In The Event My Little Bit Of Snark In An Earlier Post Wasn't Noticed...

Re: point six in this list...

I'm still flabbergasted that a Saskatchewan MP has a freaking petition against Planned Parenthood on his website (and apparently has had for awhile, but I only found out this week because I'm out of touch, I guess). Wasn't it enough for Brad Trost to condemn funding for pride events (StarPhoenix) and just be a general all-around anti-government Conservative politician (Brad Trost's website)?

What else can I do? I must judge those who voted for this nincompoop--who make my province look like a nest of nincompoops!--harshly.

Therefore and henceforth and forsooth, I shall refer to Brad Trost's riding as "Saskatoon-Dumbolt" in anything I say or write.

And I shall continue to do this until the citizens of Saskatoon-Dumbolt turf Trost.

So let it be written, so let it be dumb.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON EDIT: Added a few links and tweaked the writing.

Friday Afternoon Kitty!

Today we will learn how Benny Hill music makes everything better. Especially if everything is speeded up.

Solidarity on the gridiron?

Professional sports athletes are amongst the unlikeliest people to start singing Solidarity Forever. Either they come from backgrounds of privilege, or are quickly accepted into that world – at least during their playing career. The Chamber of Commerce types like to bask in the reflected glory of sporting heroes; in today’s economy, most sports heroes are more likely to encounter people who write off their tickets or skyboxes as a business expense than the average paying Joe and Jane fan.

Canadian football players, however, may be getting a hard and ugly look at what it’s actually like being an employee in a system where the rules, the law, and the money are all rigged against them. As unlikely as it sounds, there may be a strike or lockout next season (TSN).

One of the big issues in the contract negotiations is Canadian content. Right now every CFL club must carry 20 Canadians on their 42-man rosters. Of them, seven must be starters. Starting with a series of blog posts by the Globe and Mail’s Dave Naylor (here and here at globeandmail.com), some CFL clubs seem to be starting a surreptitious campaign to cut the number of Canadians on a roster in the next collective bargaining agreement. That’s what’s apparently sparking the strike/lockout talk.

The knock against Canadian-born players is that they may have the raw materials but they don’t get the coaching that gives them the skills to make a good player better. The CIS, (cis-sic.com)which oversees inter-university athletics in Canada, isn’t in the business of running sports leagues as if they are pro leagues without the duty of having to pay wages – which is the way the NCAA runs south of the border. Sure, you come out of the NCAA with more of a football education (or basketball, or volleyball or hockey or track or golf), but a student who gets a sports scholarship is primarily at the university for sports, not for education. Not all student athletes are like that (somewhere I remember hearing Kent Austin was eligible for a Rhodes Scholarship, but after graduating from Ole Miss he instead elected to begin his pro football career with the St. Louis [now Arizona] Cardinals than go to Oxford), but it’s that way for the vast majority of American student athletes.

Canadian universities aren’t like that, and not just because of egalitarian reasons. While American networks will pay big bucks to broadcast university sports, Canadian networks don’t do the same, and while American university athletics are performed in front of thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of spectators, Canadian athletics are often performed in front of crowds of family and friends. (The U of R Rams, for example, have yet to break an attendance of over 4,000 this season). Less money means less money for development – especially in making coaching players a higher priority.

‘Twas not always thus. In 1931, IIRC, the Regina Roughriders won the western Canadian championship with a team comprised mostly of American-born players – only to have the Canadian Rugby Union (the forerunner to the CFL) decide the week before the Grey Cup that the Riders were ineligible to play for the Canadian championship.

Starting with Roy Shivers in 2000, the Riders decided to take the long route back to respectability, emphasizing an increase on scouting. When Tillman replaced Shivers in 2006, scouting was made even more of a priority. In Tillman’s case, the priority was to recruit quality players from smaller schools, and Canadians. That paid off in the 2007 Grey Cup, and the fact the Roughriders – with a quarterback as green as his home jersey, not much of a running game, and an assortment of injuries – remain one of the CFL’s best clubs. Quality CanCon has also been a hallmark of the Montreal Alouettes’ success as well. Conversely, other teams that haven’t done as well in scouting, especially scouting Canadians – hello Toronto Argonauts, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Edmonton Eskimos – look terrible in comparison.

In last October’s game at McMahon Stadium in Calgary against the Stampeders, the Roughriders started as many as 10 players on the offensive side of the ball – only quarterback Darian Durant and rookie offensive lineman Joel Bell were born south of the border.

Of those: Rob Bagg (Queens University) was never drafted, as were Stu Foord (PJFL grad) and Neal Hughes (U of R Rams). Chris Getzlaf (U of R Rams) was a former first round draft pick of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but he was thrown in on the 2007 trade with the Riders (Getzlaf and Corey Holmes to Saskatchewan, Jason Armstead to the TiCats) like a spare part. While Hughes and Foord are good (and in Stu’s case, a very good) role players, Bagg and Getzlaf are amongst the best receivers in Canadian football. Any CFL club could have signed Bagg, Foord, and Hughes as well as Getzlaf (given how much value the TiCats considered he had as trade bait) – the Riders were the only ones to take that chance. The Riders’ policy is to spend as much time recruiting and training their bench warmers as their stars – and that overall team depth has made them a success.

