Let's be Frank and talk football

EARL MCRAE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

Frank D'Angelo, wannabe messiah No. (pick a figure) strides into Moe's World Famous Newport Restaurant, headquarters of the Elvis Sighting Society.

He's wearing a black suit with gold pinstripes, white shirt with gold tie, yellow/brown cowboy boots, and his pale, good-looking face stands out against his thinning, swept-back, raven hair. He takes his seat directly facing the red Elvis hotline phone on the wall.

"I love Elvis," enthuses D'Angelo, 47, CEO of Steelback Brewery, who wants to buy the deceased Ottawa Renegades. His passion is opposite that of The Rev. Uptight Wright, the CFL commisioner, who not only hasn't given D'Angelo encouragement, but didn't take kindly to his flash visit to the capital to check out facilities at Frank Clair Stadium.

"Is Elvis still working at the Petro-Can in Tweed? I saw him perform in Buffalo when I was a little kid. My uncles took me. Italians love Elvis. When his theme music played and he came out, it was -- well, you couldn't describe it. No one's ever had charisma and talent like that."

"Maybe," says the Four-Eyed Lippy Little Shin Kicker, "you should get Elvis to perform at the stadium." He laughs. Don't discount it. If D'Angelo's anything, he's audacious. Few thought he'd get Ben Johnson to do what he did for the latest Steelback TV commercial. Ben Johnson who disgraced Canada when, after winning gold in the 100 metres at the Seoul Olympics, tested positive for steroids, and bye-bye medal. Johnson's forever denied he knowingly cheated.

In the commercial, Frank's a talk-show host who asks Johnson, "Ben, when you run, do you cheata?" Johnson fires back: "Absolutely. I cheata all the time." The studio audience gasps in disbelief, and Johnson holds up one of Steelback's 11 brands: Cheetah.

WENT FOR IT

"When I proposed it to Ben," says D'Angelo, slicing into his chicken, "I told him people will either bash you for it or say who gives a rat's ass. There was no problem getting him to go for it."

"He might have needed the money," says The Shin Kicker. D'Angelo's answer is a smile and: "At our launch party for the commercial, Dennis Hull was our speaker. He said 'Ben Johnson came to my barbecue and he took a leak in my garden. Two months later, I had a 92-lb. tomato.' "

Kim the waitress brings over bottles of wine and overhears D'Angelo talking about how his father emigrated to Toronto from Sicily in 1954. "Sicily," she says. "Where all the Mafia's from, right?" Frank: "The only place in the world where obituaries are two days in advance."

The Shin Kicker asks millionaire D'Angelo why Ottawa fans should believe he has all the answers when they've heard decades of the same promises from owners who screwed up and fled.

"Everybody said I was crazy to get into the beer business. It's the toughest most competitive business in the world. We're up against two massive conglomerates. But we're successful. Because we're smart, creative, we work hard, we hire the right people, we let them do their jobs.

"We know how to run a business from top to bottom. Everything we do, we do well.

"My restaurant in Toronto? It was an old pool hall. Everybody told me not to touch it. I turned it around in four weeks. I'm also a chef, so I help in the kitchen. Fine dining, 220 seats upstairs, 130 downstairs. The National Post said it's the best-kept secret in the city."

CHANGE COLOURS

Should he get to own the club -- no certainty at all -- he'll change the uniform and helmet colours, emphasizing silver and red; the team name (he likes Steelback, the name he came up with for his brewery because it's beer-drinking manly); involve the club heavily in the community; introduce cheerleaders "who'll put the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders to shame"; showcase a different Ottawa rock band at each home game with $10,000 to the best at season's end as voted by the fans; showcase an Ottawa marching band ("If there is one") at each game playing rousing, traditional football music; come up with a stirring team fight song.

Sounds great, says The Shin Kicker, but if the team stinks, it won't matter.

"First and foremost," he says, "the front office. Smart, hard-working, football people. And overachievers. A great coaching staff without anybody bugging them. All on the same page. It's like an eight-cylinder car. It has to run on eight, not six or seven."

The Shin Kicker asks if he has a coach in mind. "It depends on circumstances, but I like Don Matthews. I know Don. Wally Buono's another. This city deserves the best there is."

The Shin Kicker asks if he has a GM in mind. He nods approvingly at a man sitting across from him: Phil "The Pill" Kershaw, erstwhile consultant for Daddy and Cuddles Glieberman. The Pill, silent, looks appropriately abashed.


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