Deja vu all over again for Paopao

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Joe Paopao worked in similar conditions nine years ago, when he first found out what it's like to sit in his office and have to keep one eye on a ceiling that looks like it might fall on his head at any moment.

During the CFL's weekly, nationwide state of the franchise conference call with the media yesterday, the Renegades coach/GM was asked by a B.C. reporter if the front office above him today reminds him of the one he reported to in his first season as a head coach.

And, as he spoke of the 1996 Lions team that was owned by Bill Comrie, sold to Nelson Skalbania, taken over by the league, then finally bought by David Braley in October, you could almost see him brushing the imaginary sawdust off his shoulder.

"I think we played football that year in B.C.," Paopao said, with a go-forward-until-you-can't attitude adopted in a league where ownership turmoil has become as common as a two-point conversion. "It's a part of life. You try to embrace the moment. You do football, and the other stuff will work itself out.

"I know ownership (here) is in a delicate situation," he began moments earlier when asked about the distractions of working for a team that -- 18 days before training camp opens -- is still going through a sales transaction that should have been completed six months ago. "When I lose $20 I'm bummed out. A million dollars? I can't fathom that. But (the uncertainty) doesn't bother me. I've been in the league 28 years ... it has no effect. You just stay focused and believe good things will happen.

"(The owners) just give us the resources and we're responsible for getting the job done on the field," Paopao added. "The last thing you're thinking about when you're on the field is ownership."

Paopao was joined on yesterday's hot seat by Renegades director of communications Arash Madani, who was unfairly yet understandably put in the position generally reserved for a team president, governor or CEO.

In Ottawa's case, the president (Brad Watters) quit, the governor (Randy Gillies) is apparently in the process of stepping down, and the CEO (John Lisowski) has already said all he's had to say.

So it was left to Madani to hold off the dogs with quotes from last week's press release about ownership changes that are in "advanced stages" but will ultimately be made "in the best interests of the fans." And that's exactly where it stands.

A much bigger travesty than the absence of a Renegades business official for the conference call was the unbelievable decision of CFL commissioner Tom Wright to spend this week vacationing in France.

What the hell is the guy thinking?

If there was ever a time for the CFL's leader to be working, it's this week.

If Bernie Glieberman changes his mind and doesn't buy 51% of the Renegades, the league will almost certainly be left to run the team in 2005. Never mind that would mean the CFL would have to suck up the $2-3 million the Renegades are expected to lose this season, but remember what happened the last time a team was left in the hands of the league?

Think back to the 2003 Hamilton Ticats and the bare bones operation that led to a 1-17 season. Better to fold it up forever than allow that to happen here.

No wonder certain governors want Wright dumped. The man handles adversity like it was a ball that had just rolled through poison ivy. And that's when he does anything at all. The Renegades would have been sold and actually advertising in the community and selling tickets had Wright told his chum Gillies to make up his mind in December.

The way he has dealt with Ottawa, Wright deserves consideration as one of the CFL's most incompetent commissioners.

HAPPY ENDING?

As for the Renegades, the story should still have a happy ending despite Wright. Glieberman and Bill Smith will make fine partners. The controversy that follows the Detroit millionaire and his son Lonie will exist, no doubt, but since when is having people debate the rights and wrongs of their sports team such a bad thing? At least there's a team to talk about, right?

On the field, the Renegades will surprise a few people. Kerry Joseph and Brad Banks provide a 1-2 quarterbacking punch better than any other team's in the East, at least. The offensive line has been bulked up to the point where Paopao thinks it might now be a strength. A revamped defence looks like it might be pretty good. And the kicking game has improved.

Paopao's done a remarkable job, under the conditions.


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