Tag Archives: Montreal Alouettes

Ottawa’s Irreconcilable Differences

By Jason Menard

Just when you thought it was safe to be a CFL fan. Where’s Paul McCartney and Brigitte Bardot when you need them? After all, each time a Canadian feels it’s safe to poke their head out and be proud of our national league, someone comes along and Gliebermans the fan.

It’s truly cruel and unusual punishment – especially for those long-suffering folk in our nation’s capital and it must stop.

Whether it’s the Roughriders or the Renegades, Ottawa fans have now twice faced a divorce from their beloved team. Sure, the first marriage lasted a heck of a long time, until 1996, which made the hurt all the more painful. And then, just when the old fans were feeling comfortable about expressing their love for the new arrival, they get left at the altar 10 years later.

And the league thinks the fans are going to welcome the team back after one year off?

Take one year, take 10 years, take however long you want. If once bitten, twice shy is the old adage, what’s the formula when you’ve had two chunks taken out of you? Oh yeah, it starts fool me once…

The league has to be insane if they think that the fans are just going to walk back into Frank Clair Stadium and pick up where they left off. There’s too much mistrust to get personally involved.

Look at the example set by the Montreal Alouettes. Despite a team that was consistently able to beat the bushes and find superlative talent, Montrealers refused to support the team in any substantive way and ended up losing Nos Amours to Washington. However, it wasn’t for a lack of passion in baseball or a lack of enjoyment of the spectacle – opening day crowds can attest to that. It’s just that fans were tired of being told that their team was going to leave.

The situation denigrated into a constant cacophony of how terrible the stadium was, how the team couldn’t compete in the fiscal environment, and how the players were just going to end up leaving anyway. Montreal’s own Gleibermanesque Jeff Loria promised the moon – a downtown stadium on land whose lease he allowed to lapse – before delivering the knockout blow and putting Montreal baseball to sleep for good.

While sports is a business, there’s so much more to it than just that. To run a successful sports franchise you need not only savvy business and personnel people in place, you need a fan base that feels attached to the team, feels a sense of ownership and pride in the organization, and feels invested in the product on the field. It’s hard to get the fans to stand firm when you keep pulling the rug out from under their feet.

Look at how Montreal has rebounded since the return of the Alouettes. When the Concorde left, the thought was that football was gone from that town for good. But with the failed American expansion behind them and the absorption of the former Baltimore franchise, Montreal’s CFL brass made all the right moves. They embraced the history of the team by reverting to the Alouettes name, instead of choosing the failed Concordes moniker or an all-new title. They moved to the cozy confines of McGill’s football stadium to turn a night at the football game into an event. And they encouraged their players to go out into the community and be a part of life in the city.

The Renegades? They should have Horned Mr. Chen and obtained the rights to the Roughriders title. And the last thing they should have done is shelved the team for the year.

The league’s commitment to finding solid, long-term local ownership is admirable. However, the decision to suspend operations and disperse the players through the league (and the unemployment line) is short-sighted at best. Like Toronto and Hamilton in the recent past, the league should have ponied up the dough to maintain operations.

Who’s to say that after a year off, the fans are going to want to come back? What will they be coming back to? Nothing more than an expansion team with new, poorer-quality players, and an immediate future that looks bleak. Why are they going to invest their time, money, and – most importantly – passion in a situation that’s proven to be folly in the past?

Like in any marriage, it’s easier to work things out together than to come back after a separation. Unfortunately for the Ottawa fans, this marriage appears to be going down the road to divorce because of irreconcilable differences.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Jealousy Colours Our Perception of Athletes

By Jason Menard

At a time in our history when it’s often more and more difficult to call oneself a sports fan, there are stories like Robert Edwards’ to help you keep the faith. But instead of celebrating our triumphs, we prefer to shove them aside and focus on the negative. And the reason behind this? Jealousy.

For every Terrell Owens in this world there are a thousand more quality players out there who are fulfilling their contractual obligation. For every story of a player beating his wife, committing a crime, or getting busted with drugs, there are countless other stories of players that are good family men, dedicated to their community, and going the extra mile to help those in need.

Instead of focusing on the good in the game, we hungrily devour the most salacious news reports involving players, which then send the truly pompous among us to their respective pulpits to admonish the sins of excess that modern sport has bred. Yet while we’re so ready at hand for a ritual stoning, why do we not have an equal passion for lauding those who merit it?

Percentage-wise, the number of people who commit crimes while playing professional sports is no different than that of the society as a whole. However, due to their high-profile nature, athletes will find themselves in the newspapers much more than the local pharmacist or salesman who commits the same crime. Yet, while people are willing to chastise athletes as a group as lawless thugs, where are those same generic cries against lawyers, doctors, garbage men, or any other profession? The number of miscreants is the same for all groups – a small percentage – but those few bad apples seem to spoil the whole bunch a lot easier when the increased exposure is factored in.

Edwards offers a feel-good story. Injured in a freak accident in a National Football League Beach Bowl during the 1999 Pro Bowl in Hawaii, he has come back from suffering severe nerve damage that had the potential to cause him to lose his leg. After being told that he’d never play football again and would be forced to walk with a cane for the rest of his life, Edwards chose to persevere. Since that proclamation of a career death sentence, he enjoyed brief stints back in the NFL before coming to the Canadian Football League. Becoming the Montreal Alouettes’ starting tailback six games into the season, Edwards enjoyed a season that saw him rush for one yard shy of 1,200. And now he’s on the cusp of playing in a game that could see his team earn a trip to the Grey Cup.

Yet all we hear about is the continued exploits of Terrell Owens. An inspirational story like Edwards doesn’t get the time of day, but the petulant, puerile demands and antics of the Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver dominate sports talk radio, publications, Web sites, and newspapers.

But far be it for us to blame the media. Too often the press is the made scapegoat for delivering us exactly what we want. If bad news didn’t sell and we weren’t so hungry for negativity, then the press would reflect that in their reporting. Simply put we’ve created a culture where if it bleeds it leads, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

We want to admire our athletes from afar. We are awed by their displays of athleticism and ease of ability in performing feats the likes of which we can only dream. Yet, tempering that awe is a sense of jealousy. We are incensed by the sheer volume of money that these athletes pull in for playing a game. As we plug along, trying to make ends meet, we find it hard to relate to athletes who wear jewellery that costs more than our car.

So instead of congratulating them on their good fortune and accepting the fact that they’re better than us athletically, we need to regain our moral or intellectual superiority. We know we can’t compete on the field of play, but in the fabric of society we can assume our elevated mantle. Like politicians or, more appropriately, the entertainers that they are, athletes are subjected to inflated expectations of being above-average in all aspects of life.

We don’t ask the same from any other segment of our society. We don’t care what our doctors do once they’re out of their practice – all we care about is how they treat us when we’re on the operating table. Yet we expect our athletes to be the same paragons of society as they are of sport. And it’s an unfair expectation.

As a society, we need to treat our athletes just the same way we treat each other. We need to recognize our extraordinary gifts as just that – a gift. We must look at a hockey player’s prowess on the ice with the same reverence as an artist’s skill on the canvas. And, just as we don’t begrudge an artist’s ability to create neither should we begrudge our athletes’ ability to perform. Jealousy of another’s gifts is a deficiency in ourselves.

Celebrating the good in everyone would be a nice place to start – which is why we need to know more about Edwards and less about T.O. The world, sporting or otherwise, would be a better place.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved