Has there ever been a more bizarre and ultimately intriguing off-season than the one about to be concluded by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
How often does a CFL team make the front pages of the papers, the top of the sportscasts and the beginning of the radio news segments time and time again between the months of December and May?
In this town, the Bombers are always news but this year has been exceptional. They won't even strap on the pads for real until next Friday and they've already reached their headline quota.
Why? You ask.
Well, let's review: they fired a coach (Jim Daley), hired a coach (Doug Berry), signed a high-profile free agent (Barrin Simpson), lost two weapons (Jon Ryan and Keith Stokes), got a lot better because another team folded, snagged a potential star linebacker (Kyries Hebert) off waivers, got into a legal battle with said linebacker, angered their star running back (Charles Roberts) by thinking about signing a former NFL running back (Onterrio Smith of Original Whizzinator fame), went ahead and signed said running back despite his checkered and humourous past (insert fake penis joke here) and signed a place-kicker (Duncan O'Mahony) who disappeared on his way to training camp, touched off a missing person's case and mysteriously resurfaced before getting cut by the team.
After that run-on sentence, here's a nice short one:
You can't make this kind of stuff up.
CROWD COUNTS: We've been complimentary of Gary Bettman and the job he and the NHL governors have done of re-inventing the sport to rave reviews in Canada. But Little Man Gary needs to at least acknowledge that all is not sweetness and light as he pats himself on the back. Television ratings south of the border are absolute garbage and tickets are easily available on game day for conference final games in Raleigh, N.C., and Anaheim, Calif. The league is definitely better off than it was two years ago at this time, but please Gary, there's no need to sugar-coat it ... How is it possible that Chris Pronger can be so good in the NHL playoffs when he looked like the second coming of Shawn Cronin at the Olympics? On the other hand, Joe Thornton looked about the same in the playoffs as he did at the Olympics. Useless ... The way the Edmonton Oilers played the last four periods, you have to smell a Mighty Ducks comeback. If the Oilers blow this it will be most embarrassing thing since Axl Rose got beat up by a fashion designer ... If Alain Vigneault goes to the Vancouver Canucks as some people expect, the Manitoba Moose should definitely try to bring in Scott Arniel, who they passed over last year, as their next head coach. Although, the way Arniel's Buffalo Sabres are playing, he might not be far from a head coaching job in the NHL either ... It appears the Canucks have been waiting on Vigneault, but shouldn't they at least be looking at Andy Murray? ... While playoff crowds for the Moose were not great, it shouldn't be considered a reflection on the city's ability to support a team should the NHL some day come calling. There are simply too many hockey fans in the city who refuse to support the Vancouver Canucks farm team, no matter how far it goes in the playoffs.
OLDER'N DIRT: In the amazing discoveries department, scientists have reportedly found a living fossil. Coincidentally, this news comes shortly after they were told Julio Franco is still playing for the Mets ... While it was certainly heart-wrenching to see Triple Crown favourite Barbaro suffer a life-threatening broken leg during last weekend's Preakness Stakes, let's not turn the Kentucky Derby-winning horse into a tragic figure. His survival chances look pretty good now and not only will he never have to work another day in his life, he'll live out his years as a highly-paid stud. We should all be so lucky.