BLOGGERNAUT: ’71 Argos Get The Doc Treatment From TSN

 Toronto Filmmaker To Chronicle Their Exploits As Part Of TSN Grey Cup Documentary Series

Joe Theismann and Leo Cahill

Those fabled and fabulous swashbucklers known as the 1971 Toronto Argonauts are getting together for more than just old times’ sake, this summer. An upcoming reunion of coach Leo Cahill’s stylish and swaggering crew will form the backbone of a movie that will be part of an extensive stroll down the CFL’s memory lane.

As part of its celebrations to commemorate the 100th Grey Cup, TSN has commissioned 8 documentaries, by 8 esteemed Canadian filmmakers, including Christie Callan-Jones, the Toronto director at the helm of a film whose working title is: “Mavericks: The Story Of The 1971 Argos.”

“I have a huge passion for football movies and stories,” Callan-Jones told me as we chatted after TSN’s announcement reception. “It’s a dream for me to do a football film. Especially the ’71 Argos. I mean, they lost (the Grey Cup Game) and people still remember them. That’s crazy. So, that’s a testament to the coach and to this crazy bunch and to Toronto. For me, it’s been so much fun.”

Still early in the process of shooting and putting the actual film together, Callan-Jones has already come to gain a certain affinity for the team, after doing an extensive amount of research and a number of interviews with the 1971 alumni. The energy she has for the project is clearly tangible, as she talks excitedly about moving forward.

“I’m actually bringing back a lot of the players for a reunion that we’re going to capture,” she said. “It’s sort of the ‘over-arc’ of the film. That’s going to be pretty amazing, to capture that energy. I can’t wait.”

July 7th is the date of the get together and Callan-Jones is counting on a big turn out with some of the mainstays and main characters of the team attending.

Joe Theismann’s coming back and Jim Stillwagon and Jim Corrigall, and Leo Cahill will be there. He was really the ‘Krazy Glue’ that held them together. It’s going to be awesome. And Tricky Dick’s coming from Manila,” she added, with enthusiasm, at the thought of Dick Thornton making the 13,000 kilometre trip.

Undoubtedly, Callan-Jones will get some colourful and contemplative comments during the reunion, to go along with interviews she’s already completed.

“I’ve done a ton of research. I’m still very early on in the interview stage. I’ve interviewed Bill Symons, Dave Raimey, Mike Eben, Gene Mack….”

Next on her movie to-do list was to head for Tampa Bay, to talk with friends and relatives of the late Leon McQuay, who was at the centre of the Argos’ story in so many ways. A rookie sensation in 1971, it was McQuay’s fumble late in the Grey Cup Game that helped the Calgary Stampeders salt away the victory.

The Documentarians: Callan-Jones is front row, right. -TSN Photo

Callan-Jones, who’s built a reputation as a socially conscious documentarian while tackling topics such as anorexia, stereotypes and homelessness, has always wanted to do a sports movie. With TSN executives deciding to have football-related stories told by filmmakers who don’t necessarily have any strong attachments to the sport, her chance came.

“Ever since I saw ‘The Natural’ as a kid, sports stories have spoken to me,” she said. “Triumph, redemption, I think, really, that even if you don’t understand sports, everyone gets that.”

“This is a story of stories,” she said about the ’71 Argos. “Football is the subtext. Football is sort of the canvas upon which you can tell these very human stories.”

While the on-field exploits of the 1971 Argos are well-documented, Callan-Jones’ film is likely to centre more on the men who wore the uniforms, as opposed to what they accomplished during the regular season and the playoffs. That’s because of the  mesmerizing hold the personalities of the players had on the city of Toronto and the role they played in the shifting attitudes of a changing city.

“Really, it’s a story about the times; the crazy 70’s, the city coming into its own,” Callan-Jones began. “But, also, it’s about a unique bunch of characters who were really, really close, beyond just being teammates. They spent their time together off the field. There’s something that bonded them that, even 40 years later, many of them are still really good friends.”

The ringleader of the Argos of the day was, of course, head coach Leo Cahill. Callan-Jones doesn’t underestimate the role he played in the formation and fostering of those special personalities and relationships.

