Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
Published: Saturday, March 08, 2008
The venom can be transmitted in the form of expletive-laden telephone calls, non-punctuation e-mails or (shudder) in person.
A few dozen organisms who consider themselves the World's Greatest Fans are, in fact, imposters.
At the other end of the intellectual spectrum, there is Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman.
The vilification of Tillman began Wednesday, when it was announced that the Roughriders had traded quarterback Kerry Joseph -- the CFL's reigning MVP -- to the Toronto Argonauts for unheralded compensation.
Cue the wailing.
Tillman has incurred the wrath of many fans by trading a 34-year-old quarterback who is coming off his one great year in the CFL. The Riders' GM was understandably reluctant to lavish a six-figure raise upon a quarterback who perceives himself to be one of the elite performers at his position.
Earth to Kerry: String together a series of stellar seasons before voicing an entitlement to top dollar.
Yes, Joseph won a Grey Cup in his final game as a Roughrider -- but it was also one of his least-productive games in Green and White. Joseph was three James Johnson interceptions shy of being labelled a Grey Cup goat. Imagine how people would have reacted then.
During the 2006 season, some fans (?) booed Joseph. Now those same people are boo-hooing over his departure.
Earth to overheated Rider fans: Tillman has been the GM of three Grey Cup champions. He has celebrated as many titles in a 13-year span as the Roughriders have in almost a century.That does not exempt him from questioning, but people should peruse his track record before coming unglued.
Tillman faced some criticism 15 months ago when Kent Austin was hired. He went on to become the coach-of-the-year. It was also Tillman who, while with the Ottawa Renegades, brought Joseph to the CFL in 2003. Are the cases of Austin and Joseph not a testament to Tillman's football acumen?
Riders fans -- in effect, the owners of the community-owned team -- are entirely within their rights to criticize the deal. That is fair game. So is Tillman.
But some fans -- merely a few, but still too many -- have gone too far in demonstrating opposition to the move.
It is one thing to dissect the deal from a football perspective. It is the prerogative of the fan to formulate and dispense opinions, often in intemperate fashion. Games people play have been known to inspire emotional reactions, and that is absolutely fine. Passion is part of the package in Riderville.
However, nobody should have to endure the type of abuse to which some Roughriders employees have apparently been subjected in recent, indecent days. Tillman indicated that the CFL team's receptionist and ticket-office staff have fielded repeated obscene calls from outraged (ahem) fans.
Much of the bile is directed toward Tillman, who should actually be a hero in this province. But who ends up dealing directly with the nonsense? The Roughriders' staffers -- including four female employees who have been sworn at, repeatedly, since Wednesday
It must be emphasized that the obscene callers are a small fragment of the Roughriders' otherwise exemplary fan base, but their boorish behaviour can tarnish everyone's reputation.
Sadly, there have been recurrent episodes of deplorable conduct, such as the infamous manure-dumping of 2004.
The vast majority of Roughriders supporters abhor such conduct. But it only takes a few whackos to ruin it for everyone ... and they're doing it again.
This is probably lost on some of the myopic zealots who have been harassing Roughriders employees of late.
Those brave, bold callers do not identify themselves by name or phylum. But we do know this much: They are alone.
(Any comment people?)