Thursday, April 17, 2008

The New Head of the Zebra Herd

Officiating... There are few CFL topics that will arouse as much heated discussion. If you even mention the word reffing in the presence of a CFL fan, be prepared for a long winded rant that is probably not suitable for younger listening audiences. While fans of different teams can't seem to agree on much, they seem to be unanimous in their opinion that officiating needs drastic improvement... they also seem to agree that Rod Black sucks at announcing anything that doesn't involve axels and lutzes but that's beside the point.

Last year wasn't exactly a banner year for CFL refs. It seemed that a week of CFL action wasn't complete without a league apology for a blown call or a league imposed fine for questioning a call. I'm not saying the refs have an easy job or that I expect perfection from them but I don't think it's too much to ask for them to see punches that are thrown right in front of them or to know that when 2 opposing players simultaneously touch the ball they do not cancel each other out and the event did, in fact, actually happen. But such was life in the CFL last season.

To their credit, the league (unlike some of its refs), saw the problem and decided that action was needed. The first part of the change saw George Black step down as Director of Officiating. So the question since the position was vacated in December was: Who would be the chosen one to lead officiating out of the punch lines of my jokes and into respectability? Well yesterday we got our answer...

The chosen one, the great leader is none other than... Tom Higgins.

Higgins is of course the obvious choice given his vast array of experience as a referee. While he has no football officiating experience, he has refereed some amateur wrestling, which will come in handy when the BC Lions play. Higgins also brings to the table decades of experience in the CFL both as a coach and a player.

Now, people have been saying to me "Prophet, there had to be someone else out there." My reply is: "Not likely."

Director of CFL Officiating isn't what many would call a dream job, or even a desirable one. Basically, the position requires you to become one of the most hated men in the country. No matter what you do, you are guaranteed to garner the wrath of some team/fans. And don't expect a pat on the back when you do good. The only position in Canadian sports that faces a similar level of public scrutiny is the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs... well maybe that's not a fair comparison. The Director of Officiating is at least in charge of a group of people who succeed some of the time. So I really don't think Mark Cohon had to weed through stacks of resumes or interview dozens of potential candidates. Seriously, you would have to be somewhat masochistic to willingly subject yourself to this.

While I wouldn't call Higgins the ideal choice, I don't think he's an awful choice either. I mean if you think about it, they could have passed on Higgins and promoted Andre Proulx, which likely would see benalties across the league increase tree-fold. Repeat turd down.

So welcome aboard Tom, I look forward to making fun of you in the upcoming season.

In other CFL news...The Winnipeg Blue Bombers agreed on a contract extension with Kevin Glenn today. The 2 sides were at odds during negations, with Glenn wanting a raise and the Bombers saying they couldn't afford it. While no financial terms were released you have to assume this will constitute a raise for the East Division's nominee for Most Outstanding Player. So this means 1 of 2 things happened: 1 - Brendan Taman had money all along and was merely posturing to try and get Glenn cheap or 2 - They really don't have money and could be in some cap trouble. I think option 2 is more likely. While the team did get rid of sizeable salaries such as Davin Bush, Keith Stokes and Kyries Hebert (NFL), I would guess that the savings were more than used up in the contract extensions of Tom Canada, Dan Goodspeed, Matt Sheridan and now Glenn. Maybe they use the same accounting firm as Wally Buono...

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