Tag Archives: football

Is Rooting for Vick Out of Tune?

By Jason Menard

On Nov. 15, 2010, Michael Vick was on top of the world, with thousands of people cheering his name as he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a resounding 59-28 victory on Monday Night Football. Just over three years ago, countless more were hoping to see him locked up for so long that the only football he’d ever play would be for the Mean Machine.

So was anyone uncomfortable watching that spectacle? As fans, how much does a player’s personal life impact your enjoyment of the game? And should it? Continue reading

Another Day, Another Drug

By Jason Menard

The latest news that Alberto Contador has allegedly tested positive for something doesn’t just add another nail in cycling’s coffin – at this point, the sports’ credibility is buried under so many lies, speculation, innuendo, and – of course – positive tests, that it’s hard for anyone to care any more. Continue reading

NFL Must Muzzle Vick Now

By Jason Menard

Why wait? The NFL’s got an image problem right now and his name is Michael Vick. In the statements coming out of yesterday’s grand jury indictment are even half true, then the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback’s bite is far worse than his bark – and it may be time for commissioner Roger Goodell to neuter him once and for all.

Oh, sure, there’s that whole innocent until proven guilty thing, but the fact of the matter is that at the very least, Vick owned and paid for the continued maintenance of a property where unspeakable acts against innocent animals took place.

Due process? Or how about Vick getting his due?

He, along with three other thugs, have been indicted on three counts: (1) travel in interstate commerce and use the mail or any facility in interstate commerce to promote, manage, etc. a business enterprise involving gambling; (2) knowingly sponsor an animal moved in interstate commerce in an animal fighting venture; (3) knowingly transport a dog for the purposes of having the dog participate in an animal fighting venture.

And while the charge does fall under U.S. racketeering laws, it also provides the NFL with an easy out to suspend Vick immediately. After all, the league’s own gambling policy prohibits associating with gamblers or with gambling activities in a manner tending to bring discredit to the NFL.

Check please.

I don’t know whether to pity or vilify Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank. He seems like a good guy, concerned with the image of this club, and dedicated to putting forth the best product for his fans. So why does he get stuck with a punk like Vick?

Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that Vick was caught in an airport with a false-bottom water bottle that allegedly smelled of some wacky tobaccey! Of course, a few days later Vick came out with the oh-so-plausible excuse that the false bottom was to hide his bling, not his bong. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Of course, it also wasn’t all that long ago that Vick was the face of the league’s future. From covers of the Madden video games to NFL commercials featuring the young quarterback, the NFL hitched its wagon to Vick and rode – if only they knew how he treaded the dogs on his sled.

This isn’t a time for partisanship. If you’re a Falcons’ fan you should be outraged. If you’re not, then do a search for the allegations against Vick and company. If abused dog carcasses and the term “rape stand” don’t make your blood boil, then you’ve got your priorities out of whack.

And I’m not some bleeding-heart dog lover either. In fact, my favourite breed is the ever-so-popular “Other people’s dog” breed. Yet this isn’t a question of animal rights, it’s about humanity.

Unfortunately, proponents of this disgusting display called dog fighting demean the word sport. There is no sport involved in this – only cruelty, selfishness, and sub-human violence.

If the NFL’s serious about cleaning up its image, it needs to act fast. And it needs to do so from the head office and not allow Blank to do the right thing first and suspend Vick. They need to send a clear message – preferably with Goodell and Blank standing side by side – saying that Vick will be suspended immediately in light of the grand jury indictment.

And that if he’s proven guilty of any of these charges, the only football he’ll be playing is as quarterback of the Mean Machine.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Storm Clouds on CFL Horizon

By Jason Menard

Look off in the horizon Canadian Football League fans. That faint patch of grey out there could be storm clouds brewing. And while the threat of inclement weather is often worse than what develops, a proposed new professional football league south of the border could eventually rain on the CFL’s parade.

The most recent edition of Play, the New York Times’ sports magazine, featured an interview with Bill Hambrecht who is spearheading a campaign to start a rival football league – the United Football League – designed to combat the National Football League’s monopoly on the sport in the U.S.

Unfortunately, if this battle ever comes to fruition, it is CFL fans who are going to be caught in the crossfire.

There have been other contenders in the past who have shown themselves to be nothing more than pretenders in the long run: the USFL, the World League of American Football, the much-maligned wrestling-inspired XFL, and even the niche Arena League. All came in full of pomp, circumstance, and bluster ready to bring the NFL to its knees with their new business models, style of game, or atmosphere. And they all, in varying degrees, fell by the wayside.

But this one seems different. Maybe it’s because there are already some big names attached: Google’s Tim Armstrong is on board at the league level and Maverick (and maverick) owner Mark Cuban has pledged support for the league and may take the league’s Las Vegas franchise. Or maybe it’s because the business model is appealing to the fans – the club is evenly distributed between its owner, the league, and fans who can purchase one-third of the franchise through buying shares in the team.

Or maybe because the talent is out there – and those would much rather be showcasing their wares in cities like San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles than Regina, Calgary, and Hamilton. And if there’s a viable business plan out there that would facilitate the jump to the brighter lights and bigger cities south of the border, it would be hard for any CFL player – American or Canadian – to resist the call.

In fact, the article expressly stated that while the new league, with its salary cap and financing, wouldn’t be able to afford the elite players and prospects, they would be able to make financially compelling offers to its targeted demographic – the players on the lower rung of the NFL roster, practice squad players, Arena leaguers, and CFLers.