The problem isn’t that there’s a shortage of quality Canadian talent playing football. The problem may be that CFL clubs (especially those not named Roughriders) aren’t scouting enough and aren’t teaching their players. (You could also make a case to include Jason Clermont in that category, since the Riders had an opportunity to sign him as a Regina Ram [pre-CIS], and Tillman, as Ottawa Renegades’ GM, TWICE passed up opportunities to draft him before he was signed by the BC Lions.)

Now, there are two places that are capable of producing better Canadian football talent – Quebec and Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan’s high school programs produce enough talent for not only its PJFL (Hilltops and Thunder) and CIS (Rams and U of S Huskies) but also for a host of other places – teams in the BC Junior Football League are stocked with Saskatchewan high school players. In Quebec, there’s been an explosion of interest in football since the Als returned, and the number of university football teams has increased from three to six (Wikipedia) in the past 10 years.

And if the CFL does expand – to Ottawa as well as to Moncton – there may be a mre legitimate argument about CanCon. But given how badly the Argos and Blue Bombers bumbled about this season with rookie coaches, and also that many of the CFL’s best coaches and personnel people are either long in the tooth (Wally Buono in BC, Ken Miller in Saskatchewan, Bob O’Billovitch in Hamilton), have a legal sword of Damocles over his head (Eric Tillman) or may be poached by the NFL (Marc Trestman in Montreal), (CBS Sports) there’s a real question about whether there’s enough management talent – scouts, front office people, head and assistant coaches – to fill those rosters.

But CFL management – the majority of teams, probably not the Riders or the CFL as an entity – see the problem the same way a business that’s having a rough fiscal quarter sees a quick way to return to profitability – by gutting its payroll. Because quality Canadians are (a) relatively more expensive than their American counterparts and (b) scarcer, the solution isn’t to develop more Canadian football players or to improve the clubs’ scouting and coaching: it’s to break the union and devalue Canadians’ value as employees. Just as Wal-Mart or McDonalds can always find a ready-made pool of young, poor, or both people willing to work McJobs for McPay, the CFL wants to cut its bottom line. Guys like Chris Szarka (recently elected to Regina city council [pd] on a cut-taxes-and-increase-suburban-services-and-hey-I'm-a-Roughrider platform. and Gene Makowsky (who was regarded as a potential Sask. Party candidate in the Regina Douglas Park by-election) (L-P) may never admit it, or even understand it, but the CFLPA has less in common with management and more in common with the problems workers face in today’s economy than they let on.

Six In The Morning

ON CIVILIZATION'S MARCH TOWARDS COLLAPSE Want a binding climate treaty out of Copenhagen? Rotsa ruck. (Guardian)

ON THE SASK PARTY'S POSITIVE POLLING The Leader-Post has a huge, mega-ginormous feature on public support for Saskatchewan's Sask Party government, which is just a-sailin' along.

ON BRAD TROST'S IDIOTIC VIEWS ON TAXES The Star-Phoenix has a well-written and sober critique of the Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Dumbolt nonsensical and contradictory ideas about taxation. It is much more informative than me writing "blargh, Trost is unfit for office!" Although, he totally is.

ON THAT AWFUL SOLDIER MASSACRE IN TEXAS Holy crap. Terrorism, madness or both? (New York Times)

ON JUST DOING HIS JOB The Supreme Court overturns a decision against the Saskatchewan judge who had been found guilty of a "malicious prosecution" that ruined the lives of several innocent people accused of child abuse. (CBC)

ON SOME CAT THAT GOT SWINE FLU It's true. But it got better. (Toronto Star)

Pick of the Day: Books in the Brig

The Moscow Ballet is in town tonight to perform Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker at Conexus Arts Centre. This could have been a POTD candidate, I suppose, except the troupe doesn't actually hail from Moscow. Yeah, all the principles are Russian. But they're ex-pats, and the company itself is based out of Maryland. So calling themselves the Moscow Ballet is probably a tad misleading. Still, most of the dancers did train with the famed Bolshoi Ballet, so they obviously know a thing or two about pleis, jetes and the like. Last time they were in town, though, they used a really chintzy sound set-up that detracted greatly from the quality of the performance. So no POTD for them!

I've got what will likely be a far more interesting performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet lined up for a POTD next week anyway, so tonight I'm going to give the nod to Books in the Brig. It's being held at West Harvet Inn, and features five local authors who are short-listed for the 2009 Saskatchewan Book Awards -- Connie Gault, Trevor Herriot, Wilfred Burton, Jean Freeman and Andrew Stubbs.

The SBAs will be held at Conexus Arts Centre on Nov. 28. Unlike that relatively staid affair, this, as the title implies, is a pirate-themed event. To help get you in the mood, here's a hilarious clip from Family Guy (YouTube)