Last season ended over 5 months ago. This season is just over a month away. Teams are busy signing players and finalizing rosters for training camp. But rather than commenting on roster moves, scheduling or something else that's remotely recent, I'm forced this week to comment on an incident that occurred before last year's playoffs. Ahh the joys of covering the CFL...
Last week, an arbitrator overturned a league-imposed suspension on reigning Fan's Choice Douche Bag of the Year Jason Jimenez. Jimenez was assessed a 1 game suspension following the Nov 3 game against Calgary where Jimenez cut blocked Anthony Gargiulo at the knees breaking his leg in 3 places as well as tearing tendons and ligaments. The arbitrator ruled that the contact was "accidental". There's so much that is ridiculous about this situation that I'm not sure where to start.
Maybe I'll start by recapping the whole ordeal... In the last game of the regular season, Jimenez breaks Garguilo's leg. The next day, the league suspends him for one game. Jimenez appeals, but apparently no arbitrator could be found in the 2 weeks between BC's final regular season game and the West Final (I guess November is a popular vacation time for arbitrators), so the decision is deferred until the offseason, meaning Jimenez got to play in the playoffs. Now 6 months later an arbitrator, who knows nothing about football, decides that no suspension was warranted to begin with. Long story short, Jimenez breaks a guy's leg and other than the mild inconvenience of attending the arbitration hearing, walks away scot-free, which is more than can be said for Garguilo. The CFL's discipline process at it's finest. I bet just the thought of having to attend another hearing to clear his name will deter Jimenez form ever doing wrong again.
Imagine if this happened in real life... someone kills a guy in plain view of the cops. The cops catch him and say "Look, we're charging you, but if you appeal the charge we can't arrest you until your case is heard. And by appealing you are pretty much guaranteeing that you'll get off because the judge is actually just a Fine Arts major who knows very little about criminal law and always sides with the accused. On the other hand you could do the honourable thing and just accept the charge even though we have no way of making you do that."
Now I could sit hear and rant about how flawed the discipline process is from the maximum 1 game suspension, to the ability of a player to stall a suspension up to 3 weeks, to the fact that in the end decisions can be made by someone who specializes in law rather than football but I'd be wasting my breath. The fact is that's the system that the league and Player's Association agreed to and for now we're stuck with it. The only way things will ever change is if the Player's Association agrees to make changes.
The Player's Association is responsible for protecting the interest of their members, so obviously they are going to fight against anything that could impact a player's pay cheque. That's why they want maximum suspensions to be so short and why they want the ability to appeal to an independent 3rd party. But the Player's Association is in a tough spot with the Jimenez case and if Commissioner Cohon is smart he will use it to the league's advantage.
Normally, suspensions and fines involve 1 player and it's a case of the "big bad league" vs. the "poor hard working player" and the Association is the hero that comes to the aid of the player. But in this case, by defending Jimenez, the Association is ignoring Garguilo who is also one of their members. This is thin ice that they are treading on because if they continue to support players who cause possible career ending injuries to other players, there will soon be a mutiny within their ranks.
So the time is now for Cohon and the league, they need to champion Garguilo as the reason changes are needed in the discipline process... to protect the players (by the way, it was a little awkward to use the word "champion" in the same sentence with a Calgary player). If changes aren't made soon, things could get down right ridiculous. Player's already know that they can't get suspended for ripping a helmet off an opponent and tossing it downfield, liberally punching or choking another player, or breaking an opponent's leg with a dangerous cut block at the knees. Now that they have this knowledge look for them to push the envelop to see what else won't get them suspended. My guess is that 2008's list of non-suspendable offenses may include: putting your opponent in the sleeper hold, wrapping barbed wire around your pads, shanking someone in the trenches and placing a garbage can over an opponent's head and repeatedly hitting them with a folding chair.
In other news, the Board of Governors revisits the idea of selling the league to Vince McMahon. Turns out the man was just ahead of his time.