Green with envy

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Roughriders fans, an emotional lot, are seeing red today. One's probably dumping manure on the front lawn of Henry Burris' neighbour right now.

The Green and White faithful have a way of taking things, like the free-agent QB's jump to Calgary, a little too seriously.

Yet while they're spreading the you-know-what, devoted Roughies lovers should be careful not to shovel any in the direction of the Stamps' ownership group.

In the last decade, the CFL's fragile health has been bolstered by new investors. David Braley in Vancouver, Bob Young in Hamilton, and David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski in Toronto have collectively saved the league from extinction.

How can anyone grateful for the new cash injected into the league turn around and criticize the same men for investing further in their on-field product?

'Riders season ticket holders will undoubtedly cry the Stamps are buying a winner, forsaking the CFL's dubious salary cap, more a suggested retail price than a rock-solid ceiling on spending.

Although the Stamps paid top dollar, Burris' decision to choose Calgary over Regina has as much to do with returning to the land of opportunity as for the cash dangled in front of him.

Thousands of Saskatchewan residents have been doing the same thing over the past decade, not because they've been promised fortunes. They just want to be here, too.

Burris' previous three seasons here (1997-99) did as much to sell him on returning as anything the current regime said.

Unlimited opportunity, an aggressive entrepreneurial spirit and homes with mountain views top the list of reasons to pull up stakes and head west.

Some $300,000 a season to throw footballs doesn't hurt either and you can be sure Burris knows he'll have more to spend by moving to Calgary, free from an oppressive sales tax.

Even Roughriders GM Roy Shivers was keen on relocating after the 2003 Grey Cup, with only a legally binding contract keeping him from taking over the Stamps operation.

The Shiv, by the way, deserves some of the blame for Burris' departure. His take-it-or-leave-it contract offer at the free- agent deadline, coupled with a public pronouncement suggesting Nealon Greene is a No. 1 guy locked up long-term, only served to push Hank to search for a future elsewhere.

Burris was quick to console his fans in Regina.

"The people there know how much I love them," Burris said at yesterday's press conference.

"People might say they will be upset but players have come and gone from there. The team was going in a different direction. Saskatchewan's going to be all right. Nealon Greene's a great leader. That's his team. That's why I'm here."

If Burris dropped the ball during his free-agent hunt, it was by proclaiming his devotion to the fans of Saskatchewan after it became clear he was ready to move on.

They now feel jilted but Burris didn't say the wrong things because he's a liar. He said them because he's too nice to slam the door in everyone's face while on the way out.

Stamps co-owner/president Ted Hellard made it clear the Burris signing concerns more than just putting a winner with unlimited potential in control of the offence. He's a PR dream for a team still cleaning up after Feterik's circus elephants left town.

"It's important to me Henry's someone the kids can look up to," Hellard said.

"I'm very comfortable with the leadership he'll provide. He's committed to making this work."

In Regina, they'll be calling Calgary's QB Smilin' Bank but now Stamps have something to smile about, too. And in the end, that's good for all CFL fans.


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