It was Friday afternoon, with Blue Bomber linebacker Adam Bighill on the other end of the line, ready to tackle any subject.
As you know, No. 4 covers a lot of ground, and for these 15 minutes he was all over the field, chasing down our country’s Prime Minister, pouncing on the ball the CFL dropped and attacking racial injustice like it was a running back at the goal line.
But first, the subject most dear to his heart these days: his youngest child, nine-month-old Beau.
A day earlier, Bighill and his wife Kristina had brought Beau home from the hospital, where he’d undergone his second surgery to repair a cleft palate. One side of the roof of Beau’s mouth wasn’t completely formed, leaving a gap to the nasal cavity.
Bighill as a kid had the same type of surgeries for a more severe cleft.
“It’s emotional,” he said. “You never want to have your kids be in pain and you never want to have them be scared. You never want to have them go through operations, and waking up from anesthesia, and confused, and not with mom and dad. It’s just not fun.
“It’s the toughest part for a parent.”
After watching Beau sleep through his first night back home and seeing him take in fluids, Bighill felt better, confident the little guy’s recovery is off to a good start.
“He’s doing really well. We’re hopeful we’re on the right track.”
To have this going on during a pandemic that’s taken away Bighill’s primary career, well, that makes quarterbacking a CFL defence look like a walk in the park, a stroll he’d love to be taking right about now.
Earlier on Friday, the eight-year CFLer tweeted out a photo of the man calling the shots in his adopted country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau appeared next to the Grey Cup, with the caption: “Huddle up, Justin. Help the CFL.”
For eight years, Bighill, 31, has experienced what three-down football does for the country, and for the communities he lives in.
“There’s no ulterior motives other than wanting our communities to be better,” Bighill said. “There’s a unique access the CFL has to communities… not that other pro athletes don’t do things that we do. But it’s more frequent, for sure, from a CFL standpoint.
“Even though we’re not donating millions of dollars like Drew Brees or J.J. Watt can do, what you can still accomplish with your presence and your words and your time with kids and people in the community is often just as valuable in impacting people’s lives.”
It’s the personal touch.
A year-round resident of Winnipeg, Bighill is as hands-on as they come.
He agreed to Friday’s interview between commitments, on a moment’s notice.
If only the CFL commissioner were as eager a communicator.
The squabbling between Randy Ambrosie and the players is not a good look for an organization asking for government help.
Bighill hasn’t been one of those slamming the commish on social media. But that doesn’t mean he’s shy about taking him on.
“We are partners in this together,” he said. “And that’s the first thing the government said, is where are the players when it comes to this matter? Why aren’t they here? Hopefully that gives the league a little bit of a cue on how we should all be operating together now and in the future.”
Bighill is good friends with Solomon Elimimian, the former teammate who heads up the players union.
But he says he has no inside info because it seems there isn’t any to be had. No formal word, even, on reopening the collective bargaining agreement, even though Ambrosie has lobbed that grenade into the public domain.
“There’s a fundamental understanding on both sides we need to have a meeting of minds,” Bighill said. “But you can’t meet the minds if you don’t communicate.”
There are signs things are improving, but valuable time has been lost.
“We should have been in this position two months ago.”
Another position we should all have been in decades ago, never mind two months ago, is the fight for racial equality that’s currently being waged on streets, in coffee shops and bars, in virtual offices and in newspaper pages around the world.
Bighill is part of a group called The Players Coalition, more than 1,000 athletes vowing to do their part.
He’s hopeful his and the younger generations are more equipped than mine was to force change, because they’re more connected with different cultures all the time, through social media.
“Nobody wants to be treated the way we’ve seen African-Americans being treated,” he said. “We’re ready to do something about it, standing up and being anti-racist and saying it’s action time. We need to make sure this isn’t happening anymore. We’re not going to let it slide under the rug anymore.
“I’m glad this is the time it’s starting.”
It’s the silver lining of the pandemic.
Speaking of precious metal, what better way to finish our chat than asking about the Bombers’ Grey Cup rings?
Bighill was one of the players on the ring committee, so he’s seen the final design.
He’s careful not to say anything that would draw the ire of team president Wade Miller, but he provided a hint: the rings are unlike others from the last several years.
Teammates, he says, will love them. A perfect 10.
“We were always on top of Wade in making sure we get the most and we get the best,” he said. “We kept saying one four-letter word: ‘Size. Size. Size.’
“Size always matters.”
So does word count.
And I’m out of space.
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