Underdogs prevail

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

He thought he was in line to meet the new president of the United States.

With a $500 ticket in his mitts for Monday night's Illinois State Society Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., former U of M Bisons football player Izzy Idonije had a decent chance, too.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

The product of Brandon had to settle for watching Barack Obama from a distance, like two million or so others who flocked to the U.S. capital for yesterday's inauguration.

Idonije, who plays for Obama's favourite football team, the Chicago Bears, was actually supposed to host a tailgate party on the grounds of the Canadian Embassy, right on Pennsylvania Avenue, yesterday. But traffic snarls prevented him from getting there.

We couldn't reach him amid the chaos, but his old head coach, the Bisons' Brian Dobie, did.

"He was pretty excited," Dobie reported. "Just the whole thing, he was excited about."

Dobie says every time he talks to his former D-lineman, it seems Idonije has added another lifetime highlight.

Since helping the Bisons reach the Vanier Cup in 2001, then winning the J. P. Metras Trophy as the top university lineman a year later, Idonije has, in chronological order:

- signed a free agent contract with the NFL's Cleveland Browns, in '03.

- got a chance to play with the Chicago Bears a year later.

- signed a four-year contract worth some $8 million in '06.

- played in the Super Bowl in '07.

And now this.

It's not surprising Idonije would be drawn to Obama.

Like Obama, his roots are in Africa -- Idonije was born in Nigeria -- and, like Obama, Idonije has always been fiercely community-minded.

Coincidentally, they've both worked hard making inner-city Chicago a better place to live, Idonije doing his bit to help kids stay in school, to feed the poor, serve the homeless, you name it.

Best of all, they're both underdogs who've overcome ridiculous odds to get where they are.

A MATTER OF TIME: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers yesterday weren't ready to confirm reports they've re-signed running back Fred Reid.

"Negotiations are ongoing," is pretty much all Bomber CEO Lyle Bauer would say in an e-mail.

This sounds like one of those "we're not saying anything until we get the contract in our hands" type of deals.

We can tell you Reid had been looking for about $110,000 a year, a little steep when you consider the Bombers are already paying Joe Smith more than that.

That's a pretty pricey backfield, if the Bombers have, indeed, met Reid's demands.

LOUSY BUSINESS: Want to know how defensive back Anthony Malbrough found out he'd been "released" by the Bombers?

Not by getting a call from the front office. Not by his agent telling him. Not even from the media.

A seven-year CFL veteran, Malbrough had to draw his own conclusions when he didn't receive an off-season bonus his contract called for.

"I'm going to look at it as I'm released because I have not received my bonus money," Malbrough told me.

The thing is, he's not even bitter about it.

Seems that's just the way it sometimes goes in the CFL.

AND FINALLY: Here's some pretty compelling evidence that CFL fans are smarter than those in the NFL.

Before the Philadelphia/Arizona NFC Championship last weekend, some Cardinals fans thought they'd play a prank on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who has an off-season home outside Phoenix.

So they hung a team flag in McNabb's tree, used diesel fuel to burn pro-Arizona cheers into his lawn and left a cardboard box with "Go Cards" written on it.

Problem is, the box had an address label that led police straight to the culprits.

If Cards fans had checked with members of Rider Nation in Saskatchewan, they would have realized that manure sends a message just as well -- and can't be easily traced.

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QUICK HITS:

"To me, it isn't that big of an issue. I never look at black or white . . . if someone is a (jerk) they're a jerk ... The more I see him the more I think he's going to be great."

-- American-born Barry Smith, coach of the Kamloops Blazers, on the USA's first black president (Kamloops Daily News)

"If all else fails, they'll jump him from behind on the sidelines with a huge Terrible Towel and then have Steely McBeam go beat on him with his steel beam or glow stick."

-- DJ Gallo, ESPN.com on Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor needing help to cover Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald

"Hey, I'm the one that's normal. It's all those other guys who are big."

-- Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, on being considered an NBA pipsqueak at 6-feet tall

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SAY WHAT?!?

"There are three stages of life: youth, middle age and 'Boy, you're looking great,' I think 'Boy, you're looking great' means people probably thought you were dead, but you're still here."

John Gagliardi, who is still coaching St. John's (Minn.) at 82, when accepting his Stagg Award

NUMBERS GAME

$77.50

Top price, sans service charges, to see the lowly New York Islanders play either the Calgary Flames or Edmonton Oilers in two NHL pre-season games in Saskatoon this September. Cheapest ducat is $37.50.

OFFBEAT

The NCAA has extended coaches' recruiting restrictions to include seventh-grade players. Responded Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press: "At least they're waiting till the kids can tie their own Nikes."


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