“A lot of credit has to go to Leo. In many ways he built a team that reflected Toronto. Toronto was no longer ‘Toronto the good,’ it was becoming a world class city. It was really changing. Then you have this team that had been so terrible for so long. Starting in 1967 he, whether it was a conscious decision or not, built a team that reflected not only his personality but also that of a city. They both had swagger.”

“They were the team everyone loved to hate, the city everyone loved to hate and  it was this perfect marriage that, I think, could only have happened in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was a magical time. I don’t think you could ever have that again.”

It’s an essence that Callan-Jones will be trying to capture in the film.

And one that might just be relived a little, when the 1971 Argos ride back into town this July.


[button link=”” window=”yes”]TO READ DON’S COLUMNS AT ARGONAUTS.CA, CLICK HERE[/button]

[button link=”” window=”yes”]TO READ DON’S COLUMNS AT CFL.CA, CLICK HERE[/button]





ESPN Runs For Cover Over Lin, Bretos

The sports anchor made a mistake. But not one that deserves punishment.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I’ll just bet that phrase has been uttered by every right-minded broadcaster in the history of the media that have carried every unscripted utterance, every slip of the tongue, every idiotic statement and every unforseen double entendre ever propelled into a microphone.

ESPN Anchor Max Bretos: Have some sympathy.

Say it again, brothers and sisters of the congregation, because another has fallen.

In the case of ESPN vs Linsanity vs bad puns gone wild vs Max Bretos, Bretos is the one getting shafted.

Shafted by his own bosses, and shafted by a large public element that fails or refuses to see alternative theories to, or plausible explanations for, Bretos’ now infamous and unfortunate choice of words in questioning an analyst about a drop off in the play of New York Knicks’ rookie sensation, Jeremy Lin.

ESPN’s suspension of Bretos is the source of my objection and concern here. The firing of an on line editor is another story and I’ll get to that later.

But first, Bretos.

You’d be correct in feeling that asking about a “chink in the armor” in Lin’s play is not at all an appropriate choice of phrase when speaking about a man of Asian descent. At least I hope you would.

Unless I miss my bet, I’ll wager a few bucks that Bretos would agree.

I don’t know Max Bretos. Not at all. So maybe it’s my folly to conclude that he’s as horrified by his choice of words as anybody else, perhaps even more so. If not, however, you can be assured that ESPN would have gone beyond suspending their man for 30 days. They’d have fired him outright. Instead, they opted to slide their dutiful employee under the proverbial bus, for what might very likely be nothing more than an unfortunate confluence of using a perfectly acceptable and often used phrase within a context that immediately made it mean so much more than it usually does.

Have you never used the phrase? I have, often in my career as a broadcaster and writer. As I mentioned, it’s a perfectly acceptable choice of words to be used when questioning the suitability of one’s continued battle readiness.

For those who don’t know, and I can’t believe there are really that many, a chink in the armor means a crack or fissure, a weakness on an opponent. Suffer a chink in the armor in the “olden days” and you were likely to have enemies aiming their lances directly at it. Fast forward to modern sport and it’s a turn of phrase you’d have heard over and over and over again. After the Green Bay Packers stormed out to a 13 and oh start, did their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs suggest they had a chink in their armor?

Pretty pedestrian, in that context. A cliché, really. Clichés get to be clichés by being spoken again and again and again. That means they can fly out of one’s mouth at any given moment without dutiful thought. As well as automatic, time-worn intention.

New York Knicks’ star Jeremy Lin has been slighted. Just not by Max Bretos.

Entertain, if you will, the notion that not everything that passes a broadcaster’s lips is perfectly crafted, planned and executed. That’s hardly a stretch, right? Ever say something in the spur of the moment that was, in almost immediate hindsight, idiotic, just plain stupid or could easily be construed as rude, obnoxious or even racist? Me, too.

Once, while manning the microphone for a Toronto radio station’s morning show, I was talking about the power of a rather large African-American athlete. I blurted out, “Yup, he’s a big boy…” with absolutely no racial overtone implied. I knew what I really meant (I’d used the term “boy” or “young man,” or “kid” dozens and dozens of times before when talking about white athletes) but was petrified by what the perception could be in this case. I’d barely gotten the words out before I started to realize how they might incorrectly be taken. 

