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Burris leaves a good first impression

It’s hard to hate the Stamps pivot after meeting him

The 13th Man
Jonathan Hamelin
Sports Editor

Henry Burris, you’re all right.

This past weekend, for the first time ever, I had the chance to meet and interview the Calgary Stampeders pivot. While it may be considered sacrilegious to say this in Saskatchewan – where hatred for Burris is seemingly universal – Burris made a very good first impression on me.

The first thing I noticed once I spotted Henry Burris in the Hotel Saskatchewan (where the interviews of Stamps players were being held) was that he had a big smile on his face. This smile remained visible throughout the entire process. This was fitting, of course, since Burris has the nickname Smilin' Hank.

But, Burris had arguably no reason to smile. The Stampeders, I believe, had arrived into Regina not that long before. I wouldn’t have blamed Burris if he was tired after the flight. Furthermore, I wasn't exactly expecting him to be thrilled to do several interviews, some of which pertained to the controversial pictures of himself wearing a black bra. It wasn’t like Burris was a kid waiting to be welcomed into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Yet Burris seemed so happy that it felt like there was no place he’d rather be. He smiled as a group of reporters filmed him and asked him questions and then remained smiling as he did some one-on-one interviews. I was the last person there to interview Burris, yet he was still as pleasant as when he started.

What impressed me even more was that Burris also interacted with fans in between interviews. A couple of people lined up to see Burris and he took the time for all of them, signing autographs and posing for pictures. With every fan, Burris seemed very friendly and did not appear in a hurry to send them away.

In a society full of smug and greedy athletes, how could I not be impressed by an athlete who has no problem doing interviews or talking to fans?

Too often we hear about athletes arrested for drinking and driving, or punished for taking steroids. They behave in such a way that it is hard to have any kind of respect for them. Tiger Woods, a star professional golfer and past role model for the sport, shocked everyone when it was discovered he cheated multiple times on his wife. In recent news, Brett Farve, one of the greatest football players to play the game, allegedly sent inappropriate text messages and pictures of his genitalia to a female employee of the New York Jets.

After hearing all of these stories, it is refreshing to meet an athlete like Burris. Besides taking time for the media and the fans, he has also played a huge role in charities. Too many athletes don’t give back to the people.

As an athlete, it is also hard not to respect Burris. I mean, this is a man who has thrown for over 35,000 yards and added 31 touchdowns in his career, adding nearly 4,000 rushing yards and 51 touchdowns. Also, Burris has won a Grey Cup. Clearly, he is a stellar athlete.

Sure, I was and am still a bit angry that Burris left the Riders for Calgary in 2005. I thought Burris left for the money and could’ve done some great things in Regina. But hey, it’s in the past.

The Riders haven’t suffered for the move. Both Calgary and Saskatchewan have posted nearly identical records and one Grey Cup each. Would the Riders be doing better with Burris? Not likely. Besides, the team was able to discover Darian Durant because of this. Durant is the future of the franchise, whereas Burris could be on the last stages of his career.

Also, Burris leaving to Calgary has created a ferocious rivalry. Some of the most exciting games to watch at Mosaic Stadium are when Calgary rolls into town. It is fun chanting “Heeeeeeeeeeenry.” The games usually go right down to the wire as well.

When an athlete looks back at their career, you’d hope they have fond memories. After meeting Burris, it is clear he is enjoying every moment of his career. He wasn’t named Smilin’ Hank for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, I hope Burris and the Stampeders never win another game against the Green and White. I will shout his name loudly and boo Calgary frequently whenever they roll into town. However, I can’t and won’t hate Burris as a person. He is simply too nice to hate.

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