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.