In For A Dozen: AUS cancels Loney Bowl in craven decision, awards Acadia league title, but Saint Mary's takes it to court

Due to exceptional circumstances, this week we'll publish one-by-one.
  1. Acadia wins Loney Bowl by default; or, drop-kick that last shred of credibility through the goalposts of life. People putting the game last has led to the last game of the season being cancelled, make no mistake.

    Atlantic University Sport, in it infinite wisdom, has decided the best remedy for a bad situation is to cancel the Loney Bowl and declare the Acadia Axemen the conference champion. Taken on face, it makes no sense. The only bit of adult perspective one can scrounge is that the regional association made a power play against U Sports, and Saint Mary's, but particularly U Sports for letting this drag out for so long. Drag your feet on an eligibility issue and cast a shadow over our big event? Bring lawyers in? We'll show you, even if it means cutting off our nose to spite our face.
    It manages to be bold and craven all at the same time. To a certain way of thinking it seems audacious to shut down a championship game, but on the other hand, it also betrays a deathly fear that a little controversy might actually draw more eyeballs to an athletic contest.

    That has prompted Saint Mary's to bring out the hole card it's had up its sleeve the entire time: "SMU signed a binding, written agreement with U SPORTS on Oct. 27, which 'cleared all players to play.' " (Laura Brown, CTV.)

    No one wins with this decision by AUS. All four teams are hurt in some way. Fans are also screwed over by this; they just wanted to watch a good football game. Seriously. This should have had a pin stuck in it until the off-season, when it could be fully investigated and then a decision could be made on whether there was professional misconduct.

    As unfair it was to Acadia to go all week without certainty of what opponent it was getting on Saturday, the decision essentially says:

    a) Saint Mary's is guilty even though there has been no formal ruling that wide receiver Archelaus Jack is ineligible, and Saint Mary's claims it is has a ruling to the contrary (and, again, would not have continued to let Jack play if it didn't think it was OK);
    b) St. Francis Xavier is vindicated but gets no reparations, in the form of a berth in the championship game.

    I hate to throw around 10-dollar words; right now I'm eschewing it because I cannot pick just one. This is far from over when it never should have been allowed to reach this point.


    The AUS had the nerve to say "time does not permit for a fair resolution to be reached prior to the playing of this game." (Emphasis mine.) They used the word "fair" while making a decision that denied two teams, one of whom, St. Francis Xavier, has followed the rules. Please explain how that makes sense.

    As for the rule itself ... how is it fair, as Jim Mullin pointed out, that a player drafted after his fourth season can have the benefit of playing CFL preseason games and practising with a team until Aug. 15 and then play his fifth year while according to one bylaws interpretation Jack was expected to lay out for a full year and let his football skills atrophy before playing university ball? Sounds rather classist.

    Moreover, no matter what, a league that wants to be credible has to play its championship game. Sounds weird, but corporate sponsors are very insistent that when they pay to have their name associated with an event, that the event takes place.

    Meantime, presuming the decision stands, Acadia will end up with three bye weeks before the Uteck Bowl against OUA's champion. And that's the least absurd part of the story.

    You can't make this up. This happened on the 20-year anniversary of the Montreal Screwjob. True story.
  2. If there is any good to come out of this? The aptest comparison for this argle-bargle is probably Yellow Sunday in the NHL about 30 years ago. For those among us not old enough to remember, New Jersey Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld confronted referee Don Koharski in the hallway after a Stanley Cup playoff game. The game was on ESPN — yeah, ESPN covered hockey once — and the visuals, along with Schoenfeld shouting, "You fell you fat pig, have another doughnut," was in continuous loop.

    The game was on Friday night. The NHL handed down a suspension to Schoenfeld without allowing the Devils to present their side of the story — which seems loosely analogous to barring Saint Mary's from a championship game before their player was even ruled ineligible now that I think of it.

    The Devils obtained a court-order injunction against the suspension, so when Schoenfeld appeared to coach, the game officials staged "what amounted to a walkout strike." (Sports Illustrated, May 16, 1988.) But they had to play, and they eventually did, with a crew of amateur officials that included linesmen wearing yellow practice jerseys and borrowed pants, hence the term Yellow Sunday.

    In all of this, NHL president John Ziegler was AWOL — the head of the league didn't work weekends, even during conference finals. There might not be a direct line from that saga to the modernization of the NHL that, for good or ill, took place when Gary Bettman was hired as its first commissioner in 1993. It was a moment of clarity that showed the NHL had fallen behind the times with meeting its commitments to its players and to its fans.

    It never happened again.

    It will happen again in U Sports, probably before the end of the fall season at this rate, because it still depends on self-reporting and whistle-blowing.