Quite frankly, I rather doubt that Bretos purposely chose to use that phrase in a way that would be insulting to Lin, or anyone of Asian descent. If he did, I’d wholeheartedly agree with the idea that he be taken to the town square and pelted with rotten tomatoes. Or at least the modern age equivalent, be roasted on Twitter.

No, I’ll bet that Bretos just trotted out a familiar phrase, with the usual sporting context as backdrop and before he could possibly connect the dots on the racial implications, the damage was done. This was not a scripted portion of the show, remember. This was a live Q and A session where the broadcaster is usually left to ad lib the questions and conversation.

For ESPN, this is all about saving face and ensuring they can properly manage the amount of damage that their vaunted brand will suffer in the wake of this scandal. That’s understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.

If Bretos is a good man and a valuable employee, his network should have rescued him from this embarrassment, not added to it. If, in their investigation into the faux pas, they discovered that this was just a slip of the tongue as I’ve described it, they ought to have issued a statement of support for Bretos, with an explanation. If their interrogation of Bretos led them to believe that he did it on purpose, they should have fired him. They didn’t, so what are we to conclude?

As for the on line editor, as I hinted, that’s a different story. The headline was concocted, the column designed, the picture of Lin added and then it was published. Time there for thought and filtering. The employee who let it happen either thought it was funny or lacks the editorial judgment that I’d insist upon when keeping someone at the helm of my global news service for any amount of time.

As for Bretos, I can sympathize. But luckily, at least so far, only to a point.

[box border=”full”]To read: “140 Character Assassinaton,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Don Cherry: You Should Be Thankful For Him,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Secrets Of The Media Lockdown Room,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “The London Rippers and Political Correctness,” click here.[/box]

BLOGGERNAUT: Is Barnes The Guy The Argos Have Needed?



[box border=”full”]To read “Anatomy Of The Rocket Ismail Deal,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read more of Don’s work at, click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Don Cherry: You Should Be Thankful For Him,” click here.[/box]

The Budweiser Flash Fan Hockey Spot: Super Bowl 2012

What a great stroke of luck it was for me, to take part in an incredible event. Here’s a link to Budweiser’s amazing “Flash Mob Hockey Game.” A couple of rec teams in Port Credit got the pro treatment as a surprise. Click on a photo for the video link:


The Gist Of It – November 30, 2011


Don Landry (L) and Bill Hayes discuss the top rock guitarists of all-time during a paid appearance at a Toronto high school sports banquet


This week on The Gist Of It, Don Landry and Bill Hayes marvel over the new Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens. Actually, they marvel at the fact that people would line up to be the first in. As well, they discuss the Leafs’ continuing good play, the Grey Cup Game (including Nickelback), Bill’s new favourite website and, once again, the never ending delight that is the Republican Party of the United States Of America. And they argue over Rolling Stone’s list of top 100 guitarists of all time.


Segment 1 – Hey, a new grocery store has opened at Maple Leaf Gardens! Don’t you wanna line up in the freezing rain, overnight, so you can be first in?! Us either.

Segment 2 – The Toronto Maple Leafs. If you’re waiting for them to slip back into the pack, mightn’t you be waiting in vain?

Segment 3 – The Grey Cup Game. Don spent a week in Vancouver and gives you his impressions of the game, the festivities and a theory as to why Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca got into that dust up.

Segment 4 – Want substance? Depth? Then, why are you listening to this podcast? Actually, Bill has a good website for you to check out.

Segment 5 – Rolling Stone’s list of 100 greatest guitarists. They got number one right, but after that? Not so much.

Segment 6 – Try as they might, Bill and Don just can’t take their eyes of the Republican Party. Bill worries about America’s future. Don doesn’t think any of these candidates are worth worrying about.

The London Rippers And Political Correctness

Aren’t people getting just a wee bit tired of others trotting out the “oh, you’re just being politically correct” line when you oppose their ideas?

I got that one, today, when I decided to let my views on the name of a London, Ontario baseball team be known.

The “London Rippers.” They’ll play, next year, in the Frontier league, a 14 team loop based in the United States, with that one Canadian team added for 2012.

