The Last Word

BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

It is not The Hockey Song and he is no Stompin' Tom.

When it comes to the pantheon of sports anthems, it is unlikely the name Donovan Woods will jump out at you like Vince Carter on the dunk.

But music and sports are as intrinsically linked as athletes and entertainers. Show me an actor or singer and I'll show you a guy who wants to be a pro athlete. So Tom Selleck does batting practice with the Detroit Tigers, Spike Lee thinks he's a New York Knick and John Candy buys the Argonauts.

Show me a pro athlete and you get everyone from Joe DiMaggio doing coffee ads to Allen Iverson doing gangsta' rap.

Music and sports. You can't have one without the other. Which brings us back to Woods, a 25-year-old struggling (and when aren't they?) artist, who has penned his own soliloquy to sweat. The Toronto-based actor/songwriter has recorded a song called My Cousin's Got A Grey Cup Ring.

Oh I can play, and I can sing,

But my cousin has a Grey Cup ring

And I've never even seen the thing,

But I've heard it's as big as a tire swing

Hey, nobody said it had the ring of Queen's 1977 sports anthem, We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions. But it is fun and even though it is self-released, it got inaugural commercial airplay last weekend on CBC radio.

"Most of my fans find it on the internet and download it (www.myspace.com/donovanwoods) for themselves," said Woods, who wrote the tune last December. "It used to get downloaded once or twice a day and then it got downloaded 78 times one day and I wondered what the hell happened.

"Then my grandmother called and she said: 'Oh, by the way, I heard that song you wrote on the CBC' -- so calmly, just like it happens every day.

"Guess she figured that when you write a song, they just automatically play them on the radio."

This is the biggest thing to happen to Donovan since well, when he thinks of something he'll let us know.

Woods is a big Maple Leafs fan with fond memories of the days when Rocket Ismail and Wayne Gretzky were connected with the Argonauts.

WRITTEN FOR FATHER

"I wrote it for my dad (Douglas) whose second cousin is Glen Weir, who played for the (Montreal) Alouettes and won three Grey Cup rings," Woods said. "I remember dad telling me stories about family reunions and everybody oohing and aahing over Glen's Grey Cup rings and my dad feeling a bit left out."

And at the family gatherings

he's grandma's favourite living thing,

She tugs upon her apron string

my cousin has a Grey Cup ring

"My dad was born without a football player's body and was always kind of jealous growing up in the shadow of this big, big man," Woods said. "It's a song about longing and every man's desire to be appreciated for what he is."

Woods, himself, played lacrosse and a bit of hockey but never was much of an athlete. The closest he got to sporting stardom was sharing the same golf course as Mike Weir while growing up in Bright's Grove, near Sarnia.

"I was born with a football player's body but never played football," Woods said. "When I was a kid, people would meet me and first thing they'd say was: 'You must be a football player.' I'd say, 'Well, no, actually I'm performing in the community theatre.' It was always quite disappointing to people."

I'd have to tell you honestly

that I've got a fairly good baseball swing.

But my cousin has a Grey Cup ring

Woods' voice has a hint of Neil Young, a tinge of Gordon Lightfoot and the slightest nuance of Ron Sexsmith. His father named him after singer Donovan Leitch, who put tunes such as Mellow Yellow, Universal Soldier and Hurdy Gurdy Man on the U.S. pop charts. His boyhood idol was Bob Dylan.

He has played guitar since he was 10. If he was being prepared for the stage, it would not be an athletic one. He describes himself as an actor who sings on the side. He currently is in a Harvey's commercial.

"It's a tough business. It's a hustle," he said. "It's irritating because people get hung up on becoming well known. I try to satisfy myself rather than get caught up trying to get ahead of everyone else ... Sometimes it does get disheartening that you don't ever get noticed."

TALKING THROUGH IT

Like, for instance, when he's playing at a club.

"I find it uncomfortable," Woods said. "When you're up there alone, nobody really listens in a lot of places. You're dealing with people talking all through it. If you have a band at least you can be loud enough to shut everybody up, but when it's just you sometimes you wonder why you're even up there."

He's got winning charm

He's made.

Of all the things I'll never see.

Of all the things I want in life.

"My family always say that my stuff is so sad. But this is kind of folksy and precious," Woods said.

Here's hoping someone notices.

And, if it shows up at an Argos game or background music for a CFL telecast, for Donovan Woods, it's the closest he's going to get to feeling what it's like to win a Grey Cup ring.


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