Clowntime is over

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

For three-plus seasons, we had the Feterik Follies.

Now it's the Dirty Dozen.

And that's a good thing.

Through a trio of campaigns with diminishing returns -- six wins to five to four -- watching the Calgary Stampeders has been akin to watching a circus.

The problem is, it came without the smiles.

Sure, there have been plenty of laughs but they were at the expense of a club that was widely admired in the 1990s as the CFL's Cadillac franchise but had become a running joke under the stewardship of now-departed owner Michael Feterik.

That tomfoolery drove former Stampeder John Forzani to set the wheels in motion to buy the team with 11 others in a deal officially announced yesterday.

"I didn't dream I would own the Stampeders but team sports has always been a passion," said Forzani, who spent six seasons with the club in the early '70s before creating his sporting-goods empire.

"The dream for me was to get involved in the community with the team-sport element. To be honest, I didn't have a burning dream to buy the Calgary Stampeders. Others may have but that wasn't my dream. My frustration came from some of the miscues that were happening mostly off the field.

"As an owner, you can't guarantee you'll be 18-and-0 or whatever it is but you can guarantee the off-field antics don't go to the ridiculous and sublime. That was our goal."

It's hard to imagine we'll see anything like what's transpired at McMahon ever again.

The gong show that brought in such characters as Fred Fateri and Kevin Feterik and saw the club go through three head coaches, three GMs and three presidents in three years. The team was as big of a car wreck as the losing records that came with them.

It was bad for the organization.

Bad for the city's morale.

It was especially painful for the new owners: Forzani and fellow alumni Dave Sapunjis and Bob Viccars as well as former CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell, Ted Hellard, Matt Brister, Robert Peters and five others who have chosen to remain anonymous.

"You're asking people to pay good money, you have a first-class facility like McMahon Stadium -- the ushers wear ties -- and then you come up with a three-ring circus," Forzani said. "That spurred me on more than a long-term dream to relive my youth."

Imagine what it was like for Mitchell, who worked as CFL commissioner from 1984 to 1989 when several teams were on life support.

"You worry about what's going to happen to a great franchise in the community," said Mitchell.

"With the support (the Stamps) had over the years, you wondered where it was going to end up.

"It was humorous people kept saying the price will go down if (the team) plays worse but that wasn't my formula. It's a lot easier to move into a team that's been successful than a team that's been struggling."

Hellard, whose gregarious personality would make him one owner worth getting to know, said the plan is to avoid the limelight.

"This is a football team and the focus should be about football," he said before quipping: "I hope I never see you guys in front of me again."


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