The CFL has been on an upswing for a few years now. Talented players stock each and every roster. Fans in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver are embracing the league in much the same way as those in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Regina always have. The depth and quality of the league’s Canadian content continues to improve and it has been complemented well by talented American-born players. But what’s fuelled the CFL’s engine is the steady stream of players who are just not good enough to make the NFL. The fact that the CFL is a de facto minor league that allows players entering their option years to fly the coop for the smaller fields and bigger paycheques south of the 49 th has also been appealing for American college football grads looking to audition for a future role.

But let’s face it. If you’re a Texan, playing at the University of Texas, where would you rather go when you college career is finished? San Antonio or Saskatchewan? The NFL doesn’t have a presence in 21 of the top 50 markets in the U.S. Those are attractive destinations for anyone looking to play professional football – and those are exactly the cities in which the UFL is looking to set up shop.

The CFL is a great league and it’s a great game, but it’s nothing without the talented players that populate its roster. If a start-up league is able to offer a more financially lucrative option for players – one in which they’re playing on American network TV instead of the CBC – the CFL’s rosters would be decimated.

Unfortunately, there’s little the CFL can do but wait and hope that this league falls by the wayside, just like the others before it. In fact, the best thing for the CFL would be if the UFL decided to take on the NFL directly. The NFL juggernaut has shown remarkable efficacy in mercilessly squashing its direct competition, and would respond in kind to a direct assault.

But if the UFL decides to play it smart and complement the NFL as opposed to compete, then those storm clouds over the CFL’s horizon will continue to grow and get darker. And when the rain finally comes, something is bound to get washed away.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

CFL Entry Draft? Woe Canada

By Jason Menard

If the National Football League entry draft is a two-day information orgy, then the Canadian Football League’s version is more akin to a teenager’s first time in the back of a car – unmemorable and over before you know it. But, in both cases, it’s all about passion – a fact that the CFL’s brass and TV executives should take into strong consideration.

Sure, it’s not fair to compare leagues. It’s not even a matter of comparing apples and oranges. They’re both potatoes – just one league is known as small potatoes and another is the province of Prince Edward Island . Unfortunately, when you decide to run your draft in the same week as your south-of-the-border brethren, then you’re inviting those comparisons. And, in this case, the CFL gets mashed.

It’s too bad, really, because there are a significant number of people out there – at least those north of the 49 th – that consider the CFL game superior to that played in the United States . Sure, the quality and size of athletes may differ, but 12-man football, played on a wider field has more than its share of converts.

And ask CBC how much they love the Grey Cup! They’re consistently amongst the top-rated broadcasts on Canadian television. The interest, albeit intermittently, is there. So why does the league feel the need to scrimp when it comes to promoting its future.

NFL fans pore over Web page after Web page, searching out the most obscure facts about a player their team may pick in the seventh round. Major sports news outlets dedicate copious resources and staff to not just cover the event, but build it up into the orgiastic frenzy it becomes. Overhyped? Probably. But it’s an event that sells hope, promise, and potential for a brighter future for all of the league’s clubs.

The CFL’s draft? Well, fans will have to head to the Web to catch it, because there’s no TV. Not that there’s anything to see. While the NFL brings its decision-makers to a central location and ensures that most of the potential top prospects come along for the ride, CFL franchises participate in a conference call to select their future crop of Canadian stars.

Efficient? Yes. Compelling viewing? Only for those who like to watch paint dry.

There is interest in the CFL in this country. A former football wasteland like Montreal now is one of the league’s model franchises and the game is a hot ticket in a city that, arguably, has significantly more entertainment options at its disposal than any other Canadian metropolis. Toronto , under the amiable Pinball Clemons, has begun to make a comeback – no doubt buoyed by the club’s recent successes. And TSN’s Friday Night Football broadcasts are a staple of the network that offers a visual representation of the potential that exists league-wide.

So why not take a chance and highlight some of our young Canadian talent on a day where the future of the league is being decided? In the short-term, you may lose money – but this is an investment in the future of the league. The seeds of interest sewn today will grow into a passion for anyone who loves the game of football.

One of the problems is the CFL draft is about Canadians. These players form the backbone of the league, due to its import cap, but are often chosen from less-sexy positions like offensive and defensive line and linebackers. In large part, the marquee talent – especially quarterbacks and running backs – is culled from U.S.-bred players who weren’t able to crack an NFL franchise.

Yet, these very players who are being drafted are the same players that many future fans go to school with, or live in the same community as. There’s an innate interest for fans of a university’s football program or members of a community in watching one of their own succeed. And when that affinity is set up right from the outset, then a reason to watch the games themselves becomes vested in these people, who very quickly will become fans.

And there’s a chance to sell the storied history of our great game. Players play, but people sell, and getting to know the faces behind the mask and the innovators behind the game will enable people to grow more attached to the game.

We’re seeing what the seeds of interest have sewn in Quebec . Their minor league football program – in large part prompted and supported by interest in the Montreal Alouettes – is one of the finest in the country and has produced a university powerhouse in Laval . That same passion could be stoked across this great land of ours.

Expansion is a wonderful thought, and there are many reasons why there should be a team in Halifax , Quebec City, or even London or Kitchener . But the foundation for that future growth must be cemented in passion. If there’s a hunger throughout the country for the game, then delivering the product gets that much easier.

It’s all about stoking passion — so how about letting fans be voyeurs on the future?

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved