When I went to the birthday bash, I didn't expect to bash the birthday. I went to Winston Churchill Square for Edmonton's 100th birthday party to bask in memories of yesterday's heroes and celebrate today's athletes.
The buildup to the Edmonton Centennial celebration has illustrated so dramatically just how much of Edmonton's history has been sports history, and this was the day it was supposed to all come to life.
At 3 p.m. the schedule featured the parade of athletes. This, I figured, would be a special part of the proceedings which included an excellent video history of Edmonton's 100 years in sport throughout the day in the council chambers of City Hall.
IT STARTED WELL ENOUGH
It started well enough, too.
Virtually every living member of Edmonton's first Grey Cup championship team, the 1954 Eskimos - who chose the occasion to hold their 50th anniversary reunion - were paraded to the main stage.
Jackie Parker and Normie Kwong, in particular, received large ovations.
What was supposed to happen next was for Mayor Bill Smith, himself a member of that Eskimo team, to lead a parade of the legends of Edmonton's sports history of yesterday and today from City Hall through the new-improved (if you like lots of concrete) downtown square.
You could have driven them over in the same cab.
OK, I exaggerate. Two cabs.
What they did here was hold a City of Champions parade, but forgot to invite the champions.
They managed to find Lori-Ann Muenzer and round up the likes of David Ford, Susan Nattrass and Tim Berrett as well as five Paralympians from the Athens Olympic Games, all of whom had been in Calgary two days earlier to receive their rings and plaques from the province of Alberta.
Muenzer, the Athens gold medallist, was asked to speak on behalf of the athletes.
"I didn't know I was supposed to speak until I got here,'' she said.
The only other speaker was Smith, who obviously had his speech written before he made the walk - leading a parade so puny it was simply a handful of people walking together toward a stage.
"I've had many proud moments as mayor, but marching in with these athletes is one of my proudest moments,'' said Smith.
"They helped build the civic pride that is unmatched in our country.''
Not a hockey player in the mix. Not a member of the 1952 Olympic gold-medal-winning Edmonton Mercurys, a representative of the 1948 Edmonton Flyers or the Memorial Cup-winning Edmonton Oil Kings from the 1960s. And not a single solitary member of the five Stanley Cup-winning Edmonton Oilers.
Not that they didn't think of it.
OILERS CALLED TWO DAYS BEFORE
Somebody called the Oilers Alumni association two days before the event to inquire if maybe they might rustle up a couple of old Oilers.
Ryan Smyth just won world championship and World Cup medals for Canada. With the NHL locked out, did he have anything better to do yesterday?
How about Tom Wilkinson and all those five-in-a-row Eskimo players? Willie Pless is going up on the Eskimos Wall of Honour Monday. He was at the annual dinner the night before.
What about the curlers? Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin or Matt Baldwin couldn't have found an hour - actually the whole deal took about nine minutes - to walk in a two-block long parade?
Pierre Lueders? Isn't he taking the weekend off from bobsled training to come home for Thanksgiving?
You could go on and on and on.
A junior high school social convener could have done a better job organizing this during study period with a telephone and about $10 in stamps.
The ultimate testimonial to the incredible incompetence of the organizers involved, if indeed there were any actual organizers involved, is that Jamie Sale and David Pelletier are the co-chairpersons of the event, representing today with 100-year-old Harriet Winspear representing yesterday. They interrupted a figure- skating show tour schedule to fly home to honour Edmonton.
The organizers didn't think of having them walk about a block to honour them and the part they played in our sports history.
They were on the property!
It's just as well all the people who could have been involved weren't invited.
Edmonton held a birthday party yesterday and nobody let the kids out of school or even bused a significant number of them to witness it.
Shouldn't the whole idea of one of these deals be the legacy of providing our youth memories of having seen Jackie Parker, Normie Kwong and the 1954 Eskimos - Susan Nattrass, David Ford and Lori-Ann Muenzer - way back at Edmonton's 100th birthday bash in "Ought 4''?
It could have been so good.