The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles, Chapter 3: Toronto Argonauts, monks in exile

It is October, and Tim Tebow has been playing for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts for two months. In Part 3, Tebow, Garrison Hearst, and the Argos continue their drive through the Canadian wilderness, and find things that were meant never to be found.

DEAR READER,

This is Chapter 3 of the account of Tim Tebow, who joined the CFL's Toronto Argonauts in August of 2013.

IN CHAPTER ONE, Tebow suited up at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, joining head coach June Jones and teammates Garrison Hearst, Dante Hall, Freddie Mitchell, Bam Morris, Carl Pickens, and Jay Riemersma. He quickly found that the rules of the CFL were drastically different from those of the NFL. Tebow ran for a touchdown against the Calgary Stampeders on the Argos' opening drive, and found that no other player had scored a touchdown in the CFL since 1986. The end zone walls were pulled apart, and Tebow learned that he was to continue the offensive drive through the streets of Toronto and into the heart of Canada.

IN CHAPTER TWO, Tebow's Argonauts navigated their way through downtown Toronto. Thanks to some inventive tactics, including a 141-yard pass from the top of a skyscraper, he extended the drive through the suburbs and into the rural territories of Southern Ontario.

This is PART THREE of the Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles.

June 10th, 2013.

The Belichick house was built without aesthetic considerations. Bill liked it that way. Everything was made of grey particle board. You know the composite stuff with the semi-matte finish? It's the kind of stuff you'd use to build kitchen cabinets in an office break room or something. Well, Bill had them everywhere. All the doors, walls, floors, ceilings. Every intersection of wall and floor, or wall and ceiling, was lined with fluorescent tube lighting. Any furniture that was around was built into the floor; it was made of particle board, too, and the back rests shot a stiff 90 degrees upward.

"When you get up there, June's gonna have the big bills up there -- cows and all that. This is just some walking-around money, all right?" He set a couple of cages of gerbils on the counter. "To give you an idea of the exchange rate, expect to pay one or two of these little guys for a cup of coffee at the Timmy Horton's. You ever been to a Timmy Horton's?"

"No."

"It's like if Hardees bought out Starbucks. Next thing." Bill sat a big black case on the counter and unclasped its hinges. "This is a tranq gun, for the wildlife and whatnot. This ain't a big-boy pistol, okay? You gotta make your own ammo. You dump a vial into this syringe, then you shoot it into the dart, and then you load the dart. This is pretty fast-acting shit, but you still better keep your distance. It might take a bear about thirty, sixty seconds to fall down."

"I could just bring a pistol," I said. "I'm an okay shot."

"The Hell you want to kill an animal for?" Bill started to well up. "They're so damn ... cute!"

October 7th, 2013.

After a 300-yard gain, you stop. No matter how far you can run, no matter how much open field's in front of you, you stop. That was not a CFL rule, but a team rule, and one we instituted after an incident on September 9th.

I blame myself for it. It was just about dusk, and I really should have negotiated a nightfall truce with the Stampeders, but I figured I'd sneak in one last bit of shenanigans. I had Carl Pickens line up at scrimmage about 100 yards to the left of me. It was getting dark, and the defense was as tired as we were, and I guess they just didn't pick him up. He sprinted in, and once he outran the coverage, I hit him right in the hands from about 50 yards out.

Our guys would usually stop after a few hundred yards out of pure exhaustion, but Pickens had been sidelined with some awful shin splints he'd picked up while we were advancing through the Toronto streets. He was running with a full battery. And man, he just bolted. All night, we couldn't find him. The Stampeders said they'd help us find him if we agreed upon a gain of 500 yards, maximum, so we did. We finally found Carl a mile out, up in a tree, about 20 feet above a black bear who was trying to get at him. Roman Phifer, one of the Stampeders' lineman, hit it a couple times with a tranq rifle.

"C'mon, nobody tell the shouties," Pickens pled, but of course someone did, and we all knew how it was with shouties. They embellish. It's part of their craft. A week later, questions started coming back to us through the pipes. They thought Phifer had fought the bear with a pocket knife, killed it, skinned it, and worn its hide like a cape. Back in Toronto they were building a statue of it. We didn't want to ruin their fun.

So yes, it's October 7th, and we're about ...

Ontariomap_medium

... here. We'd played for a little over a hundred miles, and had managed to lose possession of the ball only twice: once out near the Kawartha Lakes, when Garrison Hearst fumbled, and once when I threw a pick right into the arms of Reggie Tongue.

My arm strength had began to adapt to throwing that three-pound football, but Coach June told me to remain conservative with the long throws. That was fine by me, because we got to come up with all kinds of tricks instead. It's about 11 in the morning, all right? We're snapping along on this county road that looks like it was paved in the 1950s and driven over maybe a dozen times since.

There's just nobody out there, so we played in the middle of the road. The alternative would have been to advance to our goal as the bird flies and just drive through the woods, but the forests out there are so damn dense that it would take half a day to move 100 yards. They're good for the occasional trick, though. I called for the ball, took the snap, and ran sideways into the woods.

By this point I was tracking distance by counting my steps, and telling time with my pulse. As most folks did in those days, we originally relied on cellular towers to sync the clocks in our phones. (The roaming fees in Canada were astronomical; as I recall, the team had to pay Rogers two dozen horses, a few raccoons, and a cage full of gerbils for just a few weeks of service.) Once our offensive drive took us about 50 miles outside of the city, we lost service, and Coach June started handing out digital watches.

Thing is, these watches were going sour on us. Every 25 minutes or so, they'd just jump. It'd be 3:30, and then the next second it'd be 3:26, or 3:32. "I don't get it," Hearst told me. "If these clocks were connected to a power grid, sure, deteriorating frequencies could mess with it. Even then, though, they wouldn't jump all over the place like this. I don't know." After a week, he handed out a series of index cards. The Stampeders offered us 500 free yards if he punched some up for them, so he did.

Indexcard_medium

I got so good at it that I could sort of count my working heart rate and footsteps in tandem with each other, and know just about exactly how far and fast I'd moved. I jogged 50 steps into the woods and along the line of scrimmage, and then I turned right. Once I walked what I figured to be about 300 yards, I stopped, but I didn't turn back in to the road. Not just yet. The sun was pushing these big fat beams of sun through the forest canopy. It was like someone ripped the motor out of a disco ball. God, it was pretty. And it was quiet for just a moment.

And then I heard the leaf-stomping and bramble-kicking sort of wandering I'd expect to hear from a wounded animal. Like a baby deer they shot by mistake, maybe. It was easy to spot her. She was kind of stumbling around, shading her eyes. She looked like she was about seven or eight years old.

"Ma'am?"

She squinted her eyes at me. "What?"

"Little girl, are you lost?"

"The fuck kind of question is that?"

"Can you see all right? It looks like something's wrong."

"Nah," she said. "No, I can see. It's just so goddamn bright out here! Fuck!"

June 10th, 2013.

Bill Belichick poured his coffee right into his cereal. "It cooks it when it's hot," he told me.

"I don't think you need to cook it."

He glared at me, a spoonful of Captain Crunch and coffee mostly up to his mouth, mouth open wide, and just kind of froze and stared at me like that for a minute. Then he dropped it back into the bowl. "You're bothering me about fucking cereal. I'm about to send you to football Heaven, and you're bothering me about cereal."

"Heaven?"

"Yeah. You know what Heaven is? It's anything you haven't seen already. And right now I'm telling you that you have never seen anything like the CFL, and right now you don't know what I'm talking about." He wiped absolutely nothing from his mouth. "What do you think I'm talking about?"

"I don't know."

"Guess. Tell me what you think the CFL is like. Tell me what you think Canada is like."

"It's probably cold, I guess."

He nodded and smirked. "America's silly hat. Look at a map. It's America's big puffy silly-ass hat. It's our big ol' coonskin cap, and we wear it while we're stomping off into the woods and throwing rocks at the bluebirds." He stood up and raised a finger at me and said, "I'm saving you. Giving you to the Argos. I am saving you from ... I'm saving you!"

"All right?"

"I'm going to bed. You leave tomorrow." He turned his back and shut the door behind him. It was the closet door, and it was noon.

October 7th, 2013.

The little girl's name was Clara, and she was nine, not eight. The back of her T-shirt read:

THERE IS NO SECOND PLACE

SECOND PLACE WAS INVENTED TO MAKE THE LOSER FEEL BETTER

I UNDERSTAND HOW CONFUSING THAT SOUNDS

"I saw y'all on the radar," she said. "Thought I'd check and see what was going on. Thought you were maybe deer at first, but you were too slow to be deer. Plus, deer don't move in no fuckin' herds."

"What radar? You have a radar out here?" Garrison Hearst was talking to her, but looking at me. "Where do you live?"

"Uh ... the dome?"

The dome was about a half-mile away. As she took us closer, a giant blue bubble came into view. It was like the top of the Georgia Dome or something, only it was at least five times as big, maybe ten. We were all standing there, both teams, just staring. Hearst negotiated an extended play stoppage with the Stampeders. "You want us to punch up a contract?"

Keenan McCardell kept craning his neck, as though he could see around the thing. "Nahhh ... no, just a handshake is fine. We'll play when we play."

Clara hit the buzzer on an intercom mounted on the side of the dome. "Hey. I found some people."

A man with a slow Tennessee drawl answered. "Clara? That you?"

"Yeah, I found some people."

"Who?"

"SOME PEOPLE."

"Uh, congratulations I guess? Fuck you want from me?"

Clara was growing exasperated. "I want you to stop being an asshole and send the elevator and quit bein' a dickhead."

"What for?"

"FOR FUN, FUCKHOLE! JUST FOR FUN." Clara slammed the receiver against the cradle. A few moments later, elevator doors opened and a man in a too-large T-shirt stepped out. On the front, it said:

GO HARD

OR GO (BACK TO YOUR) HOME

He smiled. "I'm Dennis. Y'all wanna come downstairs, have some Squeez-Its?"

I was too confused to speak. The sunlight glared off the dome's steel and right into my face. The reflection just made it so damn hot -- it was around 60 degrees out by the road, but it had to be at least 80 here. I couldn't stare at it very easily, but I wanted to. It was the biggest man-made thing I'd ever seen.

Finally, Freddie broke the silence. "Where the fuck did y'all get Squeez-Its?"

Dennis' eyes bugged. "You're Freddie Mitchell."

"Yeah."

"2000 Sun Bowl MVP Freddie Mitchell!"

"Yeah ..."

"Oh my God. Well, Hell. Please, please, y'all come with me."

* * *

Domenew_medium

I don't know where to start, reader. I'm just going to make a list. These are the things you must know about the Ontario Enclave.

1. The floor of the Ontario Enclave, constructed between 1995 and 1998, is set about 500 feet underground. Construction was commissioned by the NCAA at a cost of approximately $6.5 billion.

2. This facility is one of 14 maintained by the NCAA. Most of them, such as the Nunavut and Nevada Enclaves, are situated in uninhabited territories. The East Point Enclave, in contrast, sits completely underground, and can only be accessed by entering Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport, boarding the Plane Train at 3:41 a.m., taking it to the F gate, and waiting for 26 minutes. The train car is then detached, lowered via mechanical elevator, and re-tracked through a tunnel that leads to the enclave.

3. Knowledge of these facilities is isolated from the public and all but the highest levels of the American and Canadian governments. In doing so, their operators avoid overpopulation crises and shield the NCAA from scrutiny over its enormous reserves of wealth.

4. The Ontario Enclave houses a permanent population of approximately 11,000 that is governed democratically. While its residents are free to leave, living conditions inside the enclave are such that leaving is rarely incentivized.

5. The light inside is artificial, and quite dim. (Our eyes took several days to adjust.) Citizens ensure sufficient intakes of vitamin D with diets high in salmon and egg yolk. Foods that cannot be produced by the facility itself are covertly shipped in via underground vacuum tubes that stretch to Toronto and Ottawa.

6. Given their backing from influential boosters and academics, the facility reaps the benefits of considerable political clout. Do you miss Squeez-Its? Do you wonder why, at some point in 2001, they all disappeared from store shelves? They are all in the enclaves.

7. The enclave citizens live in relative extravagance, and their expenditures are modest in only one category: clothing. Their society has collectively rejected clothing as a signifier of status or individuality, and so they all wear shirts acquired in bulk at a massive discount. In the late 1990s, the apparel company No Fear outsourced the design and production of their shirts to Iceland. Unfortunately, their designers held a poor grasp not only on the English language, but of the nuances of trash-talking, and the shirts were deemed unfit for sale to the American public.

8. The shirts seemed to contribute heavily to a cultural spirit of in-your-face independence, particularly among the community's youths. I suppose it's tough not to develop an attitude in an environment full of slogans like:

IF YOU CAN'T ROLL WITH THE BIG DAWGS

THEN I HATE YOU AND WISH YOU WERE DEAD

This place was strange, and strangely familiar. It was like pressing Silly Putty against our culture and stretching it out. There were a lot of Southern accents, too, which I really appreciated. I think a lot of folks from the South will tell you the same thing: when they're away from it a while, and then they come back to a place where people say "y'all" and "fixin' to" and such, it's just about the best thing they've ever heard.

* * *

We took the elevator down to the lobby, and Dennis gave us a round of Squeez-Its. "I saw you play a lot," he told me. "Hell, once people know you're here, I might as well step down and make you the mayor. I just, I gotta be honest with you. We were halfway through digging this dome, and one of the contractors says, 'you know this lies right on this line, right?' And I'm like, 'what line?' And he says, 'well, the bound-for-street line. The Argonauts play in the SkyDome in a kinda northeast direction. If they ever score a touchdown and make it outside, and go on a straight line, they're gonna run awful close to us.'

"And man, I put it all together before y'all even told me. A CFL team finally made it to open land. We're in the middle of Hell-nowhere out here. Y'all were just about the only chance in Hell of anyone finding us, besides the folks at NASA, and we're straight with them and all. I just ... you gotta understand, I grew up in the South, y'know? SEC football, like you. I just don't get the CFL game. Playing through forests and cities and all that ... and y'all ain't got but three downs, right?"

"Right." Even after weeks of CFL play, I still sometimes found myself forgetting that we weren't playing four-down ball. It was just as well, really, since we converted on almost every down anyway.

Dennis turned around and pointed to Reggie Tongue, the nearest guy around in a Stampeders jersey. "So what the Hell? You can't stop 'em?"

Reggie laughed and pointed at me. "Can't stop this guy. Only way to make it fair is if we make that ball 30 pounds instead of three."

"Ha! Well, Hell ... hey, let me show y'all around a bit. Things are ... kinda different here. Lots to tell you about."

We went outside -- well, their outside, anyway. There's something else I must explain to you, reader. The money may have come from athletics, but the Enclave was conceptualized and designed by some real eccentric academic types. Lots of artsy types, sociology and philosophy professors. They saw this Enclave as a brand-new blank slate to build from the bottom up, as pretty as they wanted. And they did.

I guess I expected a bunch of clean, minimalist buildings, and what I saw was a beautiful skyline of colorful houses and shops and the like. It looked like ... well, I've never been to Italy, but it looked like Italy. And then I looked up.

"What the Hell is that?"

Dennis looked up and squinted. "Ha ... yes. This is 2008. Yessir. This is what we call a cloudy day."

Domeinsidetest_medium

* * *

The 2008 Sun Bowl was maybe the worst football game I've ever seen. Good luck finding a recording of it, because they probably destroyed them all. Neither Pitt nor Oregon State could do anything offensively. Pitt's Bill Stull threw the ball 24 times for 52 yards. Both teams punted 10 times. The Beavers won 3-0, and even that field goal was a miracle, because it was kicked off a botched hold. Anyone who saw it will tell you it was miserable.

Those eccentrics I was telling you about? They figured that peoples' body clocks would need something that looked like a Sun, but of course they were too eccentric to simply project a fake Sun up there. "What if the Sun was fun to watch?" they asked. This is a community of NCAA fans, of football fans. So they got cute and said, "let's just project the Sun Bowl up there."

