Them Against Themselves for the Edmonton Elks

I’ve refrained from saying anything that could remotely be construed as negative about the Canadian Football League, its players or teams. It’s been a rough year-plus for all of us, for the league, its players, teams and fans. The capacity to find positive in all of this is something we all need. If I’m accused of having a sunny disposition or being a cheerleader, I will plead guilty.

One of the hardest things to look past in the early season was Jamie Elizondo’s quote about Kenny Stafford. Players get released all the time, it’s part of the sport. It can be tough on them, their families, etcetera. That’s why the tradition is to pick a positive aspect and focus on it when cut time comes.

“Kenny did some good things in practice. There was some other things that just didn’t fit — wasn’t a cultural fit — and so we made a decision and we’re heading in that direction and wish him all the best of luck.”

Jaime Elizondo after the Elks released Stafford

I had no information regarding the details of the Stafford cut, and — more importantly– I wanted to give Elizondo and the Elks more deference than they showed Stafford.

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It is virtually impossible to continue with that approach. The Elks are a team in crisis and it’s not equivalent to anything else in the league. The Redblacks are suffering through a tough year, the Stampeders have not been themselves, but the Elks’ “win-to-talent ratio” is abysmal.

The word that an announcer was relieved of his duties for being critical of management is not surprising. We all know that local game announcers are a unique combination of journalist and team public relations. That does not mean there is no journalist involved, but some folks say “we” when referring to the team they ostensibly cover. I cringe a bit when I hear it, but it is a longstanding and oft-heard fact of life.

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The problem, in this case, is not so much the dismissal, as what it usually means. Namely, that the team, management and other decision-makers have started to focus on blaming others for the languishing.

This usually ends badly. The next step is the support community getting softer. Then, comes the inevitable shakeup, after which the new crew pledges to repair the damage.

Sometimes it turns out better. Sometimes the “us against everybody” plan improves on-field performance, but you can’t win a fight against your fan base. And, you can’t convince your players that there is an “us” by badmouthing them, even when they are on their way out the door. 

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