating your life to the game only to set yourself up for disappointment … again.

All I want to know from one human being to another, is did you have fun doing it? If not, then what are you living for? I suggest you go find some peace of mind pursuing another sport or hobby that you can enjoy no matter the circumstances.

That goes for future Hall of Famers, backup punters and everybody in between. Football is a simple game that many ruin by hinging their happiness on the outcome of each event along the way, instead of simply enjoying the life lessons that go along with the game whether they’re good or bad. If you try to keep that kind of mindset in every single facet of your life no matter what you’re hinging your happiness on … All of a sudden you’ll find yourself where you’ve always wanted to be without even trying.

Why? You’ll be confident in your abilities in every single moment because you’ve eliminated your fears, doubts and desires for “football immortality”.

The only thing you can take from football are the lessons learned along the way, and if you really want to take your game to the next level, the only way to succeed is to live in the moment and apply the knowledge you’ve taken from the game and adapt it to life … Instead of making football your entire life.

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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