By Curtis Wolff, September 11 2014 —
Normally all eyes are on the ball during the opening kickoff of the Dinos football season. But when Dinos kicker Johnny Mark launched Kickoff 2014, at least some of the 5,534 fans watched a seemingly random member of the special teams squad.
Jarett Henry spent the first — and last — six seconds of his CIS football career sprinting down the field on the kickoff and tussling with University of Alberta Golden Bears defensive back Mitch Koch before retreating to the sidelines for the rest of the game.
Henry won’t hold a permanent position on the Dinos roster this year. As Students’ Union president, Henry was the inaugural participant in the Dinos 13th Man contest.
“[The team] was really receptive and supportive of the program, which is a really nice way for me to get started at practice,” Henry said, who practiced with the team all week. “We went through all the drills. I got to be a receiver for the first day. I only dropped one pass so that was good — didn’t embarrass myself too much.”
Unless you’re on one of the Dinos teams, Henry’s experience is about as much as any student will get involved in student athletics this year.
The fact that varsity teams in Canada don’t get nearly the same amount of attention as they get in the United States is no secret, and the Dinos are no exception. While Kickoff, Pack the Jack and the Crowchild Classic are yearly highlights, campus athletics are usually ignored.
It’s difficult to trace the sources of apathy towards university sports in Canada compared to the United States. The commuter campus nature of many Canadian universities is one explanation, but other than that, both sports and university culture in Canada and the United States are similar. I know there are many students at the University of Calgary who like sports, many that enjoy school spirit and probably a few who like both. So where do the Dinos fit into the university experience equation?
I didn’t go to Dinos games for the same reasons as everyone else. I worked, I had class, I lived off campus, I’d rather watch the Flames games on TV. I didn’t start attending Dinos games because I particularly cared about campus sports — I started writing for the Gauntlet and then going to games became my job. It didn’t take much time to realize that I and many other students had been missing out.
Contrary to popular belief, athlete quality and entertainment value are high at Dinos games. The underdog football team battled their way to the Vanier Cup last year, the men’s hockey team was ranked top in Canada for parts of the season, and both the men’s and women’s basketball teams played fast-paced and entertaining ball.
The most unique thing about the Dinos is that they’re yours. They play at your school, the athletes are your classmates and yes, they’re funded by your tuition fees. Having this connection to a sports team can elicit great moments of joy and pride — but more of the student body needs to be involved to feel the full effect.
The Dinos won’t become relevant overnight, but with last year’s rebrand and competitive season, they seem to be trending upwards. They need your support to keep the momentum. So I encourage any U of C student with an interest in sports or school spirit to do their part and check out at least one Dinos game this year. Hell, maybe even enter the 13th Man contest like Henry did.
“Just go for it. You get out what you put into it,” Henry said when asked for advice for future 13th Man participants. “When we went out onto the field I tried to make something happen. I didn’t exactly get a tackle but I think it’s worth just trying.”