Now, when I first heard that some people were upset with the name “London Rippers,” I must admit that I rolled my eyes and thought “come on.” That’s because “ripping” is a well-worn rounders term, synonymous with belting the baseball. I figured that the team would have some big, burly lumberjack looking kind of a guy with a Roy Hobbs penchant for swatting taters as their logo. The “London” and “Ripper” connection would have to be made by those with at least some imagination. You may even have thought of that name as a little mischievous, with no real link to the serial killer that terrorized London in the 1880’s. Unless you made it so.

It was after I got a gander at their logo, that I rolled my eyes for other reasons.

Sure looks to me like we’re supposed to make the connection between their club and the notorious serial killer. And that’s foul.

It’s not even just a women’s issue, as some have maintained since the team’s name and logo were unveiled. Never mind that Jack The Ripper is believed responsible for the killing of between 5 and 11 women in the Whitechapel District between 1888 and 1891. Point really is, whoever he was, he killed people.

I’d have a pretty simple rule if I were the owner of a new sports franchise, if not a few simple rules.  That rule would be: “Don’t name the team after a serial killer.”

Whether the Ripper killed people 120 years ago, or 1200, makes no matter. You’d be attaching the image of your team to a criminal of the most heinous order. In my opinion, that’s just flat out a poor decision. Or, a thoughtless one. Or classless or tasteless. Many adjectives will suffice. It’s not “edgy” or “clever.” It’s – nevermind politically incorrect – it’s just plain incorrect. Wrong.

I tweeted my disdain over this team’s marketing strategy on Friday:

Some geniuses in London, Ontario, have named their baseball team “The Rippers.” With a Jack-like spectre as a logo. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Now, fair is fair. I wouldn’t expect them to take that without feeling insulted. Know what came back to me from the team’s Twitter account?

why why why, dumb dumb dumb? shall I give you a laundry list of names some may find offensive?

My return:

Ahh. The “Others have been dumb so it’s ok for me” argument. Classic.

From the Rippers:

Awww, thats changing our words… If you’re a stickler for following the rules look up “libel” =)


Then let’s hear it in plain english. Does your team name and logo trade on the famous london serial killer?


@donlandrymedia “Does your team name and logo trade on the famous london serial killer?” u should check with #Siri, she has all the answers.


That’s no reply at all. Let’s hear a real one.


I waited awhile, then decided to see if I could find a reply somewhere else. I did. According to the team’s owner, David Martin, it must all be in my head. Here’s his explanation of the name and logo, courtesy of the London Free Press:

Martin said the character’s name is Diamond Jack, a frustrated hockey player who found he could “rip” the cover off baseballs. Despite his talent, teams grew weary of the expense of replacing balls so Diamond Jack decided to form his own team in London, Ontario.

So, I guess I’ll just have to conclude that I’m only assuming that their name and logo have anything to do with the notorious serial killer, right? Right.

My bad, I guess. Look, If I’m wrong about this, if I’m just too sensitive and uptight for my own good, okay. I look forward to the team playing against the (town name here) Pogos.”  Cool. The logo could be the spectre of a clown brandishing a paint brush as a baseball bat. Why the hell not? His back story could be that of a failed rodeo clown who found that his skills at distracting rampaging bulls by waving his arms made him the perfect third base coach.

Getting back to political correctness.

Once, the phrase had some real meaning. It was tied to politicians who would not step up and say exactly what was on their mind because that might cost them in their chosen arena. That they might actually suffer getting fewer votes at the polls if they stuck their necks out on what they really believed.

Now, however, the phrase has been hijacked much too often by those who merely want to shut down your opposing views, without a real counter.

“Oh, you’re just being politically correct,” they’ll say, as though that must be the reason you say you don’t agree with them. That, if you were really being honest and had the courage of your true convictions, you’d see it their way. There’s an arrogance in that, even if unintentional.

The time has arrived where calling someone’s opinion “politically correct” has lost much of its true meaning. Because too many have lazily used it as a cudgel against a more extended discourse. And because of that, ironically, being politically incorrect may have actually, itself, become politically correct.

Agree with me on the London Rippers, or disagree with me. That’s fine. But don’t insist I must just be trying to be “politically correct” with my position. I’m just trying to be plain ol’ correct.


[box border=”full”] To read: “Former Argo Givens in a Penn State of shock,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read: Don Cherry: You should be thankful for him,” click here. [/box]

[box border=”full”]To hear this week’s podcast, click here. [/box]



THE NUTSHELL: “Cain And Shuster,” Mayor Ford Cracks The Nut And London’s Baseball Blunder

A collection of random thoughts on random things.


