[url=http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/sports/story.html?id=2489a040-dba9-4293-bef0-40f21057306b&p=1]http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/new ... 57306b&p=1[/url]
Do you laugh or cry?
The Ottawa Renegades, perhaps down to their final hours as a CFL franchise, fire off a missive to the media. This is on Blue Monday, while embattled majority franchise owner Bernie Glieberman is meeting with CFL commissioner Tom Wright to discuss survival terms.
Reporters anxiously pop open the e-mail news release from the Renegades offices.
The announcement of a life-giving rescue plan from the CFL?
A renewed commitment from Glieberman?
No. The Renegades announce the hire of an offensive-line coach. Someone named Steve Kazor, who apparently resides on Mars, or some other locale light on Renegades news.
(Pssst! Coach. Did you get the money up front?)
How reassuring that the Renegades are hiring. Just minutes before the icy plunge, a deck chair is rearranged on the Titanic.
The doings of this team in this league make me want to tear out what little hair is left on my head.
Most maddening, to all who follow football in Ottawa, is the knowledge that the CFL could fly here, if only the commissioner had heeded the alarm bells sounding over the past two years.
The man is Alfred E. Neuman: What, me worry?
The league news release from the Glieberman-Wright session was helpful.
"Significant progress was achieved in establishing clarity and identifying options for 2006 and beyond."
Oh, it's clear all right.
Clear that Wright and the league governors have fumbled the ball in Ottawa right up to this moment, with the clock about to strike midnight.
Repeatedly, Wright told us the Ottawa situation was going to be OK. League governors sat back, blissful that their own precious fiefdoms were not in this kind of mess. Never mind that the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats both required league intervention just a few years ago to avoid financial collapse.
The difference? Wright was able to find committed local owners in those CFL cities.
He should have continued on the path to Plan B in Ottawa, with potential owners in reserve, even as the league turned to the renowned homebuilders and football franchise-killers from Michigan. Back for a third go-around in the CFL.
Wright introduced Bernie and Lonie Glieberman as the club's retro ownership solution on May 31, 2005, the exact day on which a deadly tornado had swept through Ontario 20 years earlier.
Nice omen, that.
As he sat alongside the returning owners who walked from the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1993, Wright's body language amounted to holding his nose.
Yet Wright's firmest course of action was to direct Lonie, Bernie's then 37-year-old son and the Renegades president, to reform school for implying that no cheerleader was too young for him to date.
What football person, from Vancouver to a CFL wannabe in Halifax didn't foresee this day coming?
Now that it's here, it will take a strong course of action to salvage Ottawa's football franchise, but it is worth trying to save. With Glieberman open to eating up to $2.5 million of an expected $4 million to $5 million operating loss in 2006, Wright is expected to ask league governors to help prop up the Renegades for 2006.
The rosiest scenario would see the other eight franchises contributing $200,000 per to keep Ottawa afloat.
Skeptical governors will worry that, with the Renegades minus any real infrastructure, with no hope of fielding a competitive team and with as few as 2,000 season-ticket holders, the losses could escalate far beyond $5 million.
In their hearts, those governors will also know that Ottawa could work, if a proper search can produce a legitimate owner capable of following any of the many responsible CFL blueprints out there.
Install a local, identifiable president who knows the market. Hire experienced CFL staff. Let them run the operation.
Fans here will support it.
It's not as though the team needs to win anytime soon. That would cause mass coronaries from the shock. The Renegades, and Rough Riders before them, have had remarkable support without producing a winning season since 1979.
Fans still care because they watched their first Riders games when Tom Clements was quarterback, or Condredge Holloway, or Russ Jackson.
They care because there is no sports franchise in the city, the soaring NHL Senators included, with as much uninterrupted history and tradition.
If the CFL can see through the current mess, it can pick up the ball it dropped here long ago, and strike up a search committee to find the kind of sound operators now in place in Toronto and Hamilton.
If the Argos could turn around a club in a city that didn't care, Ottawa remains rife with possibilities, despite a modern string of calamity.
His spring contract renewal already on thin ice, Wright probably won't be part of any Ottawa revival, but he has a role to play today, in a conference call that might mean life or death to Ottawa's football team.
There is plenty of blame to share for this mess, including the league brethren who handcuffed Ottawa's expansion program in 2002.
If the Renegades die, there will be blood on many hands.