Third time the charm?

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

So the Canadian Football League is handing out a "conditional" expansion franchise in Ottawa today.

Excuse me if I resist the temptation to pick up the pompoms and start the cheer, "Give me an O! Give me a T..."

Because if history has taught us anything, it's that nobody seems to learn from it in the nation's capital.

The only thing rivaling some of the dumb political decisions made in that city over the years are some of the decisions relating to football.

Heck, Pamela Anderson picks boyfriends better than the CFL chooses suitors in Ottawa.

These guys are such slow learners they went necking with the Gliebermans, Bernie and his son, Lonie, not once, but twice. Both times, they were left with an awful taste in their mouths, as first the Rough Riders, following the 1996 season, then the Renegades, three years ago, collapsed.

Not that it was all the Gliebermans' fault. They just happened to be the men holding the empty bag on both occasions that it burst.

The CFL has hitched its wagon to several bad horses in Ottawa over the last three decades, resulting in more franchise failures than Grey Cup championships.

Expecting football fans who've been burned twice before, not to mention business owners and potential sponsors, to flock to the park to watch another incarnation of a perennial loser has Strike Three written all over it.

And why would Ottawa football fans expect anything other than a loser, after what they put up with in the 1980s, '90s and beyond?

Despite showing signs of becoming competitive, the Renegades couldn't sell even 10,000 season tickets in that market. People were fed up with having bad football and bad ownership shoved down their throats.

CREDIBLE GROUP

The CFL had a hand in the Renegades' demise, too, charging far too large an expansion fee, then not enforcing the salary cap that it promised would keep costs under control.

And those same fans are supposed to give the league a third chance? A league that gave them the Gliebermans, Bruce Firestone and Horn Chen, just to name a few?

This time, we're told, it'll be different -- just like it was supposed to be when the Renegades were born in '02.

OK, let's assume the old girl has at least chosen the right man, or men, this time.

For starters, they're local.

And they don't include a Glieberman.

"Oh God, no," one CFL exec, preferring to remain nameless since the franchise hadn't been granted, yet, said yesterday. "Not even close. It's an extremely credible group."

"There probably couldn't be a better group in that market," is how another described front man Jeff Hunt, owner of the 67's junior hockey team, and Ottawa-area developers Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and William Shenkman.

"You couldn't have put a better cast together."

We're talking deep pockets, here, so a franchise fee of several million won't saddle them with an untenable debt, the way it did the Renegades startup group.

It's no coincidence this group is heavy on developers, as the whole deal hinges on the construction of a new facility, or at least a dramatically refurbished one, since Frank Clair Stadium has been partially condemned.

It's hoped a new stadium will be part of a redevelopment of the Lansdowne Park area, a 40-acre site that's worth gold in that city.

Which brings us to yet another reason for skepticism.

When's the last time anybody in this country built a new football stadium?

It's the reason the CFL isn't in Halifax, or Quebec City or anywhere else they talk about expansion.

Yet, this is the key issue that puts the "conditional" in Ottawa's conditional franchise.

So now it's not only Ottawa's past working against the CFL's return, it's the present, too.

Makes you kind of reluctant to hold your breath over the future.


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