"So, how's your campaign going?"

Herman Cain and Rick Perry should draw salaries from the following TV shows: The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. And any other show that lampoons the increasingly martian-like characteristics of the Republican Primary landscape. instead of needing to work hard at clever turns of phrase or outrageous extensions of what’s really happening, producers can just say “roll tape,” and have done with it. When I imagine the Republican Party’s topography these days, I envision a young Mel Gibson surveying the arid Australian outback in a postapocalyptic world, with the lawless and the crazies bombing around in dune buggies in hockey masks and football shoulder pads. It’s Mad Max out there, and getting “Madder and Maxier.” When Perry challenged Democrat Nancy Pelosi to a debate this week, I thought: “Why don’t we just cut out a step or two and schedule their square-off at 11:30 on Saturday night, on NBC?”

[button link=”” window=”yes”]To hear more on Herman Cain and the Republicans, click here for this week’s podcast, with Don Landry and Bill Hayes.[/button]

Toronto mayor Rob Ford has confirmed he will make a cameo appearance in the National Ballet Of Canada’s annual presentation of “The Nutcracker.” It will, unfortunately, be a non-dancing part. After seeing his performance at the Caribbean Festival kick-off, I’d love to see His Worship tippy-toe across the stage in a uni-tard. But, come to think of it, the mayor isn’t particularly adept at tippy-toeing. Ever. So, we’ll have to be satisfied with his role as a cannon doll. Keep an eye on him during this performance. That cannon may somehow end up pointed at Mary Walsh.

While I was cleaning out a drawer that had been systematically filled up over time with long-forgotten items, I came across a Blockbuster Video membership card. Sure hope it hasn’t expired. Among the other things I turned up as I continued to rifle through: An 8-track tape of the album “Cornerstone,” by Styx, a gift certificate for Frank Vetere’s Pizzeria and, finally, in the back corner of the drawer, The Liberal Party Of Canada.


Every time I see Ryan Fitzpatrick trot out onto the field, I think: “Hey, Zach Galifianakis is quarterbacking the Buffalo Bills!”

Hmm, intriguing. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers released underused receiver Terrence Jeffers-Harris on Thursday. On Friday, their opponents in this weekend’s CFL East Final, the Hamilton TiCats, added him to their practice roster. He’s ineligible to play for Hamilton in the game, but is eligible to give his new bosses every bit of information he has on Winnipeg’s offensive scheming, if he so desires.  If the TiCats’ defence appears to know pretty much exactly what the Bombers do on any given play, it won’t be because they have some keen sense of ESP (or, as it’s known in sports circles, ESPN) but because “new guy” gave them the blueprints. Or bomberprints. Whatever they’re called. We’ll see how this plays out. The Bombers may have just made the biggest strategic blunder since somebody once said: “Hey, I’ve got an idea! A new Coke!”


"He's lined one into the alley. The dark, dark alley."

So, some geniuses in London, Ontario, decided to name their new baseball team the “London Rippers.” Now, no problem, if the logo is a big, burly strongman belting a Roy Hobb’s-like home run. That would make perfect sense. “Ripping” the ball  has, for years, been known as a term for crushing home runs. Instead, they decided on the logo you see to the left, which obviously plays on the Jack The Ripper theme. Fun for the kids!!  Tonight is cloak and dagger night at the ballpark! Now, I don’t much care how long ago this guy terrorized the women of London, England. It could be a thousand years ago, instead of 120. You don’t name teams after serial killers. Unless you’re devoid of conscience or… what’s the word? Oh, yeah. Taste. I look forward to you expanding your baseball empire with the Stratford Zodiacs, the St. Thomas Stranglers, the Guelph Gacys and the Beamsville Bundys.

[button link=”” window=”yes”]To read: “The London Rippers And Political Correctness,” click here.[/button]



"Don't be afraid. I just want to shake Regis Philbin's hand."

Next week, the U.S. will celebrate its Thanksgiving. One of the highlights for many people is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But, beware, New York City. With all those giant balloons of Snoopy and Shrek and Mr. Potato Head and dozens of others, wouldn’t this be the perfect time for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to blend in for a sneak attack? Not saying he’s ready to strike. Just saying ‘be prepared.’ And know who you gonna call.


