Training daze for Lonie

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

The CFL is making new Renegades president Lonie Glieberman take a media training course, starting next week.

That's hilarious. If the same course boasts commissioner Tom Wright as a graduate, does that mean Lonie will soon be slipping out back doors while us messengers to the fans wait all day for a simple comment, too? And that Lonie, like Wright, will also become so obviously afraid to be a real person in public?

While a well-attended news conference at the Crowne Plaza yesterday put the final touches on a story you first read could come to fruition in a Grey Cup-week copy of the Sun, it also confirmed that the CFL is run by a stuffed shirt.

Wright had first words in this ceremony that should have Wrightfully taken place last December, and he did so in a manner befitting his character: Bookworm-ishly. Almost to the breath reserved for commas, Wright repeated gibberish attributed to him in a release issued by the league Friday that recognized governors had approved a transfer of ownership in the Renegades. We say attributed, because if CFL director of communications Alexis Redmond has no problem quoting Bernie Glieberman without talking to him, can't she also speak on behalf of her boss? (In my line of work, saying people said something they didn't is a firing offence, Alexis.)

ERASES NEGATIVITY

Anyway, the head table at the presser was just (one body) short of being of championship calibre, personality-wise. From left to right, the new Renegades team lined up with coach and GM Joe Paopao, executive VP of football operations Forrest Gregg, president Lonie Glieberman, majority owner Bernie Glieberman, his partner Bill Smith and (yawn) Wright.

Smith, as warm and believable a person as you'll ever meet, should have erased all lingering negativity about Bernie when he told the story of how the two men first met.

"He asked if he could buy me breakfast in Sarasota," said Smith, who was wintering in Florida at the time. "That first meeting, I felt like I knew him a long time. I could tell right away Bernie is a very sincere, very passionate person. He said, 'Bill, I've made one big mistake in my life, and that's (leaving Ottawa). I shouldn't have done it. I'm 10 years older now, and I have a few more bucks. I want to come back and fix it.'"

Smith also gave a glowing report on his brief experiences with Lonie, then passed the mike to his elder.

"I'm delighted to be back in the Ottawa-Gatineau (region)," the 65-year-old Glieberman said with a political correctness that might have slipped by the CFL's communications department. Bernie went on to talk about how the league has become more stable since he last owned a team, with Toronto, Hamilton and Calgary much healthier. "To see the committed owners we have now was really reaffirming to us. There's nobody with financial stress. Now (as a league) we can focus on football, and not the financial stuff."

Later, Bernie spoke of his ability to withstand the losses the team expects to have for the next five years.

"Would I like to lose money for a long time? No. Could I afford to? Yes," said Bernie, who frequently referred to the "dumb tax" that is the cost of making mistakes as a rookie, no matter what the business, and later to the best-selling novel Moneyball that documents the thriftiness of Oakland A's GM Billy Beane and how similar methods might work in the CFL.

WRIGHT INTERRUPTS

"I had no idea we'd lose the kind of money (about $1.7 million a year)," continued Glieberman. "Part of it was our misjudgment. (This time) I mentally figure to lose more money than I probably will lose. It's like when you go to Las Vegas. If you figure you're going to lose $2 and you lose $1, you think you've made money ... "

Just as Bernie was earning some chuckles, Wright decided he'd heard enough talk of his league's failures and rudely interrupted with more of his textbook blubbering. Heaven knows the angst he also felt inside over Lonie's hokey talk about life's "second chances" and how it even took Christopher Columbus three cracks at getting to North America -- if only because it bordered on amusing.

Wright really couldn't hide his disdain when the Sun's Earl McRae brought up Lonie's fondness of cheerleaders, despite the fact everybody else at the table was snickering. As Earl pressed forward to get the league's position on the dating habits of the new 'Gades president, Wright squirmed like a worm.

There should be plenty of hope for the Renegades, who so far look pretty good on the practice fields of Kemptville and now shape up impressively in management -- from Paopao to Gregg to Smith and the Gliebermen.

Along with building a winner, Lonie talks of filling the stadium and making sure everybody has a good time. He's got some groundbreaking ideas -- a one-day only, $99 season-ticket sale among them -- and will probably "rewrite the record" of past failures given a chance to implement them by a nervous league and its nervous commissioner.

For Wright to stand in the way would be Wrong.

At the ski resort the Gliebermans have built and turned into a popular attraction for down hill thrill-seekers in the upper peninsula of Michigan, Lonie has had to deal with some friction. One woman complained that the college kids were doing a little too much partying.

"They're just having fun," Lonie told her.

"Is that all you care about?" she asked.

"Ma'am," replied Lonie, "fun isn't as bad as it sounds."

Somebody should explain that to the stuffed shirt.


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