Editorializing: Rapanaro's position battle just another untold post-Warroids story

Giancarlo Rapanaro might not be so free to roam.

The Waterloo Region Record's story on Wednesday about five players moving from Waterloo to Laurier mentioned that Rapanaro's "anticipated transition from linebacker to free safety encounters a hurdle with the arrival of Warriors mainstay Mitch Nicholson."

A second-team all-Canadian such as Rapanaro being kept from making a position switch that would help his chances of playing in the CFL seems like the meat of a story. How does it make you feel knowing a rival might to stop you from moving to safety, which would help your chances of making it in the CFL? (Rapanaro was listed last season at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, not exactly up to spec for a CFL linebacker.)

There are two ways to take such a story. The first is, "Yay! Players found a home, Laurier benefits, former archrivals to perform big Bollywood-style dance number on the 55-yard line." The other is, "Players from two rival schools try to make the best of a bad situation that is still very much open-ended."

It is completely understandable to stick with the less complicated, tight-and-bright Option A.

Any question about one of the Warriors-turned-Hawks -- Nicholson, fellow d-backs Reid Nicholson and Patrick McGarry, D-lineman Andrew Heeley and wideout Dustin Zender thus far, with inside linebacker Jordan Verdone as a possibility -- taking a starting spot goes to the spirit of competition. A new player coming in and trying to take your spot is a fact of life in team sports.

The left unsaid is it's not like a transfer coming instantly earns the trust of coaches and teammates. This is a special situation, but in most cases with new guys, they're there because it was not working out "over there," which makes them more suspect than prospect.

Another problem with that Option A is it betrays the traditional media's shallowness and inexactitude. Here comes the predictable segue into editorializing ...

Calling what happened at Waterloo a "scandal" without at least wondering how far its tentacles reach smacks of trying to have it both ways, and preferring vanilla to vitriol. We know which one sells better in the media, so perhaps it's in a journalist's best interest to get a little brassy.

The same goes for not bothering to put the War-roids and performance abuse into a broader social context.

On the first count, the questions John Bower raised in June about why the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports failed to test Laurier players immediately seems to have come to a dead end. Perhaps nothing untoward happened, honest mistake, but that hasn't been aired.

On the second, Rob Pettapiece's modest proposal reporters should go to a nutritional-supplement retailer with a location close to a campus and start reading labels, as a way of showing the grey area between illegally obtained steroids and legal over-the-counter products, has come to naught.

Has discourse fallen that far that everyone just throws up a fourth wall? It is possible to be more open about it. James S. Hirsch's Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, an authorized biography I just finished reading, notes "it would be naive to think Mays never took amphetamines" during his playing career. (Hirsch notes there isn't a"moral equivalence" between pep pills and steroids.)

Personally, hearing that doesn't diminish Willie Mays' legend one bit. Come to think of it, the only other two men in the Greatest Living Ballplayer debate are Mike Schmidt, who says he would have been tempted to use steroids, and Barry Bonds, who definitely took something.

Now, it is understandable for all the CIS stakeholders to have no-comment stance on the subject.

Risking collateral damage by saying anything that would stoke the embers of PED hysteria, especially among anti-football academics, would not be prudent.
(By the way, killer Tweet from Steve Simmons: "The president of the U of Waterloo is about to become governor general. Will his first act be to ban college football all across Canada?")

That does not mean the media has to play along. It can still try to convey what happened with Waterloo was likely not in isolation. It can also point out that that Waterloo's action was high-handed, hamfisted, and had little to do with stamping out performance abuse and zero to do with education. It can touch oin the reality UW's high-horse routine might do more harm than good to Canadian university football, at least in the short run.

Ultimately, best of luck to the coaches and players for soldiering on through a tough situation. The people who try to make a dollar in competitive Canadian football are nothing if not resilient. It is not a cheery story.
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  1. (Frequent commenter Big V sent this along.)

    They forgot to mention that their current free safety Scott McCahill will also be vying for the job. He did a good job last year.

    Let's also not forget that just because they are transfering doesn't mean they are good. After all they did play for a dissapointing Waterloo team that had no run defence.

    The only transfer of interest from that team is Verdone.

  2. and Verdone by according to some reports had ankle sugery recently and will not be able to play until at least mid-october at the earliest.

  3. Neate said the following in an earlier post:

    Waterloo claims to be taking a principled stand against "performance abuse" in sports. Well, what about performance abuse in academia?

    A year or two ago, I was in one of Waterloo's libraries, studying for a midterm in one of the silent study carrels, when an attractive young sales rep walked up to me, said, "You look tired, here's a [popular energy drink]," placed a can of that drink on the desk in front of me, and moved on to the next student where she did the same thing.

    So yes, it is somewhat hypocritical to sit and watch Waterloo take a "principled" stand against some type of performance-enhancing drugs, when they've allowed another type to be given away in the library.

  4. Having some cute young thing push free samples of Red Bull or some equivalent LEGAL product isn't quite the same as some shady dude selling roids out of the back of his car.
    Besides, I really wonder if one could really pull off an A grade doing a chemically assisted all nighter speed reading course material they haven't looked at all semester...some people I guess can, I know I couldn't.

  5. Fair point, but we're talking about banned substances, not necessarily illegal substances. The two lists don't always overlap. I mean, thousands of young children have consumed one of the CFL's banned substances, as instructed by their parents and doctors. That's hardly some shady dude selling roids out of his car.

  6. Remember, the U.S. DEA says most steroid sales are now online ... meeting someone behind the gym happens more in the movies.