They have an archive of 60 televised Sun Bowls. They play a new one daily, and in chronological order. The days with black-and-white Sun Bowls are known as Winter; the color-TV Sun Bowls are Summer. As a sort of farewell to Summer, a lot of folks climb on their rooftops, have a picnic, and watch the 2011 Sun Bowl (Utah 30, Georgia Tech 27 in an overtime thriller). Shortly after that, it's right back to 1953, with Pacific stomping Southern Miss in grainy monochrome. Seasonal affective disorder kind of hits you like a brick here.

* * *

I spent the first day walking around town. Of all the crazy things I could've been fascinated with, I was most interested in the shirts people were wearing. I saw this sign in the window of a clothing store.

Tshirts_medium

And this lends me an opportunity to talk about the currency circulated by the people in the Enclave. One of those shirts cost two facts.

Suppose that, by trade, you're a solar panel technician. On the first and 15th of every month, you don't get a paycheck. You report to payroll and receive a sum of education. You spend four hours in a class, and an instructor will give a lecture on the Carthaginian Empire, or perhaps a calculus lesson on how to find the first and second derivative.

It's time to pay your electric bill. You go down to the office, and remembering a finance lesson you picked up a while back, you explain the concept of "opportunity cost" to someone at the desk.

On the way home, you stop by the corner store and pick up a candy bar. On your way out, you hold it up and tell the cashier, "If a four-legged table is wobbly, you can fix it by rotating it until all four legs rest evenly on the ground." He nods, and you're on your way.

Books, unless stored in a bank, are illegal. This sounds Orwellian, but it isn't meant to be. There's a spirit of liberty here. The issue is that if books were allowed, education would be held while also being given away, and duplication of information would result in inflation. In order for the economy to remain upright, currency must remain finite.

Education is currency. That is how the NCAA operates.

October 26th, 2013.

It was our 17th day in the Ontario Enclave. The Argos and Stampeders had convened and unanimously agreed not to resume play until the first of November. We were exhausted. We had pulled muscles and sprained ankles and animal bites, and we reasoned that the land that lay ahead of us -- the rest of Southern Ontario, and then Quebec -- would not offer a refuge anything like what we had under the dome.

The town was happy to have us and our enormous wealth of imported facts. For the first time since our NFL careers ended, we were rich men. It was tough not to get too comfortable. Freddie, for one, wanted to stick around for another few weeks, until the 2000 Sun Bowl hung high in the sky. "Aw, man. Y'all, we gotta be here for that. I was the MVP even though we lost. C'mon."

He really wanted his moment in the Sun. Damn it, I'm sorry.

That morning, I sat outside a cafe with Dennis and Hearst. Hearst, as was typical of him, was poring through binders and making notes while Dennis and I talked.

He took a sip of his coffee and gestured up to the Sun Bowl. "They made this. Guys like you made this place, Tim. That's what happens when you have a workforce you don't have to pay."

I shrugged. "I was paid in education." (Hearst chuckled without looking up. "Bull fuckin' shit, paid.") "And I was given a platform. Like an opportunity to make millions of dollars."

Dennis turned over a palm. "And that's fine! You know, it's incentivized, is all that matters. I'm just glad we don't have to incentivize 'em with, you know, money. And I know that sounds kind of rotten, y'all. It's just ... people reap from the labor of other people. That's just what happens. That's what Man does, unless he wants to go back to living in a hut. And you know what, the folks out there climbin' over the backs of other people? They're buying motorboats and sports cars and all this junk. What we've made here is--"

I interrupted. "I mean, it's majestic. Everything's beautiful. Everyone's friendly. Y'all seem happy."

"We are. And we're not bothering anybody. Everything's already bought." Dennis squinted up toward the Sun Bowl again. "Least we can do is give tribute to the unpaid."

Hearst smacked his notepad on the table. "They're out there right now. Hundreds and hundreds of 'em, playing until their muscles are burger meat. And a lot of folks are making a lot of fuckin' money off 'em. And it ain't them."

