Published on July 18, 2008 2:14 PM by dbo.
When B.C. Lions President Bob Ackles passed away suddenly of a heart attack July 6, the tributes flowed regarding his career in football and about Bob, the person. The magnitude of Bob’s influence on Canadian football, the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia became more evident everyday as tributes continued to pour in all last week, culminating with a half-hour tribute during last week’s Friday Night Football pre-game show. Moments of silence prior to all CFL week 3 games and wealth of people paying their respects at his funeral last Saturday paid honour to a man who left examples of hard work, honesty and integrity as his legacy for working within a community. Tonight, July 18 — Bob Ackles Day, the B.C. Lions will play their first home game since Bob’s death, and provide the fans of the Lions an opportunity to pay their respects to Bob with a public memorial ceremony after the game. The stadium is expected to be full and the blackout has been lifted, allowing citizens across the province and Canada to bid Bob farewell watching the game he loved.
I never knew Bob Ackles, or even met him. I first became aware of him when he left the B.C. Lions in 1986 to go to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. He was the last of the CFL “brain drain” that saw a number of CFL players, coaches and executives head to the NFL in the early 1980’s. As he moved around in the NFL, it would be noted in the Canadian media until he returned to Vancouver in 2002 to assume the role of President and CEO of the club. Initially, I saw this as a public relations move and I did not expect Bob to achieve much for the Lions, since much had changed in the CFL since he had left.
How wrong I was. Bob returned the Lions to a great standing within the community, so that today their season ticket base sits around 24,000, exceeding what the Vancouver Canucks draw for a sell-out, and tripling the season ticket base of the team from 2002 when Bob re-joined the Lions.
Bob turned his attention from the success of the Lions to the success of the CFL in the past year, with the publication of his book, The Water Boy. Bob expressed his belief that the CFL was a valuable cultural institution in Canada, and raised concerns over how the NFL could affect that institution and cause us to lose it before we know it. This raised the CFL issue to a national spotlight, and caused many to think about their position on Canadian cultural icons, and what the diminishing of them would mean to this country. Bob was starting to bring the same community connection that he established to revitalize the Lions in Vancouver to the nation in regards to the CFL. Though he will not get to follow through on the seeds he planted, they will flourish if we continue to nourish them.
In the end, Bob’s legacy goes far beyond the work he did in professional football, amateur football and as a community leader. He was a family man, hard working, honest and not above anyone. These are the qualities that we all should adopt. If we are only half as successful as Bob, we will have made a difference. Though Bob is gone, it is everyone’s duty to continue his work. Apathy will not build a community.