Saskatchewan Roughrider offensive lineman Gene Makowsky was elected to the provincial legislature. Caucus meetings will now be held in a tight circle and end with a single, group clap.


[box border=”full”]To read a previous “The Nutshell,” click here.[/box]

The Gist Of It – November 16, 2011


This week, Bill Hayes and Don Landry take a serious run at NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. No worries, they know the guy handing out suspensions would allow them to, without penalty. Bill wonders if people may be treating Penn State’s Mike McQueary a little too harshly.  As well, there are light hearted discussions about Rob Ford’s ballet career, Herman Cain’s, well, “Herman Cain – ness,” and whether we’re seeing the first few crumbles at the beginning of the fall of the Facebook empire.

Let’s just put NHL goaltenders on the “Endangered Species” list and have done with it.

Segment 1 – The guys ask the question: Are you sure you know exactly how you’d react if you walked into that infamous shower at Penn State?  [button link=”” window=”yes”]To read Don Landry’s column on former Argo and Penn State linebacker Reggie Givens, click here.[/button]

Segment 2 – Occupy Toronto. Should demonstrators be kicked out of their tent city at St. James Park? Wouldn’t they be better off moving around anyway? And Don sings some Gordon Lightfoot.

Segment 3 – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford joins the National Ballet of Canada. Obama takes out crocodile insurance. And, who wants to lead the federal Liberals?

Segment 4 – Herman Cain. The comic gift that just keeps on giving. He should get paid for almost single-handedly writing The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

Segment 5 – One of Don’s friends has decided to quit Facebook. Don’s thinking about it, too. Is Facebook’s time starting to fade?

Segment 6 – Boston Bruins’ forward Milan Lucic gets a walk after running Buffalo Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller, and both Bill and Don think that’s unacceptable.

Segment 7 – Toronto Star reporter Dave Feschuk called Leaf goalie James Reimer’s mom to get a story. Is that okay?

Former Argo Givens In A Penn State Of Shock

Being Saturday, today was no different for retired linebacker Reggie Givens, former Penn State Nittany Lion. Well, maybe it was a little different. How could it not be?

At noon, Givens was in front of his television, doing what he usually does on a weekly basis; watching his alma mater battle an NCAA foe (today, it was the Nebraska Cornhuskers). For the first time in nearly half a century, the Lions did not have Joe Paterno patrolling the sidelines as their head coach. Unless you’re Ashton Kutcher, you know why. Actually, that’s unfair. I’m sure even Kutcher knows just why by now.

“It’s like one of those out of body moments,” said Givens, over the phone from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “It’s like, not real. Like, am I really watching this?”

Reggie Givens as a Toronto Argonaut

He wasn’t talking about Penn State’s failed comeback in a 17 – 14 loss to the Cornhuskers. But, rather, all the sordid details of the week’s events serving as a backdrop – actually, more like a “frontdrop” – to the game.

A three-time Grey Cup Champion with the Baltimore Stallions (one) and Toronto Argonauts (two), as well as a former San Francisco Forty Niner and Washington Redskin, Givens patrolled the fields of the CFL and NFL with great speed, tenacity and vigour, the way he was taught back at Penn State, also known as “Linebacker U.” Givens’ adaptability and versatility made him an important reason why the Argo defence of ’96 and ’97 dominated like few others in CFL history have. Givens was able to convert to the position of rush end with the Argos. And he could do it all. Contain the run, rush the quarterback, or drop back in pass coverage when necessary. His 182 fumble recovery yards in 1997 remains a single season CFL record to this day. Couple tremendous athletic ability with good coaching, and that’s what you get.

The painful thing, these days, is having to come to terms with one of those good coaches being hauled away in handcuffs, charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse against young boys. When word first arrived about his former coach at Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, being arrested, Givens thought people were joking with him.

“I got text messages and I thought someone was trying to play a trick at first.”

As a protegé of the disgraced former Penn State Defensive Coordinator, and a proud alumnus of the university that now struggles with the great weight of a horrific sexual abuse scandal, you’d expect Givens to have strong feelings about the heartbreaking and angering details that have emerged in the past week, leading to the charging of Sandusky, the firing of Paterno as well as the dismissal of the university’s president, and rioting students on campus.