"Heh." And now, Dennis was taking on the tone of a youth pastor trying to explain dinosaur saddles. "Garrison, now think of the alternative, though. If we started paying players, it'd be awful hard for some schools to afford teams. It's just unsustainable."

Garrison cackled. "And yeah, how about that shit, huh? Who would've thought? How 'bout that shit? Goddamn plantation ..."

"Oh come on now. Come on now. This isn't slavery. They can leave whenever they want-- "

"Yes. Yes, they can. Maybe they can continue their trade by opening a wheel-route office downtown? Or? Or! Setting up a check-down clinic in small town somewhere." Garrison shook his head. "Yep. And you know, these football players, they all come from privileged upbringings and have lots of other options, right?"

"You think office interns or unpaid apprentices should be paid?"

"I don't know. They making a half-million bucks a head for rich old fucks like you too?"

Dennis straightened his No Fear shirt

YOU'RE IN A HOUSE OF PAIN

THAT WAS BUILT BY HOUSE BUILDERS

and stood up, and before he left he huffed at me, "well. I think it's probably for the best that y'all are leaving soon."

Hearst put a hand up to his mouth and grinned. "Man, I'm sorry. You just knew I couldn't hear that bullshit without saying something."

"It's fine. I guess I'm just too nice to argue."

"Yeah, you are." He slid over a yellow notepad and spun it around. "So. The business going on with our watches? I talked to a couple of the engineers here, they've observed it, too. For all their wired communications, they need a signal-to-noise ratio of about 30, right? Well it's been dipping. Sometimes it's as low as 10, and it's just unusable."

"Any ideas?"

"They've been picking up tremors. Have you noticed any? Anything like a small earthquake?"

"No."

"They're really short. You could mistake them for, I don't know, someone next door slamming the door. They're slight, but they're there. And they're not earthquakes. They're way too short, and plus ..."

He pulled out a ribbon of paper.

Seismograph_medium

"It's regular. Look at that. Every 46 minutes or so. 3.7, 3.7, 2.6. This dovetails pretty damn well with the interference data I've been recording from our watches. This is man-made."

"Where's it coming from?"

"Quebec. We think. We're thinking a couple different things." Garrison leaned back in his chair and pressed his pointer against his opposite palm, as if he were counting, but he just kept tapping the same finger. "For one, we think they might be fracking. Tons of natural resources up there. That doesn't explain the interference, though. So maybe it's some kind of military project, scientific operation, something like that. Whatever it is, we keep our drive going, we'll be going towards it."

"Well, we're gonna keep the drive going," I said.

* * *

Football players were monks. All the money and showboating and such made that hard to see for a lot of folks, but we gave so much of our lives to conditioning and practice, and fearlessly exposed ourselves to such injury, that I can't think of a better way to put it.

And we, the Argos, the Stampeders, were monks in exile. Most weren't fit for the NFL anymore because they were too old. I just didn't fit at all. I was like an Allen wrench that was just a bit too small: I could turn the screw, sometimes, just a bit, but the more I tried, the more I wore down, the more I slipped, and the worse it was for wrench and screw alike.

It fit here. I fit here, on a gridiron of cities and prairies and forests and little granite roads and underground wonders. I could return and write a book that I wouldn't really write. I could go from town to town and give embarrassing little motivational speeches in my dumb-ass Luanne Platter accent. That life didn't fill me with dread until I found this one.

It was what I was for. It was what we all were for. To do anything else would be to set down our tools and declare to God and all His stars, "I am done. You built me to live too long."

And that is why we did not turn around.

November 10th, 2013.

As our drive took us closer to the Ottawa, the river that divides Ontario and Quebec, we started to feel the shocks. Garrison and Freddie had both felt plenty of earthquakes, having played ball in California for several years, and both said this was unlike any they'd ever been through. "Most quakes, even the big ones, they last a full minute," Freddie said. "And then they've got these baby quakes that sort of rumble a bit, maybe hours after the first one. These ones are just, POP. Like it's a nail gun or something. Like one second and it stops."

