We’re less than a week away from nobody caring about the Toronto Argonauts for another season … which makes no sense considering Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III are both out of football.
One of them should be in Toronto.
Hear me out: I know the Hamilton Tiger-Cats reportedly added both QBs to their negotiation list along with Johnny Manziel. Doesn’t matter. If the CFL is serious about Toronto as a market it needs to move heaven and earth to ensure the Argos end up with a marquee quarterback and, more importantly, a marquee name. We’ve been there, I know. Ricky Williams … I get it. I was with the Winnipeg Free Press writing sidebars during the 1981 season when Vince Ferragamo signed for the then-Montreal Concordes for $600,000, three times what the Los Angeles Rams offered to re-sign him following a season in which he threw for 30 touchdowns and led the Rams to the National Football Conference wild-card.
That move was a flop – the story is Ferragamo nearly fainted during his first training camp session when he found out he’d be facing five defensive backs instead of four ("Uh, what exactly is a defensive halfback?")– and Ferragamo finished a 3-13 season the third-string QB as backup to the backup to a Canadian, Gerry Dattilio, before making a successful return to the NFL. The economics are different, now, and the CFL can’t even hang its hat on the fact African-American QBs can get a better break up here than in the U.S. There are no more Warren Moons out there and if there are, they’re on somebody’s NFL taxi squad.
Look: the CFL and its fans long ago got over the need to apologize to people who don’t follow or enjoy the league. They learned the same thing baseball fans learned: some people just aren’t smart enough to enjoy their game. Those fans are a lost cause; they’re sheep that get sucked in by the amoral NFL and its legion of media enablers. And maybe fans in Saskatchewan or Ottawa or Calgary are happy enough with the product that they don’t care whether the Argos matter in their marketplace. I could see that.
But, my goodness, this is a league that had a 41-year-old dude QB its championship team last season and is in crying need of new blood at the most important position in any sport. There are people who still believe some unseen hand was behind Ricky Ray ending up with the Argos, and while I don’t know if that’s true, there’s nothing wrong with a league steering talent to a needy team in the biggest marketplace in the country. There are (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) ways of doing this. The move to a new stadium, replete with what amounts to tailgating for amateurs, flopped. Get somebody in here we can cheer for – or, at least interest us. A rising tide raises all boats, not just the Argonauts’ (see what I did there?).
SO LONG, PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM
The Boston Celtics were already positioned to run the next two NBA drafts – at least – even before their reported deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that will see the teams swap the first and third picks with the Celtics also receiving a protected first-round pick next season. Translation: the Celtics have eight picks in the next three drafts to use or trade. Other translation: if the Sixers take Markelle Fultz, that ought to shut the door on free agent Kyle Lowry going home to Philly.
I still think Lowry’s best bet is re-signing with the Toronto Raptors, although if Ricky Rubio is traded to the Dallas Mavericks or elsewhere as some have suggested, perhaps the market for Lowry will broaden.
It’s going to come down to how much Lowry wants and for how long he wants it and with guards such as Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul in play, it’s possible that Lowry ends up as Plan B for a bunch of teams. That might open other options for him, but to me the only place Lowry has a shot at getting closer to a title than here is, say, with the San Antonio Spurs.
QUIBBLES AND BITS
• Can we all just see the Floyd Mayweather/Connor McGregor fight for what it is? An athletic exhibition between two bored guys who have done essentially all they can do in their sports. Spare me all the carping about how it’s a clown show or circus. It’s really the perfect matchup for our time: two crude, brash individuals who are both a product of a time that’s adrift and forgotten what it means to be classy and elegant. It’s all social media and Donald Trump and mean-spirited, misplaced ideas of manhood. Mostly, it’s Billie Jean King versus Bobby Riggs; an exhibition full of sound and fury and signifying – well, you know the rest …
• The 2017 Major League Baseball season is turning into a history lesson when it comes to home runs, and not just because they are flying out at a historic pace. No, it’s the pedigree of the teams doing it, in particular the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. We in the American League East are well-acquainted by now with Aaron Judge, and it’s always cool when a guy threatens the Yankees record book because of the names that are raised as comparables. Same with the Dodgers, whose rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger hit his 19th home run this weekend in his 49th game, breaking the franchise record set by Gil Hodges (51 games) in 1951. His four multiple-homer games are one off the rookie club record set by Mike Piazza in 1993, tied with Corey Seager (2016). Bellinger’s performance comes with Adrian Gonzalez on the disabled list with a degenerative disk and raises interesting questions given the $21.5 million left on Gonzalez’s contract in 2018. It also means that this season’s Home Run Derby could crush in the two biggest media markets if both he and Judge take part.
• We don’t pay attention to our Olympic athletes until, well, the Olympics – we’re funny that way – but it might be a good idea to keep an eye on Markham, Ont., sprinter Andre De Grasse, who became the first Canadian to run a 9.69 in the 100-metre race Sunday at a Diamond League event in Stockholm but won’t have it recognized as a personal best or Canadian record because he ran with a tailwind of 4.8 metres per second, well over the "legal limit" of 2.0. It was, however, the sprinter’s second win in four days, and with a legal wind would translate to 9.79. Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin hold the Canadian record of 9.84. Bailey’s run in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta remains the greatest single moment in Canadian sports history. My guess is De Grasse gives us the next one; the only question is when and if Usain Bolt will be involved.
• I’m about ready to turn into a Dion Phaneuf fan. First, he gets screwed with the Toronto Maple Leafs because Brian Burke thinks he’s always the smartest guy in the room and decides his team absolutely needs a captain. Sure, Burkie, give the guy a metal coat hanger and tell him to go stand on the top of the hill in a thunderstorm. Now, apparently, some of the chattering classes are upset that he dared to use his no-trade clause – freely bargained – to prevent the Ottawa Senators from exposing him to exile with the Vegas Golden Knights, which is, of course, childish. You can blame Burke for giving Phaneuf control of movement in the seven-year deal he gave him with the Maple Leafs or you can blame a salary-cap system that turns the no-trade clause into a hammer for the player and his agent; it’s a sweetener in salary negotiations that doesn’t carry a cap hit. But blaming the player for using it? Misplaced. You’re better than that, no?
Thank the baseball gods that parity exists in the American League – where everybody’s within 4 ½ games of the second wild-card. That means there’s no point in really trying to figure out what the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays are all about until the all-star break, which will be preceded by series against (in order) the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre; the Yankees in the Bronx; and four games at home against the Houston Astros. It also means that questions about issues such as the guaranteed $59 million owed to Troy Tulowitzki over the next three seasons ($54 million in salary plus a $5 million buyout before 2021’s $15 million) will be kept in abeyance. When Alex Anthopoulos acquired Tulowitzki, there were those in the organization who believed he might be open to moving position – possibly first base – towards the end of the deal. But Tulowitzki has told people that Cal Ripken, Jr.’s, move to third base late in his career serves as a cautionary tale for him. Either way, if it’s hitting and not defence that is the part of Tulowitzki’s game to go first, a position shift won’t matter.