Andrew Bucholtz

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Andrew Bucholtz is a Canadian football blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Michael Sam is just the latest in a long line of CFL trailblazers

    Newly-signed Montreal Alouettes' defensive end Michael Sam is the first openly-gay player in the CFL, but he's far from the first trailblazer. Over the decades, the CFL has welcomed all sorts of football players turned away from the NFL for one reason or another, whether their exclusion was about race, position, size, college experience or something else. As Mike Freeman wrote in an excellent piece at Bleacher Report, Sam's signing bears many similarities to when Warren Moon came to the CFL in the late 1970s:

    The best comparison to Sam is Warren Moon. Whenever I make this comparison, it drives a certain percentage of readers to hysterics. But it's completely accurate. The NFL was still backward when it came to black quarterbacks after Moon came out of the University of Washington in the late 1970s, just as the NFL (and really all of sports) is still backward when it comes to gay athletes now. For gay players, in terms of sports, this is the 1970s. That's what many people, especially when it comes to Sam, fail to realize.

    Moon was only one of many talented players overlooked by the NFL who wound up succeeding in the CFL, though, and while some of that was racial prejudice, some of it was about concerns about size, speed, college experience or more. Those elements come into play with Sam, too; in particular, some have used his size (he's listed as 6'2'', 260 pounds) and his speed (he has a best 40-yard-dash time of 4.71 seconds) as reasons to write him off despite the incredible level of college production that makes his exclusion from the NFL highly unusual. Thus, regardless of whether it's bigotry, on-field concerns or a mix of both that have kept Sam out of the NFL so far, there are past CFL players who have been through similar situations. Here are five of them, just a few of the numerous cases over the years:

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  • Video: Winnipeg flagbearers at FIFA Women's World Cup escaped violence in Iraq

    Playing soccer in Canada isn't always easy, but there are places where it's far more difficult. One such place is Iraq, the former home of Winnipeg teenagers Nazdar and Zainab Hilo. The girls loved soccer there, so much so that they kept playing despite the chances of being kidnapped or killed. Their family came to Canada as refugees in 2010, where it's much easier for them to play the game they love. Now, they'll be carrying the FIFA flag at the Women's World Cup games in Winnipeg next month, as Global's Shannon Cuciz reports:

    Nazdar Hilo told Cuciz that when she and her sister used to play soccer in Iraq, they would have to hide every time someone came by.

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  • Michael Sam signs with Montreal, becomes the CFL's first openly gay player

    The CFL saw history made Friday with the news that defensive end Michael Sam had signed with the Montreal Alouettes. Sam is an incredibly talented player who's been considering the CFL for a while, and he should help boost Montreal's pass rush, but he's also a trailblazer; he's the first openly gay player to sign in the CFL. While the league has done a lot to promote the idea of welcoming players regardless of their sexual orientation, from an official partnership with You Can Play to various teams and players participating in anti-homophobia events, this is where the rubber will meet the road.

    If everything goes well and Sam becomes a CFL star, that not only could provide him with a pathway back to the NFL (his deal is for one year with an option; it's not clear if that's a team or player option), it might pave the way for other openly gay players in Canadian football. However, this may not all be smooth sailing. We've seen some Twitter backlash against Sam before from particular CFL

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  • ESPN/Sporting Intelligence survey has some fascinating data on CFL salaries

    The CFL's normally been big on keeping its teams' total salaries secret, but they've emerged in a surprising source; a global survey of sports teams' payrolls done by SportingIntelligence.com editor Nick Harris for ESPN The Magazine. We don't typically see CFL teams' salaries; we know where the cap ceiling and floor are, but we only learn of teams that violated the cap (which was only Hamilton last year), and even the teams that do make their financials public (only Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg) have line items for "Football Operations" (which includes player salaries, but also coaches, general managers, equipment, travel costs and much more) rather than strictly salaries. Somehow, though, the ESPN survey has managed to pull together 2014 data for the CFL's teams, and there are some interesting results in it. First, consider this graphic that ESPN tweeted about the entire CFL's 2014 payroll and how it compares to that of Major League Soccer and the LA Dodgers: 

    At first glance, that figure of $41.5 million seems somewhat off. Keep in mind that these are in U.S. dollars, though. It's unclear exactly when the conversion was made, but if we use Thursday's rate of $1 USD = $1.22 CAD, we get a total CFL payroll of $50.63 millon Canadian. Now, that would seem to imply more cap violations than we saw, as the cap was $5 million CAD last year and there are only nine CFL teams (accounting for just $45 million). It's notable that the cap doesn't cover preseason and postseason compensation, travel allowances, salaries paid to players on the nine-game injury list, pension plan contributions and other such things, though, and this survey appears to include at least some of those. What's really interesting is when it gets into the individual CFL teams, though. All the information globally can be found in ESPN's piece, but here's the important information for just the CFL's teams. (There's an interesting question of how ESPN got this info: did teams just turn it over? That seems unlikely given how reluctant they are to talk about finances. Presuming this is accurate, though, here it is:) 

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  • How will the Argonauts' lame-duck 2015 under Braley at the Rogers Centre go?

    The Toronto Argonauts' announcement Wednesday that they'd been bought by Bell and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and will move to BMO Field for the 2016 season and beyond should give them some hope for the future, but it's notable that this deal is all about the future. The transaction doesn't even close until December 31, so for this season, the Argonauts will still be owned by David Braley and will still have their home games at the Rogers Centre. While their future's looking up, there are real questions about how this season will play out. 

    Perhaps the biggest issue is what Braley does this year in terms of financial support for the team. He's come under fire before for pinching pennies, especially when it comes to marketing cuts and supplies deemed non-essential. Now that he has a deal in place to sell the team, and presumably a price locked in, why would he spend any more than he absolutely has to? He's not going to reap any long-term rewards that a strong marketing presence might help acheive. It seems unlikely that Braley would do a full slash-and-burn beyond what he's already done, as that might draw enough attention to make the buyers leery, but it's also unlikely that he'll invest much more money into a team he's about to sell, especially considering that they seem likely to lose money this year anyway.

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  • Argos' story overshadowed by Babcock move, conference crasher; Foley complains

    The Toronto Argonauts just can't get a break. On Wednesday, the most significant news they've had in recent years, their acquisition (effective Dec. 31) by Bell and MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum, was overshadowed by the story that broke almost immediately afterwards of Mike Babcock being named head coach of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs (also owned by MLSE). In fact, it was so overshadowed that a reporter, David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, specifically went to the Argonauts' press conference to ask Tanenbaum and Tim Leiweke (MLSE's president and CEO) about the Babcock rumours (video can be found here if it doesn't load for you):

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  • Bell, Larry Tanenbaum agree to buy Argos at end of year, but questions remain

    The Argonauts' sale to Larry Tanenbaum and Bell was officially announced Wednesday. (@CFL.)The Argonauts' sale to Larry Tanenbaum and Bell was officially announced Wednesday. (@CFL.)The Toronto Argonauts have been the subject of many media reports that failed to come true over the years, so even though Tuesday's news of their imminent sale to Bell and MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum was imminent seemed reputable, there was still always a chance it could have gone south at the last minute like so many previous plans. This time, though, no one pulled the football away. Bell and Tanenbaum confirmed their decision to buy the Argos (which, interestingly enough, won't actually take place until the end of this year) at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, and stated that the team will be moving to BMO Field beginning in 2016. From the CFL's release:

    Bell Canada and Larry Tanenbaum's Kilmer Group announced their agreement to jointly acquire the Toronto Argonauts Football Club of the Canadian Football League from sports entrepreneur David Braley on Wednesday. Financial terms of the transaction, expected to close on December 31, 2015, were not disclosed.

    "The Argos are an important team for this great city and a crucial component in the ongoing success of the Canadian Football League. We're delighted to invest in the most successful Canadian pro football team of all time, and look forward to seeing the Boatmen play at beautiful BMO Field next year," said Larry Tanenbaum, Chair of Toronto-based investment company Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Limited and Chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).

    This deal should address both of the Argonauts' main questions, their search for an owner and their search for a stadium. Potentially at least, it gives them two very good answers there; Bell and Tanenbaum are incredibly deep-pocketed, and Bell in particular has substantial incentive to make the Argonauts successful given that they own 80 per cent of TSN (which has the CFL's broadcasting rights locked up through 2018). Meanwhile, BMO Field could be a terrific facility for the Argos; it's much more appropriately sized (and a much better fan environment) than the cavernous Rogers Centre was, and it could be an excellent place to watch a CFL game. However, there are still a few concerns.

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  • Video: Alouettes' linebacker Bryn Roy on what he learned from steer wrestling

    Many CFL players took part in different sports growing up, but there aren't many who are former steer wrestlers. That's the case with Montreal Alouettes' linebacker Bryn Roy, though. The 27-year-old Roy, the son of world rodeo steer wrestling champion Mark Roy (a member of both the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame), grew up in Dalemead, Alberta both playing football and wrestling steers with his dad and his brother Denver. As he told Global's Lisa McGregor, he thinks that experience has helped his football career:

     

    Roy told McGregor playing linebacker in particular is a perfect fit for him, as it requires the same approach as steer wrestling.

    I’m the predator, I’m seeking the ball carrier. It’s man versus man. In the arena, it’s man versus beast,” he said. “You’re always trying to beat the clock in rodeo and you’re always trying to beat the man in front of you in football. And so, it’s made a competitor out of me."

    Roy had a long and

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  • Argonauts' sale to Bell, Tanenbaum, BMO Field move to be announced - report

    The long-running sagas of the Toronto Argonauts' ownership and stadium situations both appear close to resolution. TSN's Dave Naylor reported Tuesday afternoon that the previously-rumoured deal between Bell and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum to buy the team from David Braley and move them to BMO Field in time for the 2016 season is expected to be announced as soon as Wednesday. Of course, we've seen reports on both the ownership and the stadium fronts that didn't come to pass, so it should be made clear that nothing is final until it's officially announced, especially with this team and its incredibly complicated situation. Still, Naylor has been doing good work on this story, and his report here seems to fit logically with what we know about this potential deal and the need to get it done quickly.

    Providing this report does come to pass, it looks like the Argos' ownership and stadium situation should both be stabilized. There are still plenty of questions

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  • Ticats' signee Adrian Robinson's death was suicide, not the shooting TMZ reported

    Tragedy struck the CFL this weekend with the death of Adrian Robinson Jr., a 25-year-old former NFL linebacker who had signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a defensive lineman earlier this offseason. Sadly, that tragedy was further amplified through erroneous reporting from TMZ. Following Robinson's death Saturday night, TMZ reported that his death came in a shooting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Robinson's hometown. It turns out they had everything in that story wrong, as the Philadelphia medical examiner's office confirmed to PennLive Sunday that Robinson hanged himself in Philadelphia. How did TMZ get this so wrong? Barry Petchesky has a good analysis of that at Deadspin, discussing how TMZ took a response from a Harrisburg police sergeant saying Robinson wasn't involved in a particular shooting to mean that he was involved in another shooting:

    The police sergeant never specifically addressed Robinson, only noted that the shooting on North 2nd street—which was first brought up by the TMZ producer—did not involve Robinson in any way. TMZ took the sergeant’s terse clarification as confirmation that Robinson had been killed in a separate shooting, but the presumption that there was a separate shooting turned out to be faulty to begin with. In retrospect, they saw a confirmation only because they were expecting one.

    That confirmation led to a massively false report that had the wrong method of death, the wrong city and the wrong circumstances, and that report gained significant traction through other media outlets repeating it. Those outlets aren't necessarily in the wrong to do so; if the information's being put out there by an outlet with the reach of TMZ, it's hard not to discuss it even with a grain of salt, and TMZ does break some scoops accurately (as they did with the Ray Rice video). This story shows the problems with relying on incomplete information in an effort to be first, though, allowing confirmation bias to kick in. TMZ could have reached out to Robinson's agent to try and confirm their story, or they could have asked the Harrisburg police better questions (such as "Was Robinson's death in your city?"). They didn't, and thus they caused bad information to be spread and likely caused more pain for Robinson's family and friends.

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