"And on top of that," Garrison told us, "you usually feel quakes from hundreds of miles around. At the dome we could barely feel anything, and now we're 20 miles out, and it's making my ankles hurt."

The quakes started to get bad. It helped that we knew to brace for them every 46 minutes, but as we got closer, they started to shake our skeletons. We stuck to the roads, which was a good thing, because I'd look up at the trees during a shake and see these huge limbs snap off their trunks. The animals hated it, too. Our drive started to slow down, because snakes and ducks and deer were moving all across the road. And we didn't really know how slow, because our watches were blinking 88:88 by this point.

Not that we didn't have some fun. First down was what Freddie liked to call the "fuckaround down." We had so little trouble converting that we treated first-and-tens like our own little playground. We realized that if you timed it exactly right, and jumped right at the moment of a shock, it would shoot you into the air a little bit more -- kind of like getting double-bounced on a trampoline. Jay Riemersma, my tight end, got really good at it, so he and I tried to time it so that I could throw it way above his head and he could still catch it.

Riemersma_medium

Bam Morris, our center, took that photo with his phone. He was a big guy, and at age 41, he had to take a lot of breathers, so he ended up taking the majority of our photos from the sidelines. Thing is, he always put his photos through this app that let him put thought bubbles and stuff on the photos, and he never saved the originals. We could have put together a pretty amazing photo essay we would have ended up with if he hadn't put those stupid-ass things all over them. He just couldn't help himself. That was Bam.

It wasn't fun for long. We moved slower and slower, and we finally declared a stoppage in play about 15 miles from the Quebec border. One of the Stampeders' backs, Tim Biakabutuka, broke a tooth when he lost track of time and was caught standing flat-footed during a shock.

We gave Carl Pickens one of our trucks, loaded the bed with as many gerbil cages as we could, and sent him to Ottawa to pick up some stuff that would cushion the blows -- Garrison suggested inflatable kiddie pools. "Just stop every 40 minutes or so," he said. "Remember to count your pulse. If you lose count of the minutes, just pull over and wait it out. You can't be driving 70 miles an hour when one of those damn things hits."

Pickens came back the next day with some bicycle pumps and a few dozen of those nylon inflatable couches he found at a Wal-Mart. I thought had fallen out of vogue a decade ago. Every 40 minutes, we'd declare a stoppage, find a couch, and wait it out. "Once I drove about 50 miles out, I couldn't feel 'em anymore," he said. "I asked some folks in Ottawa if they'd felt any shakes. They didn't know what I was talking about."

November 14th, 2013.

The couches were working perfectly, but the constant stoppages kept us at a slow pace -- about a mile a day. Three miles from the border, the tree line disappeared. They'd all fallen down. Garrison guessed that those trees could withstand one or two of those shocks, but not hundreds.

We were within two hundred yards of the river, about 35 minutes until the next shock. I figured I could make a quick 200-yard gain, stop at the bridge -- if it hadn't fallen down, too -- and wait for the guys. I took the snap and shoveled it to Dante Hall. It had to be a short pass, since my arm was really the only one on the team that was well-conditioned enough to throw a ball more than 20 yards. He hit me, I cut left, and I ran up the hill.

I got to the top and saw the bridge. It was still there, perfectly intact. And then I looked left, and saw a wrecking ball smash into one of its support beams, again and again.

I skipped my way down the hill and just stared. At the opposite shore of a river, there was a series of black structures that looked kind of like silos. There were dozens of them, one every 25 yards or so, that stretched as far West along the river as I could see. The guy in the crane's cab spotted me, shouted something I didn't understand, and went back to knocking away at that bridge.

A few feet away from me, I noticed a big plaque that had been set into the ground. It read:

frères et soeurs, Québec était ici. Nous vous aimions tant.

BROTHERS AND SISTERS, QUEBEC WAS HERE. WE LOVED YOU SO.

I saw the guys walk over the crest of the hill. I called to them.

"Any y'all know any German?"

Newquebec_medium

Part One of the Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles can be read here. Part Two can be read here.

And for further viewing, here is Jon Bois speaking with Matt Ufford about the Tebow saga:

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