Even the hapless Pirates have their standards and their limits

ON THE CFL

October 02, 1994|By KEN MURRAY

Despite their wretched record, there is a limit to the indignities the Shreveport Pirates will abide this season.

When Edmonton cornerback Charles Wright balked at a trade that would have sent him to Louisiana, Shreveport coach Forrest Gregg canceled the deal.

This is noteworthy because Wright was the cornerback who played like toast in Matt Dunigan's record 713-yard passing epic earlier this season for Winnipeg. Wright allegedly was covering Alfred Jackson when the Winnipeg receiver rolled up 308 yards on seven catches.

But he apparently felt Shreveport was an indignity he couldn't endure, despite having attended Tulsa and having family in Missouri.

Pointing to its winless record, Wright said he had nothing against Shreveport, then added, "I don't see myself being a Shreveport Pirate."

Reluctantly, he accepted a plane ticket. But when he missed his flight, Gregg called off the trade. Edmonton suspended him. Then Shreveport traded for Hamilton cornerback Corris Ervin, who went from one flaming franchise to another.

There were still plenty of indignities the Pirates were forced to swallow, though:

* Middle linebacker Steve Solari left the team two weeks ago to accept an offer to go into the oil business in Houston. His new salary called for $42,000. The oil business in Houston is not exactly booming.

* Linebacker Mario Perry, commenting on the team's lack of unity, said: "We should be like brother to brother. Instead, we're more like cousins."

* His experience in Shreveport so discouraged free-agent quarterback Tom Muecke that when he received an inquiry from Winnipeg about joining the Blue Bombers, he opted instead for the Baylor School of Optometry in Houston. (This indicates football players find Houston a lot more appealing than either Shreveport or Winnipeg.)

* Then there is the losing streak itself. With last night's loss at Winnipeg, the Pirates broke the CFL record for most defeats to start a season (13). If they lose all 18 games this season, they'll break Ottawa's 1988 record for most losses in one season (16).

Only one team in CFL history lost every game it played in a season. That was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who went 0-12 in 1949.

The Pirates figure to have two chances to avoid that indignity, though. After playing Winnipeg again next week, then Sacramento and Calgary -- all certain defeats -- they finish with Toronto away and Ottawa at home in the final two weeks. History awaits.

The death watch

When CFL executives met in Calgary last week to discuss the fate of failing franchises in Hamilton and Las Vegas, commissioner Larry Smith emerged saying that both franchises would finish the season.

The league decided to release TV money to both teams, enabling them to pay most of their operational costs for the rest of the season. According to Baltimore owner Jim Speros, each team will receive its share -- $550,000 -- of TV revenue for the season, which was being held by the league for just such an occasion. (See, this league does have foresight, after all.)

If need be, the league could funnel a percentage of the remaining 10 teams' TV revenue to the two dead-in-the-water franchises to ensure their completion of the season. Even Speros admitted that he doesn't see any chance for Las Vegas or Hamilton to make it to next season.

This is also why Speros wants a more prominent leadership role in the CFL. He wants to eliminate mistakes like the one that let Las Vegas in the league.

"We're not going to make those mistakes again," Speros said. "I didn't have any say in Shreveport, Sacramento or Las Vegas coming in. Those would not have been on my top 10 list under any circumstances.

"But I think this league will make it in a big way in the U.S. for this reason: We have an outstanding product. And Baltimore is the test market in the U.S. If it didn't work in Baltimore, then the CFL would have a problem."

Fire sale

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Posse last week began dismantling what had the makings of a good team, trading veteran linebacker Greg Battle to Ottawa for future considerations.

Former Florida State receiver Tamarick Vanover, the highest-paid member of the Posse and its biggest bust, is on the verge of going, too -- if the team can find a taker.

Fittingly, only 4,761 turned out in Las Vegas for a Week 12 group encounter with Hamilton. On the same night in Las Vegas, an NHL exhibition game drew more than 11,000.

He's got roving eyes

Then there's Fred Anderson, the owner of the Sacramento Gold Miners. He says he's lost more than $6 million the past two years, and suggested he won't lose a lot more -- in Sacramento, anyway.

"We're going to finish this season and then see what we can do to cut our losses," he told the Regina (Saskatchewan) Leader-Post last week. "If I find a better place to put this team, I wouldn't mind moving."

Speculation has the Gold Miners headed for Oakland, and Anderson sounds receptive. "I've heard about Oakland 42 times," he said. "I'm thinking I might go down there and see what it's all about."

Question of the week

How much more luck does the CFL need? Baseball went on strike and the NHL is in a lockout. And still the average attendance during the past three weeks has dropped from 27,493 (Week 10) to 21,319 (Week 11) to 18,747 (Week 12).

Audibles

Sacramento quarterback David Archer had surgery Wednesday on his dislocated right thumb and is expected to miss four weeks. . . . The Tiger-Cats offered a three-pack to fans last week -- three games for prices of $20, $30 or $45. They are mostly corner seats. . . . Sacramento fans can't see any CFL games on television because the area isn't serviced by ESPN2. . . . Ottawa president Phil Kershaw is ready to strike down the import rule that says Canadian teams must field 20 Canadian players. "Fans want to see the best product," he said. "That's what we have to give them. After seeing Vegas and Baltimore, I'm convinced that's the way we have to go."

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