Stamped Out

Published on August 19, 2012 4:48 PM by dbo.

Canada Post unveiled a set of commemorative stamps this week to celebrate the 100th awarding of the Grey Cup in 2012. They include one stamp for each of the current clubs featuring team Grey Cup moments plus a ninth stamp for the Grey Cup. What is more troubling is not what was chosen for the scenes used for the team stamps, but what was left out.

These new stamps are in addition to the set of eight team logo stamps released earlier this year. There are a variety of ways the team and Grey Cup stamps and other commemorative merchandise can be purchased. Not only do these provide great keepsakes and souvenirs along with visibility in the country during the big celebration year, but licensing revenue as well.

However, as noted by some, there is something missing. The 100th Grey Cup milestone is about more than just the current professional teams. They, in fact, only account for about 63% of its history. Before them, there are plenty of events and teams to be celebrated and remembered on stamps. First would be the long history of football in Ottawa, especially with a return to the nation’s capital imminent. Also important are the Second World War service clubs, university teams that competed for and won the Grey Cup and the many teams that helped develop and form football in Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton. Do they deserve stamps of their own? No, but maybe historical era stamps (or postcards) could tell their story.

The CFL has eight documentaries produced by TSN coming shortly to tell some of these stories (1942 RCAF Hurricanes and Flight 810). That is enough you may say, with all the books and other sources out there. There are hundreds of stories, however, and stamps are an easy way to commemorate these events and put them in the public eye. The opportunity to educate the country on the rich history of football in this country is being lost and is in need. The new fans that continue to be captured by the league do not come with any background or knowledge of the league’s rules or history. They are the lost generation(s) or new Canadians. The importance of educating on the rules is obvious (one of the top queries here is how many quarters in a game or why there isn’t 3 periods), but so is explaining the rich history and significance of Canadian football, for it anchors the interest and passion.

Why No Ottawa?

There is no stamp to commemorate ten Ottawa Grey Cups and a player like Russ Jackson. This may immediately be called a snub by the CFL, blamed on the Saskatchewan Roughriders or called an oversight by the league, a continuation of their narrow focus, lack of vision and marketing incompentence. Is there another reason behind it though?

As I mentioned before, the CFL and clubs are certainly receiving licensing fees for these stamps, even the Grey Cup series. The rights to the Ottawa Rough Riders logos and trade-marks still reside with Horn Chen to my knowledge. I believe that restricts the league from using them in situations where they receive licensing revenue, such as stamps or producing retro merchandise, but not from producing scenes from photographs on trains and banners. I am no legal expert, but a trade-mark on the name, if registered, may be challenged on a “use it or lose it“ basis, but the logos, helmet and uniform designs would still be owned by Mr. Chen.

The CFL has not owned this key part of its history for 15 years. It has been expressed in the past that Mr. Chen would be willing to part with the rights to these items for $100,000 but now some say the indicated price was $250,000. The league has left it to Ottawa owners to make that decision to purchase those rights back. Now with the Rough Riders name off the table, it is time for the CFL to acquire those rights. It was the eight member clubs that let them walk away with Mr. Chen in 1996 when he turned the franchise over to the league, leaving no recognition or history for any new owners to acquire before the league pulled the plug in February 1997. I have no idea what the CFL may receive for licensing on this year’s stamp deal (if it is a royalty on each item sold or a flat fee), but if it comes close to what the rights to the Ottawa Rough Riders intellectual property is priced at by Mr. Chen, the league should target the revenue towards reacquiring that property.

With Saskatchewan winning the Roughrider name battle, the league (and all member clubs) should own those rights and share in any revenue from their use (which should make Saskatchewan happy that Ottawa won’t be the sole profiteer on the Rough Rider name). That cost, with the name off the table for the Ottawa franchise, should not be bore sorely by the new ownership group who have an uphill battle and many other more important things to worry about, like a team name. After ten years, the price may have gone up as well. The league should not keep repeating the same mistake and repatriate those rights now before the price increases more. It would be a small price to pay in the bonus year of the 100th Grey Cup. The league has already missed out on 15 years of selling Rough Rider merchandise. Despite the name change, with the right approach, Rough Rider merchandise could be a decent seller while fans wait for a team name and for it to take the field. You have to own the rights before you can start generating the revenue.

Many are thinking of a new name already, trying to reuse the “R” helmet logo. Rivermen has been suggested, and I like it, though I would go with River Riders just to stick it to the green ‘Riders. They both allude to the likely, in my belief, real source of naming of the Rough Riders after the Ottawa River log drivers.

Same Old Tune

I can see the CFL wants Ottawa back in the league, but I feel it is not interested in helping make it successful. Ottawa’s problems and past are Ottawa’s problems and past for the new owners to work out, even when the blame should be laid a the feet of the league. Ottawa media continue to perpetrate the belief that Ottawa was solely responsible for Derrell Robertson being selected in the Las Vegas dispersal draft. However, the league did provide a list of eligible players for the draft, and in a private conference call draft, no one spoke up to correct the situation and save the league and all clubs the embarrassment. Shouldn’t the league want to keep up the message of a new beginning with the new franchise and take every opportunity to assume the blame for the past, to increase the pride and support in Ottawa? Or do we lay the blame that two franchises failed at the feet of the (abused) fans? Which will provide a better opportunity for football in Ottawa in 2014?

There is a lot of blame to go around in Ottawa since the glory days pre-1980. Local owners, the city, foreign owners with big dreams and no clue, absentee owners, coaches and general managers, the fans, the league and its board of governors. Not enough is taken on by the league, where a few words and apologies could go a long way to brightening the defeatist attitude that still surrounds some Ottawan’s feelings on football in the capital. Ottawa has long been a butt of jokes (including by this writer, who has been born again for the past 12-13 years) and scorned for being propped up by other clubs. Yet these clubs never mention their drain on other clubs, from support from the league to walk-away owners to constant gate-sharing benefactors.

Revisionist History

I don’t believe in rounding off corners to dumb down history and encapsulate it. The CFL does not have beginnings in 1907, 1909, 1936, 1946, 1950 or 1956. It was founded in 1958 (not 1959) out of organizations that have a longer history. As soon as you start saying it was all the CFL, just different names, you are muddying the history and providing a disservice to anyone interested in the truth. I’m afraid the ignoring of the Rough Rider era, whether purposely or because of legal issues, will lead to “we’ve always been the River Raiders” just like we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. The Ottawa team will absorb all the history and records of past franchise, and it will be the same Ottawa club in 2014 that won the 1976 Grey Cup. As uncomfortable as some are with the scandalously similarly named clubs in one league, it happened. You can’t change the past, you can’t bury it. There is a lot in the CFL‘s history it should not be proud of, but it is not to be buried. It is to be acknowledged, apologized for (even if it was before your time) and learned from. That will allow everyone to rise above it.

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Stamped Out was published on August 19, 2012 4:48 PM by dbo.

1,570 words.

This article is categorized under League and tagged with canada-post-stamps, grey-cup and ottawa.