(A night after the rioting, that same campus was the scene of a peaceful candlelight vigil, for the victims of the crimes alleged.)

Givens does have strong feelings about all this. Feelings of disbelief, feelings of anger and, very specifically, feelings about knowing that he doesn’t know everything about the situation right now. It seems he’s struggling to make sense of it all, and you can hardly blame him for that. So are many.

“It’s a heinous crime, if it happened, but I don’t know that it did,” he said. “I’m not in a rush to judgment. I want to hear everything. I want to hear his side, I want hear him (Sandusky) talk. I want to hear the process, before I truly make a decision.”

It’s important to note that Givens is not maintaining Sandusky’s alleged crimes did not happen. What became very clear over the course of our 30 minute discussion is that Givens is unhappy with what he believes is the ignoring of a simple matter of due process. And he’s having trouble merging two very different things, in his mind: The Sandusky that coached him and the one being portrayed in the media.

“I’m not saying he didn’t do it,” Givens continued, choosing his words carefully. “I’m still in disbelief. That’s not the guy I know. What I know, and what’s being reported is two different things. Up to this point. It sounds really bad. There’s got to be some kind of truth to it. But I don’t know the extent of what’s going on. I don’t know what really happened.”

Givens at Penn State, in the early 1990's

I asked Givens whether there was ever a hint that there may be something wrong about Jerry Sandusky, while he played at Penn. Did anyone ever say anything? Were there rumours of any sort? Jokes?

“Nothing that I can come up with. No one ever said anything.”

Givens has been a noted “community guy,” if you will, helping out with charitable projects whenever and wherever he can. He believes a lot of that sensibility was instilled at Penn State. And that Jerry Sandusky played a part.

“He was the one who got me doing community service with the kids,” said Givens. “He’s one of the reasons why I started doing that.”

When we turned our attention to the firing of Head Coach Joe Paterno, Givens renewed his distaste for knee-jerk reactions and also trained his sights on the media and its role. More than just documenting things, Givens believes the media had a hand in shaping the events of the past week.

“The media’s the one who caused him (Paterno) to be fired, in my opinion. They’re a large reason why the situation is like it is.”

“In the beginning, they made it all about Joe Paterno. Now they’ve started to come around and talk about the kids. The media didn’t care about the story, they cared about Paterno. The kids were an afterthought. That’s all they talked about for 2 or 3 or 4 days.”

Pressed for more of an answer on Paterno, Givens admits it’s not necessarily that Paterno shouldn’t have been fired. Just that he shouldn’t have been fired in the way that transpired. He points the finger not only at the media, but at Penn State’s Board Of Trustees.

“Getting fired by the Board Of Trustees in the middle of the night, that made it even worse,” he said. “There was no due process in the whole situation. If you’re gonna do it in the right way, which Penn State’s always been about, you don’t succumb to pressure. You’ve got to figure out what really happened. And they didn’t wait to see what happened, and call Joe in and say ‘okay, what really happened?’ You could have had an opportunity to call Joe in to ask him those questions. You never let him say anything. And that’s the problem I have with it. You could decide to fire him afterward, but I don’t like the due process in how they did it. You can’t condemn someone on speculation.”

Retired from pro football since 2000 2005, Givens is now a coach himself, with his own company, Blitz Mobile Fitness, in Fort Lauderdale. He’s also a realtor and coaches a little high school football, at Pine Crest. The football lessons he learned from Paterno, Sandusky and others during his time at Penn State? He remains grateful for those. He can still apply some of those lessons in his vocations. But some, if not all, of the rest will be torn to shreds if Sandusky is found guilty of his crimes.

“If he’s guilty, he became a predator. A monster. And that’s horrible. Kids you’re supposed to help, you end up hurting….” Givens’ voice trailed off as he tried to deal with the enormity of those charges. “There’s no words for that. Respect and admiration for a coach is one thing. A man preying on kids… there’s no coming back from that.”

Maybe not for Jerry Sandusky. But as for the school he loves, and the football team he watches every Saturday, Givens is more hopeful. Can it return to glory?

“Yes,” he offered without hesitation. Because this doesn’t have anything to do with the high graduation rates and the quality of education. The kids and the alumni, they won’t let Penn State go away.”


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