    With properly funded enforcement that could root out a problem in August or early September, it never gets to this point. The national office owns some of this too for being ill-equipped to address this promptly. And Graham Brown admitted as much on Friday when he said they get "220 questions of eligibility interpretations in a given year." Did anyone ever to think that, instead of hiring another marketing person, maybe they should hire people whose skill-set involves answering those questions? At some point, being swamped with demands isn't sympathetic when you refuse to advocate that you have the proper tools for the job.
  3. Where is this season's Grey Cup again? Oh right. The first reaction upon reading CEO Graham Brown's comment "It just makes sense for us right now, from a business standpoint, to try to realign the Vanier Cup back with the Grey Cup and hold both games on the same weekend," was a self-admonishment to not spike the football. Nobody likes an I-told-you-so'er, but the Grey Cup is in Ottawa, and Ottawa interests have kicked the tires on hosting a Vanier Cup, and someone said after the 2016 debacle Ottawa should get the '17 game. It would have worked, kind of/sort of, apart from the whole having to play on Friday night.
    Instead, it's cross-the-fingers-time that Western or Laurier wins the Yates Cup and Uteck Bowl, so its alumni and students can fill seats at Tim Hortons Field.

    The hard reality is that the Vanier will never be paired with the Grey Cup as long as the pro game and university game are on opposite battle lines in the Canadian Telco Wars. That needs to be resolved before anyone can figure out how to stage the game.

    One observation: less is more. In 2012, the last time the Vanier piggybacked on the Grey Cup, both the attendance figure (37,000 at Skydome for Laval and McMaster) and the media audience somewhat smacked of artificial growth.  .

    U Sports' need for validation and frankly, for funding, is why it wants that crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 at the Vanier Cup. But it's also fighting currents beyond its control; generally, that mass audience is harder and harder to attract for anything that isn't considered big-time entertainment.

    Total blue-sky thinking, but would it be feasible to use a university facility within the Grey Cup city when one is available? Bring in temporary stands to create a pop-up PEPS and try to pack in 12,000 people or so on Saturday afternoon.
  4. And the whims whisper, Marshall. Three deep before even talking about anything occurring between the lines seems about typical for sports in 2017.

    If the Western Mustangs and Greg Marshall cannot win a national championship after a season where they have an average margin of victory of 37 points and have outgained opponents by a factor of two (and then some), then what has this been all about? Just go get it done already.

    The weather forecast for Yates Cup Saturday is "not as cold with sun through high clouds," which doesn't seem like strikingly anti-passing game weather. Western certainly grades out higher than Laurier in being constructed for bad-weather November football, but the Golden Hawks have a fairly decent defence and a puncher's chance if QB Michael Knevel returns after missing three weeks. A field with some snow on it could actually work in the offences' favour, since receivers know their routes and defenders move with them.

    I would say there's a much greater likelihood of Western winning handily than Laurier pulling an upset. But they said that last year.

    Foreshadowing much? At the women's soccer nationals, Western knocked out No. 1 seed Laval on Thursday.
  5. And then there were two other championship games outside Ontario. At least one road team wins every year on the antepenultimate Saturday of the season. UBC has won a Hardy Cup on Calgary's field (in 2015); ditto Montréal at Laval (in 2014).

    Calgary has betrayed more signs of regression than Laval has during the past few weeks. Based on that, there's probably more potential for UBC to pull a stunner than Montréal. Prove me wrong!

    By the way, a feel-good story that's definitely needed involves retired U of Calgary employee Jack Neumann ponying up to buy football jerseys. One also has to love the insistence that black be minimized in the design: "As long as it was scarlet and gold, that’s the Dinos colours, I didn’t want any black in them or third jerseys. I’m not into that kind of stuff." Can Neumann be in charge of designing Canada's international hockey jerseys, please?
  6. Ptaszek back. The rule of thumb is leave for the right opportunity, which Stefan Ptaszek never got with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the CFL's long-running gong show. It bears asking whether the greater good, in the hypothetical, is best served by Ptaszek returning to McMaster. McMaster might not be the world-beater of 2011-12, but it seems ensconced in the upper third of OUA. Ptaszek could have more impact keeping Guelph at the big kids' table or helping someone else be the next Waterloo that achieves respectability.
  7. Edmonton Energy? Edmonton Evergreens? The higher road beckons with the Edmonton CFL team and its dated moniker. Apologists can play the prevent defence of what-abouts strange this only comes up in the playoffsthere are bigger issues and not all Indigenous people are offended all they wish. Those are just arguments in favour of reinforcing Otherness. To torture the football analogy, though, prevent defences don't work for a reason.
    And as a case in point about reinforcing Otherness, eeeeeeeeeep:

    We only get so much energy and, not that anyone asked me, that could be better spent on a name change that, while mostly symbolic, is more in the spirit of inclusion and that whole Diversity Is Strength campaign the CFL launched.

