Cut him some slack

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

Paul McCallum misses a crucial 18-yard field goal and somehow emerges a Saskatchewan hero because the abuse he and his family endured went too far.

No one likes seeing a man kicked when he's down.

Enter the curious case of Michael Feterik.

Rescuing the Calgary Stampeders from the brink of bankruptcy in 2001, the California box-maker has seen his club go from Grey Cup winner to the CFL's basement. Because of that, the only thing beaten more than the Stamps has been Feterik, who stands today as the most maligned figure in Canadian sports, outside of Bob Goodenow.

Starting with the unceremonious ousting of local icon Wally Buono, Feterik's rocky reign in Calgary has included several other controversial moves involving people like son Kevin, Fred Fateri and Jim Barker.

To his credit, Feterik has followed almost every major error in judgment with admissions of failure and costly moves aimed at pushing forward.

Although the club's 4-14 finish suggests none of the moves have yet to work, the vitriol and venom spewing from several media types -- including this one at times -- has become all too predictable. For some, it has become a witch hunt.

"I think it has," said Feterik in a rare, state-of-the-union-type interview.

"Have I made a bunch of mistakes? Yes and I've admitted them all but they're all behind me.

"Give me a fresh starting point and I'll take this team forward. The (media) keeps beating me to death and beating the organization to death ... it's almost like they don't want anybody to buy season tickets, they want to run this team down to nothing and then Michael will leave town."

Thing is, there's a good chance Michael isn't leaving.

And while he continues talks with a local group looking to buy the team, Feterik's passion for the club is such that he'll likely be here for quite some time -- especially since season-ticket sales and sponsorship are ahead of last year's pace.

"You'd like to go out a winner -- maybe it's the principle behind it at this point," said Feterik, when asked if three years of attacks ever motivated him to sell.

"As far as people beating me up -- what can I do? Everybody's down on us because we've had three bad years. Well, okay but here's what we're doing to improve the team.

"I'm not trying to sabotage the team or the community -- I really think the team is in perfect shape right now. The only way to shut anybody up is by winning a bunch of games. We're finally going to prove next year this team is going to be on top."

Far from being media savvy and armed with a tendency to fly off the handle when criticized, the man forever charged with being too meddlesome says he left the team in Matt Dunigan's hands this season, other than to facilitate the Khari Jones deal.

"I thought I knew the game when I came up here but I didn't know anything," said Feterik, echoing the thoughts an entire city vocalized when he first arrived.

"Now I'm just understanding the strategies and I'm excited about it."

Insisting his club is three players short of being a serious Cup contender, Feterik could easily be ripped for making such bold statements. However, perhaps it's finally time to give a sucker an even break.

"A good football fan knows this team is going forward," he said.

"I wouldn't trade this team for any other because I think it's going to be competing for the Grey Cup next year. Everything is looking good at this point. Actually, the only thing negative is that a lot of people want me out. It doesn't matter who comes in I guess, as long as I'm out everybody's going to be happy."

Everyone except him, that is.

"I like it in Calgary and I want to be welcomed," he said. "I'm not ashamed to walk around the city. Believe it or not, some people actually like me up there!"

Maybe -- just maybe -- it's time those who don't should give him another chance.

Sure, the Stamps have been a circus under his guidance. But isn't it possible he's been beaten up enough?


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