Silk purse or sow's ear?

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

Funny how you can dress up a pig as much as you want but when you look past the fancy clothes, it's still a pig.

We bring this up after the CFL unveiled new uniforms for its teams the other day, spiffy little numbers that got the league all kinds of fluffy publicity, a full four weeks before the opening of training camps.

Whether there will actually be nine healthy, functioning teams in the old loop by the time the 2005 season kicks off is another matter, entirely.

You see, there's been an ugly sore festering beneath the CFL's outerwear for some time now, but nobody really wants to talk about it.

It's called the Ottawa Renegades, that fresh-faced expansion franchise that said and tried to do all the right things, but ultimately failed on the field the last three years.

Well, it's been replaced by a shaky, splintered organization that's been bleeding so much red ink it's perilously close to sinking right out of sight.

Stories out of Ottawa yesterday suggest the situation was so serious, the Renegades were in real danger of either not operating this season, or being propped up by the league's other eight teams.

The news came as a surprise to new Winnipeg Blue Bomber chairman Ken Hildahl.

"That one's sort of surprising, at this point," Hildahl told The Sun yesterday. "Because there's been no indicators ... and our sense of it is they're certainly not that close. I would be somewhat surprised if there has been a formal request for funding.

"Our last report is that the league was involved, working with the ownership, and there were no imminent disasters looming."

That's because nobody, specifically commissioner Tom Wright, is willing to admit there's a serious problem.

Even yesterday, with the Ottawa newspapers spelling out the whole, sordid mess -- including an emergency meeting between Wright and whatever Ottawa owners would bother to show up -- all the league office did was issue a statement that said the Renegades were an important part of the league, yada, yada, yada.

So important, apparently, that the CFL would even put up with a return of the Glieberguys to save the team.

You remember the Glieberguys, Bernie and son Lonie Glieberman of Detroit, owners of the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders franchise during a comical period, 1992-94, that had a lot to do with the team's collapse two years later.

They're back on the scene, even ready to install 71-year-old Forrest Gregg as the head of football operations if they buy controlling interest in the Renegades. Gregg hasn't worked in football since coaching the now-defunct Shreveport Pirates, also owned by the Gliebermans, in 1994-95.

You're right, the word "now-defunct" gets thrown around a lot when you talk about the Glieberguys.

Hildahl says having the Gliebermans take over is better than folding the team outright.

I'm not so sure.

I do agree with him when he says the problem in Ottawa is symptomatic of a larger issue in the CFL.

"A lot of it gets into cost containment issues," Hildahl said. "I chuckle when I read that there's a salary cap in the CFL -- because there's not. It's a mythical cap that doesn't exist. For this league to maintain vitality, we have to come to grips with that problem, and that ties in, probably, indirectly to the Ottawa situation."

It may be indirect but the hit to the Blue Bombers' bank account, and every other team's, will be very direct if the league runs the team, or if the Gliebermans run it into the ground.

Eight teams will be squealing like pigs, if that happens.

Really nicely dressed pigs, I might add.


Videos

Photos