    Playing defence against a greater woke-ness is just wasted energy.  
  8. December duel. Under the heading of "yes, please," currently No. 2-ranked Brock and eternally No. 1 Carleton are moving their Dec. 2 matchup to the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. Who doesn't have a travelling Jones after learning of that matchup? Brock showed during its overtime win at Ryerson on Wednesday that it has greater depth than previously, given that they had Cassidy Ryan lead the scoring in the decisive stages after three of the five starters fouled out. The jump-out stat with Ryerson, both Wednesday and in a loss against Western, was some crooked three-point shooting (combined 11-of-53) and free-throw shooting (a dozen clanks in each). Is that where not having Manny Diressa, who didn't play Wednesday, hurts the quality of the looks the Rams get? Yet still, Ryerson nearly beat Brock.

    Seriously, I'm asking; my straight job doesn't let me get out to as many games as I'd like.

    Of course, the team that should be everyone's darling is Lethbridge. How about a steal and a buzzer three from DeJon Burdeaux to finish off Mount Royal on Thursday. By the way, Pronghorns coach Mike Hansen, with 280 characters you could have worked in that Burdeaux took only 12 shots while getting his 28 points.
  9. Roy Halladay, 1977-2017. Nine is the number of completion and fulfillment. Harry Leroy Halladay, requiescat in pace, embodied those concepts so very thoroughly.

    My best stab at an original thought about the deceased Toronto Blue Jays pitcher is that he imparted that baseball in its purest form is in the individual craftsmanship and, for the fan, in learning to identify and appreciate it. What differentiates baseball is it always has some nuance or nook or cranny that will find its way to you and can often be completely ancillary to whether your favourite team has legitimate World Series chances.

    The Toronto sports fan needed someone to deliver that lesson in the aughts, since let's face it, to be a Blue Jays fan from 1985-93 was to be spoiled rotten. I began cheering for the Jays as soon as I could, but it was not until I was 18 years old that they had a going-nowhere-fast season. In that sense, Halladay perfectly was suited for a fanbase that had to re-learn how to love a game for what it is.

    To me at least, the Jays might not have been worth an emotional investment 100 per cent of the time, but you had to be completely engrossed when Roy was pitching. The bond felt real. One Toronto columnist, apparently not realizing why so many people were mourning Halladay's death, wrote, "The sad truth of Halladay’s Jays career, of course, is that not a single one of those starts truly mattered."

    False. Every one mattered. 
  10. Separating art and artist. It is a terrible time to be an abusive man, unless you're protected by a congressional majority. A reckoning for people who made life miserable for multiple humans, well, who would not get behind that?

    It is discomfiting, though, that there is an automatic response that the work of the latest disgraced performer — Louis C.K., whoever — should be erased. That's not a call to binge-watch all of C.K.'s comedy specials. But it's another form of enabling — enabling people to forgive themselves without thinking of why they did not take action against men whom they knew to be treating other people badly.

    Fading people from memory can reduce the urgency to learn from it.

    Getting back to the point, scrubbing entertainers from existence is unhealthy. I've gone along with that, but it was selective and based as much on personal taste as disgust. Woody Allen? We get it, you have neuroses. Kevin Spacey got overexposed in the 1990s and American Beauty was a bad film, a deal-breaker. Jian Ghomeshi was a fine interviewer but always carried on like he had been asked to solve the world's problems. And so on.

    That erasure, can removes the possibility of examining why we were taken in, seduced. On Slate, Willa Paskin wrote of C.K.'s HBO comedy series, "the only bad option is not to think about it. The revelations, as damning as they are, don't make the show worthless, though they do make it a very different kind of document."

    Why does the abuser get the benefit of the doubt, always, while the willingness to hear from abusers goes up and down?
  11. Lest we forget. Don't read just one article about a Canadian war hero, but do read the piece that Joe O'Connor crafted about Passchendaele veteran Cecil Kinross:
    Heroes, the lucky ones, come home, where their life stories — unlike their war story — continue. Kinross took out that German machine gun in a profound act of bravery, but at a profound personal cost. Passchendaele changed him. It made him the hero he was, but less of who he had been, or might have hoped to be. (National Post, Nov. 9)

    At the end of the day, that's what's left after all the commemorations, the poppies, the "thanks Grandpa" posts. Sensing that is why I usually chose to be alone in quiet reflection on Nov. 11. That's classic avoidance, no doubt, but it also feels like the message has shifted within my lifetime.

    In the '80s, when more Second World War veterans were around to impart the message there was a much strong sense of "never again" when it came to war, an idea that such a conflict must be avoided at all costs. I do not see that as much at a grass-roots level or at a global level anymore, since everyone plays Call of Duty and global capital loves funding a war.
  12. The final word, the best word, just a tremendous word for 2017. VoilĂ ! Apanthropinization.

    That takes in everything. Donald Trump sides with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community who risk their lives getting sensitive information, on Veterans Day no less, and some Americans still support him? Let it go. Religiously minded voters in Alabama are insistent on voting for a child-molesting Republican instead of his Democrat opponent who prosecuted people who, wait for it, bombed a church during the Civil Rights era? Que sera, que sera.
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