After a season of Ford-related press scrutiny, the team suffered a 28–14 loss in its final game.
At Rogers Centre on Tuesday night, Rob Ford’s high school football team, the Don Bosco Eagles, concluded what has almost certainly been the most memorable season of sports in the school’s history with a 28–14 loss to Newmarket’s Huron Heights Warriors. Had the Eagles won, they would have been this year’s Metro Bowl champions, a title Ford has said he considers to be “the grand poobah.”
After the game, when the players (some so gutted by the loss that tears were streaming down their faces) were safely ensconced in their locker room, Ford emerged for a brief impromptu press conference. “The first person who brings up a question about politics ends the whole post-game,” one of Ford’s retinue warned reporters.
Ford, who has been criticized for prioritizing football over his official obligations, vowed to continue coaching the Eagles next year. Then he offered up his analysis of the game. “It was just mistakes. Just mistakes and penalties. We were disciplined, but a couple mistakes in a championship game against Huron Heights or a team of that talent, you know what I mean? You just, you’re not gonna be able to come back.”
The analogy practically writes itself. Like the Eagles, penalized repeatedly early in the game, Ford’s mayoralty is now on the brink of disaster because of a rule violation. Monday’s court-ordered end to Ford’s term as mayor didn’t come about because of any real corruption on Ford’s part. His crime was more like incompetence. (The judge’s term is “wilful blindness.”)
If Ford was feeling downtrodden about his loss at court, it wasn’t evident from the stands. In front of a crowd of hundreds seated near the edge of the Rogers Centre field, the mayor-for-now stood among his players on the sidelines, fresh from the day’s council meeting and still wearing his suit and tie. He never seemed to react as his team gave up 21 points in the first half, without scoring a single touchdown of its own. Huron Heights was dominant, recovering fumbles and, in one case, a kick-off.
The Newmarket school had brought along a troupe of probably 30 immaculately costumed cheerleaders, plus a marching drumline. Don Bosco had fewer than a dozen cheerleaders, plus a girl in a full-body eagle costume. Ford likes to position his coaching and football fundraising as a way of helping underprivileged kids, and while there is reason to be skeptical of how well that characterization applies to the Don Bosco team, the Eagles definitely looked underfunded by comparison. Proud parents and students still let up a floor-shaking roar whenever their boys did good.
In the stands, it was hard to find anyone who didn’t express support for Rob Ford. All throughout the football season, everyone connected with the Don Bosco team has shared some of Ford’s spotlight as the blurring of his two public roles—as chief magistrate and as part-time amateur football coach—has become increasingly central to the story of his mayoralty. In the reluctance of some Bosco fans to speak to the press, one sensed a kind of shared siege mentality. Some students had painted their bodies with the school’s colours, green and yellow.
Khadijha Morris and Quinette Iravor, both 18, were in the Don Bosco section. Morris is a Grade 12 student at the school, and Iravor graduated recently. Both agreed that Ford’s involvement at Don Bosco had been a net positive for their community.
“He is trying his best,” said Iravor. “There’s always going to be someone or some people trying to put him down.”
“I feel for him,” said Morris when asked about the mayor’s recent legal troubles. “That’s not fair, and it sucks.”
After the Eagles’ 14-point rally in the second half, the mood among Don Bosco supporters lightened somewhat. Ford himself seemed not altogether dejected by the loss. During his brief encounter with the press after the game, it was remarkable to hear him, for once, talking about something within his realm of expertise. This is a guy with enough family wealth at his disposal that he could almost certainly afford to take a non-stressful job that would allow him to coach to his heart’s content. He managed to get this team to the citywide finals, so motivating young athletes is something he’s obviously good at.
Instead, he’s vowing to fight his expulsion from the mayoralty, a job he’s demonstrably not good at, and that he’s apparently unable to enjoy.
And that’s the curious thing about Rob Ford. By all indications, he doesn’t want to be happy. He just wants to be mayor.