A third of the way into theregular season and, aside from the demises of running backs Kenton Keith and Antonio Warren, the biggest mystery in the CFL to me is the ineptitude of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
I mean, honestly, why are they so darned lousy? Ithought entering the season they would be Numero Uno in the Eastern Division, and I swear I was not alone with this prognostication. Heck, there were dozens of CFLers who reckoned this would be the Ticats' year, and they included club owner Bob Young.
As they embark on the second third of the season, however, the Ticats are a measly 1-5 and their new/old head coach, Ron Lancaster, has declared after doing some calculations inhis own mindthat they must win eight of their final 12 games to havea genuine shot at the post-season.
That's a tough row to hoe, as the saying goes, and, if Lancaster's right, the odds of a playoff qualification are not exactly in the Ticats' favour.
Well, according to Hamilton's record-setting receiver, Terry Vaughn, we shouldn't be. Oh, and I get the impression Vaughn thinks those of us who figured the Ticats would be a strong team this season were, well, out to lunch.
"Why would you think we were going to be so good?" Vaughn asked me. "Who do we have that's so established in the CFL?"
"Well," I replied, "there's you, and you have more catches than any player in the CFL history. And there's your quarterback, Jason Maas, who had lots of success with Edmonton. And there's Corey Holmes, who was the best player in the Western Division last year with Saskatchewan."
"Yeah, okay, there's those three guys," Vaughn said, "but it takes a lot more guys to make a good team. Who else do we have that's proven?"
"Well," I replied again, "there's Josh Ranek, I guess. He was pretty good with Ottawa."
"Yeah, okay, so even if you want to include Ranek, the fact is that Ranek and Holmes are never on the field at the same time (because they play the same position), so who else is there?"
Dead air. . .
"Who else do we have?" Vaughn asked again. "I mean, are you going to tell me (receivers) Brock Ralph and Kamau Peterson have proven themselves in this league? They've been playing for a few years, but they're far from established, right?"
Okay, Terry, you got me. I stand corrected. But, hey, shouldn't Maas be performing better than he has?
"He was very good in Edmonton when he was doing things he knows how to do," Vaughn said. "He's being asked to do a lot of different things now, and that's tough on him, although he's getting better at it."
Vaughn has records and Grey Cup rings and 12 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons as a receiver, but what makes him proudest is the fact that he's always been a winner.
This season, that streak is in jeopardy, and I find that a tad sad.
• Vaughn, by the way, figures he can keep playing in the CFL for at least two more seasons, but he turns 35 nextyear and has long felt that 35 would be a good age at which to retire.
"The only thing I find funnow is Game Day," hetold me. "Game Dayis why I stick around and go through all the crap I do during the week, in practice and meetings andall that.All the other stuff that goes with football, I could care less about. I just wish we could play 18 games back to back to back, and just play.
"I'll probably play next year, but if an opportunity comes up in business or in a football front office, I'd consider it.I want to getin the business world. Owning a restaurant or things like that would appeal to me.I wasoffered a job as a receivers coach at Fresno State a couple of years ago. If that was offered again, I'd look at it.
"I also think it would be cool to be a general manager. I'd be up front as a GM, and I think you have to do that. Don't blow smoke up players' butts.I've seen a lot of that in my career. Too much of it."
• Vicki Hall of the Edmonton Journal wrote a touching piece this week about Eskimos offensive lineman Dan Comiskey and the difficulties he and his wife are experiencing as their baby daughter is in need of a kidney transplant to survive.
"We're not feeling sorry for ourselves," Vicki quoted Comiskey as saying. "We're not looking for pity... We know there are a lot of parents and kids in worse situations than we are. But if I can get one message out there, it's to always hold on tohope. We never let go of hope. Ever. You have to believe in miracles. I know we do."
Comiskey, a 6-foot-5, 310-pounder, is as tough a player as there is in the CFL, but his daughter might just be tougher. She has endured five surgeries in her first 17 months of life
• In case you missed my York Report in Wednesday's editions of Metro, let me tell you that two more CFL head coaches are in serious jeopardy of losing their jobs, sources say.
Danny Maciocia, who only last season led the Eskimos to the Grey Cup championship in his first year as a head coach, is no longer in the good books of Edmonton bossman Hugh Campbell, and sources say another embarrassing loss or two will mean he will be replaced by Greg Marshall. A former Edmonton player, Marshall recently was fired as Hamilton’s head coach.
Sources say Campbell and Marshall already have been talking.
The Esks lost a mind-boggler to Winnipeg last Thursday, when Milt Stegall turned a 100-yard, catch-and-run into the winning touchdown on the game's final play. There are those in the Edmonton locker room who believe defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell ought to take the heat for the play instead of Maciocia but, hey, let's get serious. Rick is Hugh’s son.
• In Saskatchewan, meanwhile, the heat’s on Danny Barrett, who’s in his seventh year as the Roughriders' head coach and has experienced very little success.
One or two more clunkers, like last week’s loss to the Argonauts in Regina, and look for one of Barrett’s assistants, likely Richie Hall or George Cortez, to become his successor.
• Rumblings continue about possible successors for Tom Wright, who's in his final season as CFL commissioner, and names such as Argos president Keith Pelley, TSN analyst Glen Suitor, Toronto sports lawyer Gord Kirke, former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna and B.C. Lions president Bob Ackles are being mentioned.
The best candidate in my opinion, however, is an agent who likely won't even get consideration.
His name is Gil Scott.Thenative of Unionville, Ont., hasrepresented countless players, coaches and GMs in the CFL for more than a quarter of a century. He knows the CFL inside out, like no other person on the planet could. He knows all the tendencies, all the rules, all the secrets. He knows where all the bodies are hidden.
He'd undoubtedlyturn the CFL into the first-rate operation it deserves to be.
Mind you, he'd have to relinquish his agency, which doesn't only represent football folks but also a bevy of NHL GMs and coaches, including the Ottawa Senators' John Muckler and the Boston Bruins' Dave Lewis.
Gil probably couldn't afford the pay cut and wouldn't want the headaches that automatically accompany the jobof CFL commish. But trust me when I tell you: No one would be better suited and better prepared for the job.
• With the exception of last week, when most of the games were exciting, the first third of the CFL season has generally been as dull as dishwater, and the consensus is thatthe boredomwas attributable to the implementation of video replays, which has slowed games down. The increase in penalties hasn't helped, either.
"It's ridiculous," Edmonton receiver Ed Hervey was quoted as saying in The Edmonton Sun. "People are soon going to stop watching the games on TV and stop caring because it's become bad."
That's quite an indictment from a good CFL player, but you know what? He may be right.
Indeed, ratings are down and attendance figures aren't exactly rising.
And the signing of former NFL star Ricky Williams by Toronto did absolutely nothing for CFL fans. New fans might have decided to watch a game to check out Williams in the first third of the season, but his unimpressive performanceswouldn't exactly havekept those fans interested.
Message from Marty York:After about three decades of covering the CFL in newspapers, magazines, on national television and on radio, the folks who run Metro newspapers have given me the opportunity to report on the league in a new and efficient way -- online, right here at
. Here, I will have the space and freedom to cover the league the way that will best serve you. My reports will be updated at least twice a week and will include information you're not likely to find elsewhere. I will also give you my weekly CFL picks. And I welcome email from CFL fans -- send them to
. I'll publish some from time to time. I'm very excited about this venture, and I hope you will be, too.