Renegades in need of end game - Ottawa Citizen

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Wayne Scanlan, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Friday, April 07, 2006

And so once again Ottawa football fans are denied their dignity.

Once again, they're played for fools, dragged along for the emotional ride only to be tossed under the wheels of the bus.

Every day brings a new twist.

For those fans who really care, it's a twist of the knife in the back.

The franchise will be revoked. No, wait, it might be spared. Ownership groups are interested (in some cases, interested in reading their own names in the paper).

They kick tires.

Some see hope here.

Some want to move the team, to Halifax or Quebec City.

The clock is ticking.

Training camp beckons, at least it does in functional CFL cities. Here in Ottawa, the franchise owners are in Michigan and the team's ancient general manager is in Colorado. (How do you tell if he's here or not?)

The latest twist was a severe downturn, all but killing already frail hopes of football being played at Frank Clair Stadium this year. (Frank died one year ago this week. At least he was spared this agony).

The Golden Gate Capital group was reported to be the last best shot, and the investment company sent out a missive on Wednesday to say there wasn't time to rescue the Renegades operation for 2006.

The brief window of negotiating opportunity between Golden Gate and the CFL has closed.

Do fans cheer or scream at this latest ounce of clarity?

What passes for good news, and what could be worse than the last month, for Ottawa's CFL team and its fans?

The longer the mess drags on, the more it feels like a terminal patient who suffers for so long that the end, when it comes, brings relief.

But just what is the "end" in the case of the Renegades?

Is it the end for their season or the end of the franchise?

They could be spiked for a year and brought back for 2007, but it has to be with proper ownership and decent terms, to spark another rally in the Glebe.

There's no chance the other eight franchises want the financial burden of carrying the Renegades through the 2006 season.

Then there was the suggestion that Ottawa's team only play road games in '06, thus generating revenues for the rest of the league.

This would be the greatest indignity yet inflicted on Ottawa football fans (and remember we had Donald Crump running the office here for a time): being treated like flood disaster victims in Louisiana.

What next, a food and clothing drive?

It has been difficult for fans here to read about plans other teams have for Ottawa's players in a dispersal draft. There is something in the Ten Commandments about refraining from coveting another man's goods, but when the goods are about to be distributed across the country, the coveting starts early.

And if this is hard on fans, what about the players themselves. Players with families here. Players with local ties and business connections.

Where are they living and working next month? How would you like a couple of week's notice that your new home is in Regina? But maybe only for a year. Or maybe you won't crack the roster.

Players who live in the U.S. are trying to follow this murky story through e-mail from correspondents in Ottawa, as much real news as there is to be shared.

Receiver Pat Woodcock thought his dream had come true when then-Renegades ownership partner Brad Watters openly wooed Woodcock in 2004 as he approached free agency with the Montreal Alouettes.

Watters saw no end to the marketing potential for a homegrown star such as Woodcock, just as Watters believed he could cross-breed pro lacrosse and a CFL team to reap swift profits.

Woodcock, a childhood water boy for the Rough Riders, grew up in Kanata. He's married to a member of the Renegades dance team. After a brief fling with the NFL and a Grey Cup championship with the Als, Woodcock was coming home for good.

Or so he thought. Suddenly, his wife, Melanie, is investigating work transfer options. Who knows where Woodcock might wind up.

In an interview with the Team 1200 yesterday, Woodcock expressed anger and frustration that the team was left to dangle all winter and into spring. (Just as it dangled all last winter and spring until the Gliebermans bought it.)

Woodcock used an interesting word to describe this mess: "unnecessary."

It was absolutely unnecessary that the CFL head office and the ownership tandem of Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith let obvious management issues linger without bringing them to a head before March.

"Across the league, 50 guys are going to lose jobs because somebody, on a whim, decided he didn't want to be involved any more," Woodcock said.

It may be fewer than 50 if teams are allowed to expand rosters and payroll to accommodate dispersed Renegades players.

Just another issue to be resolved.

The commissioner said he would share the league's decision on Ottawa ASAP.

It can't come soon enough.