Twins Charlsie and Carly Agro are both reporters here at CBC, for CBC News Toronto and CBC Sports respectively. To have twins on the air is quite the feat in itself, and now they're both covering this Grey Cup weekend. What's so special about them covering the Grey Cup? They have a special connection to the Canadian Football League.
On Thursday night (Nov. 22) at the CFL Awards, the Agro twins presented the John L. Agro Special Teams Award, honouring the most outstanding special teams player of this CFL season. John Agro, any relation? Why, yes. John L. Agro is their grandfather, the man who helped found the CFL Players Association.
We got together with Charlsie to find out more about her grandfather and what it was like growing up with someone so important to the Canadian Football League:
CBC Live: What can you tell us about your grandfather and his connection with the CFL?
Charlsie Agro: My grandfather was John Agro, he was a lawyer in Hamilton. He actually got involved in the sporting scene years and years ago with a professional soccer team called the Hamilton Steelers, and that's how he started to get involved with sports. Before there was a CFL Players Association, players on the Tiger-Cats would go to him and ask him questions about their contracts and things like that. During the '50s and '60s there were no pensions for anybody, players who were injured could just be cut on the spot and they would have nothing. They had nobody they could lean on. In 1965 he invited one player from each of the nine teams at the time to Toronto. They held a meeting and then decided that they would send a letter to all 251 players asking if they wanted to form a players association. Over 80% of them said yes, and that's how the CFLPA was formed.
It just sort of continued on from there. He was the lead counsel, he worked with players from all across the country. He helped Cookie Gilchrist sign the first $100,000 contract for a CFL player, as an Argonaut, and it just grew and grew. He passed away in 1998, and after he died the CFL named the most outstanding Special Teams player award after him. The John L. Agro Special Teams Award. For the past few years, my sister and I have presented that award together. We got to do that this year with Pinball Clemons, which was a total riot. He is awesome.
CBC Live: How much did your grandfather talk about CFL when you were growing up?
CA: It's really funny actually, when we were kids we went to Ti-Cats games, but our football experience was just like everybody else's. Pile in the car, drive to Ivor Wynne, you pay somebody five bucks, you park in their drive and you go see the game. We didn't really know how involved he was... we would be babysat by some CFL greats and we had no idea! It wasn't unusual for us to go for a family dinner and Cookie Gilchrist is there, and Angelo Mosca is having dinner, and they're watching my sister and I while we're playing... you know, it was just... kind of how we grew up! We didn't realise when we were kids what was going on. They were just really big, tall, fun playmates.
CBC Live: Was it his influence that made you guys love the CFL so much?
CA: I think it was just like so many families, it gets passed on. You go with your grandfather and then you go with your parents. The Labour Day classic was always huge. My sister, one of her first jobs was actually with Tiger-Cats TV, so for sure it was an influence and just like so many Canadian families, when your parents love the game, you end up going. It's something I've been hearing from people all over the city: "I went with my dad and I can remember it was freezing cold, we went out in Saskatchewan..." I think it's just one of the most Canadian things you can do, to check out a CFL game and get dressed up and paint your face.
CBC Live: Any prediction for the game?
CA: Oh. I think... I've been saying this all along. The Argos have picked it up at the right time, and I cannot think of a better CFL story that for a home team to win the 100th anniversary in their home town. I gotta go with the Argos...
And the Agro sisters aren't the only CBC names to have a special connection to the CFL. Bob McKeown, one of CBC's investigative journalists with the fifth estate played for the Ottawa Rough Riders from 1971 - 1975. In 1973, his Rough Riders won the Grey Cup, and in 1974 he was named a CFL All Star at the position of centre. Here he is with CBC News' Diana Swain and his Grey Cup ring: