Tue Jul 19 05:15pm EDT
The Arland Bruce III situation in Hamilton may be providing the most dramatic twists in Canada since SCTV's The Days Of The Week. Bruce led the team with 1,303 receiving yards last season, the third-highest total in the league, but has been a very minor part of the Tiger-Cats' offence thus far in 2011. He caught two passes for 22 yards in Week One against Winnipeg, then added three more catches for 26 yards against Edmonton, after which he told TSN he was "shocked" and found it "frustrating" to not be more involved, but dialed those comments down when talking to Drew Edwards. This past week, he was placed on the injured list but still participated in a walkthrough; he then didn't play in Saturday's win over Saskatchewan, practiced Monday and dodged the media afterwards. However, the most unusual moment of all may be this note from The National Post's Mark Masters in his Week Three recap:
Ticats receiver Arland Bruce created a stir last week by taping over the name on the back of his practice jersey with the word, "Reth." When asked about the apparent name change, Bruce refused to give a straight answer only saying, "Runako Reth is actually the full name, but we're not going to get into that." The African name Runako Reth means handsome king.
Much like the original, this doesn't appear to have a great deal of confusion-reduction potential. Then again, neither does anything else that's going on with Bruce (seen above dropping a pass against Toronto's Evan McCollough in the 2010 East semi-final). The team insists that his benching Saturday was "an injury thing" and that he's "still in good standing", but his participation in the walkthrough is curious then, as is the way he's not talking to the media. It's understandable if Bruce is frustrated at his low usage level so far given his talent and his record, but the way his situation has played out so far is very curious.
Of course, this is far from the only unusual stunt Bruce has pulled over his career. His Michael Jackson "tribute" might go down as the worst CFL touchdown celebration of all time, and there are still plenty of questions over what exactly led to his unusual exit from Toronto; was that just more evidence of Bart Andrus being incapable of running a CFL team (interestingly enough, Andrus' current gig as the Omaha Nighthawks' offensive coordinator may be in jeopardy thanks to the UFL's issues, and many CFL players aren't exactly weeping), or was there some blame there on Bruce's side as well? There were suggestions at the time that he was a damaging presence in the locker room when things weren't going well, and while much of that can be written off as just Andrus' mismanagement, it's going to be interesting to see if some of the same issues arise again.
It certainly hasn't been all bad, though, as Bruce has found plenty of success on the field. His 9,344 career receiving yards are very impressive, as are his 76 career receiving touchdowns. He's clearly still capable of being a receiving threat, too, as 2010 was one of his best seasons (and one where he tied a CFL record with 16 catches in one game). He has also often entertained, with spectacular highlights, great quotes and even some impressive touchdown celebrations, such as the Spiderman one. In the end, he can call himself whatever name he'd like, and if he wants to make the name change to "Renako Reth" official, we'll certainly use that here. Unless he starts producing on the field, though, he might have to be downgraded from "handsome king" and "star wide receiver" to "professor who teaches logical positivism, and also minds the sheep dip."