When ownership really had some profile
Trip down memory lane for a bit since it’s so incredibly dead right now?
It struck me the other night when I was Argo Boy and sitting in a press box with a whole lot of old friends who’ve been around for decades that for all the chatter the past few weeks about the leadership style and public persona of Tim Leiweke that, really, it’s nothing.
The last time I did football for any concentrated period of time was back in the halcyon days of the Argos, with Bruce McNall, John Candy, Wayne Gretzky and Rocket Ismail and, folks, those were the days.
Now? Now MLSE is a big monolithic conglomerate with no personality, the baseball seems soul-less and the level of personality that’s coming out of the corporate suite is, for the most part, drab.
Is that a good thing?
Do we want the owners or faces of a city’s sports teams to be “out there” or do we prefer them to stay in the background quietly, writing big cheques and staying out of the way.
Forget, if you can, that the McNall era was built almost entirely on fraud, that there was no “there” there, the money wasn’t real, the house of cards crashed down as it always does eventually. For those couple of whirlwind years, the city had an ownership group that was colourful and prominent and full of celebrities that attracted fans like flies to a barbecue.
It was a lot of fun, even if it was fake. There have been bombastic owners in this area before – Harold Ballard and Harry Ornest come quickly to mind – but none had the cachet of McNall and Candy and Gretzky and none ever will.
But we know that glitz and glamour are more a supernova than the sun; they come and they go and perhaps for sustainable success, boring and staid works best.
But you know what they could do back then, as we discussed around the football the other night?
Put on great parties.
The single best media party I’ve ever been at was at, if I recall, the Horseshoe the night before the first Argo game of the McNall era.
I remember dancing to the Blues Brothers with Rocket’s mom for some reason while John Candy and Wendel Clark and a bunch of other shot pool and we all ogled whichever of the Hemingway women it was the hung around the team and it was a night of buzz and excitement and glitz that we never see any more.
Things are too corporate, things are too expensive, things are too exclusionary to let the media hobnob with the swells. But back in the day, every major sports event – a season opener, an Olympics, a championship series – had an accompanying “event” that was like each city trying to out-do the other and they league trying to curry favour an entertain.
It’s not like that any more, sadly.
I’m watching The Newsroom the other day – and I missed episode three so no spoilers, okay – and the dude mentioned that the only version of this song is this one and you know what, he’s right.
Okay, now that I’m on a roll, indulge as I get to three more memorable media parties now that I’m thinking of them? Thanks.
Sydney Olympics, 2000
The press party a night or two before the Games opened was at a racetrack, we had our own bookies with the old chalkboards to put up odds and, yes, Muhammad Ali showing up was the highlight.
San Antonio, can’t remember the year
Had to be the mid-2000s during one of the NBA Finals but they had this bash at an amusement park they had closed to the public and a couple of Shiner Bocks and some Mexican food sure make the rides more fun.
Toronto, 1992 or 1993
Not sure what year, think it was before the first World Series but they had it at the Science Centre; very cool.
They don’t hold a candle to that Argo one but still …
Man, do I miss the good old days.
How in the name of all things good in the world is it August already? And how in the name of all things good in the world is it August and 20 C outside?
No, I’m not at all in favour of mid-30s and you can try to make me want that weather forever and it won’t work but this is ridiculous.
So I ran into Amir Johnson yesterday in pursuit of a very cool story we’re putting together for early next week.
And aside from what we came up for this little tiny story in the paper, he was espousing the same philosophy as every other Raptor that I’ve talked to since the change at the top:
Give us a chance.
“That’s how a team grows, if you stay together as a group, get established, spend a couple of years together.”
Now, I know that’s not the thinking of a large number of people but, you know what?
The sense I’m getting from the couple of guys I saw in Vegas, the coaches that I’ve talked to and Amir yesterday that there seems to be a sense of “screw you, we’re out to prove something” and I don’t think that’s a bad attitude to have.
After hearing from many of the teams fans – and they hear – that they should blow it up and trade a lot of ‘em and give up on the season because they’re going to stink anyway, having a bit of an edge isn’t a bad thing at all.
Okay, another mail call; plenty of solid stuff there that has nothing to do with the minutia of the HOTH and I’m quite glad of that.
It’s firstname.lastname@example.org; love to hear from some of you.