Welcome to 2007 y’all. And after dispensing Cabbie’s very own Christmas cheer to numerous fine ladies during my first holiday season in the ‘Knife, I’ve returned to YBA headquarters refreshed and ready to cover the league I love again.
But it wasn’t all booze and broads the past two weeks. No sir. The hardest working visible minority in the sports writing business managed to score an invite to “facilitate” an exclusive Texas Hold ‘em /YBA bitch session at the Webmaster’s Cassidy Point chalet during Donnie Days. Cabbie probably doesn’t have to tell you what the main topic of conversion was. Just look at the league standings. That’s right, it was men’s league parity baby.
With the majority of the league’s teams hovering around the .500 mark and any team capable of beating any other team on any given Sunday – as well as Monday, Wednesday and Thursday – this should be a YBA fan’s dream-come-true. Every team (okay, maybe not the juniors) seems to have a legit shot at winning the league title. But some long-time YBA observers aren’t so sure it’s all good. That’s why the Commish, the league’s GM’s and the YBA’s quality control consultant (former Dempsey Oldtimer’s legend, high performance coach and referee Butch Bisaro) met during the holidays to chew the fat over one very big question: YBA parity – the path to prosperity or obscurity?
Here’s what went down.
Cabbie: Good evening guys. Let’s take roll call, awwiiight. In attendance we have the Black Knight Warriors’ Josh Campbell; his bro’ and Surly Robert’s GM Joel Campbell; Medic North Mavericks’ Jeromy Ball and Gilbert Pangilinan from the NWTel Ring Queens. The Commish will represent the Hot Shots Juniors and the YBA. The Webmaster is here. And we also used the YBA’s latest purchase – Buffalo Joe’s DC-3 – to fly in Butch Bisaro from his retirement condo in Istanbul, Turkey.
Of, yeah, I almost forgot, the GM’s from the YBA’s ladies squads were invited to the meeting. Unfortunately, none of them showed.
But before we get into any heated debates, I’ll let the Commish make a few opening remarks. Commish, the floor is yours.
Commish: Thanks Cabbie. Now beat it.
Friends, when the 2005-2006 season ended, I felt the YBA was at a crossroads. The free-spending ways of a select few teams was destroying this beloved Yk sports institution. There was a widening gap between the haves and have-nots. The league had become predictable with the same teams winning year-after-year. And the fallout from this was worrisome: Attendance was dropping almost as fast as my scoring average. The Cat Channel and CJCD were threatening to give up their TV and radio broadcasting rights due to low ratings. Fans were even egging my house at night! Something needed to be done.
Fortunately, I’ve never been one to shy away from making bold moves. So, I decided to institute a strict $20-million salary cap per team over the summer, confident this measure would restore competitive balance to the men’s league. Well, I think the first-half standings speak for itself. But I like to hear myself talk, so I can’t leave it at that. Let me just say I believe there’s finally parity in the YBA. There’s no dominant men’s team – well, except for Surley Bob’s. All five squads have legitimate title hopes – well, except for the four other teams not named Surley Bob’s. Attendance has skyrocketed. The networks are looking for broadcast rights extensions and my house is egg free. I’m a genius!
But I also understand not all of you are completely thrilled with the new status quo. That’s why I brought you all here today – to get your input and hear your concerns about the parity issue – and to play a little poker, of course. And to add a bit more spice to the meeting, I’ll also be raffling off this Carlos n’ Charlies t-shirt that Mrs. Commish won in a tequila drinking contest during our recent stay in Cancun. (The Webmaster raises his hand and catches the Commish’s attention)
Webmaster: Can we watch some porn later? I got a new 62-inch HD flat screen TV for Christmas and Cabbie’s brought over a few intriguing DVD’s. And has anyone seen my puffer? I feel an asthma attack coming on after having that last smoke…
Commish: Sorry Webmaster. No dice on both requests. I run a clean league that stresses sportsmanship, fair play, and winning-isn’t-everything family values. Poker’s fine but there will be no porn – not on my watch.
Cabbie, you have my permission to start peppering these mints with questions.
Cabbie: Josh, let me start with you and the Black Knight – how has the salary cap affected how you go about your business?
Josh C: It’s made it a lot tougher Cabbie. During the Ryfan mini-dynasty, we had a simple formula for success. We outspent everyone else. Before selling the team and moving into Brett Favre’s basement, our old owner Darren Fraser had deep pockets. He told us money was no object. If we had a hole in our lineup, we threw money at the problem. Those days are gone. Under this salary cap system, there’s no way you can afford to keep blue-chip talents like myself, Rug and the BA on one team like we did during Ryfan’s heyday. It’s sad.
Cabbie: What about trades? Has the salary cap made it easier or harder to pull off trades and is that contributing to the parity we’re seeing?
Josh C: I think it’s a huge factor. Obviously, trades are the main way to improve your team once the season starts. But it’s almost impossible to make a trade right now. You’ve got to make sure the numbers match for both teams and that neither of you go over the salary cap. Look, I’m a product of the Catholic school system, so I was never good at math. All this counting is a pain in the ass. What’s worse, the extra GM work is cutting into the time I can spend at my teaching job logging onto the computer and dominating my fantasy hoops league.
I’ll give you just one example of what I’m talking about. Jeromy Ball and I were working on a blockbuster trade for over a month that would have seen The Wiz, Billy Bomber and the Dehcho Destroyer sent to BK in exchange for Lee Chan and his expiring contract in 2007, Dave Hurley, Pietro Bertolini and the Webmaster. But the numbers got so complicated that it fell apart in the end. I hate this league.
Cabbie: Whoa!!!!! On the surface that seems like a pretty one-sided deal for BK. J-Ball is this true?
Jeromy B: Cabbie I don’t normally comment on trade rumours – this isn’t being recorded is it? – but, yes, it’s true. From the Mavs standpoint going forward, it would have been a case of addition by subtraction. We all know the Mavs have wayyyyyyyy too many shooters on our team. This trade would have given us guys who don’t need many, or any, shots to be happy. But more importantly, it would have resulted in even more touches for the C-Train and myself. But asking for the Webmaster turned out to be the deal breaker – BK didn’t want to lose his shot blocking. Plus, I was worried Pietro’s baldness was contagious.
Cabbie: Josh one last question about BK before we move on – is it true your signing of Josh Judas put the Warriors in salary cap hell for the 2006-2007 season?
Josh C: Actually his deal was pretty reasonable. But his agent did insist on including a tricky groupie incentive in the contract. It states that if Josh shows up for any game this season with 10 or more groupies in tow, a $4-million bonus immediately kicks in and that would put us over the cap. I’m a bit worried about that one.
Cabbie: I’d like to go back to Medic North for a second Jeromy. The Mavs are the defending champs but are struggling with a disappointing 7-8 record. You’ve got pretty much the same players you had last year, what’s the diff? Have the other teams improved that much?
Jeromy B: I don’t think so Cabbie. This parity thing is all a mirage. The Mavs are coasting through the regular season and conserving our energy for the playoffs – kind of like the Miami Heat did last year. By the time the playoffs arrive you’ll see an entirely different team. The Wiz will have a perfect attendance record and the C-Train will no longer be strolling into the gym at 10:45 for a 10 p.m. start. We’ll be bringing our A-game.
My only concern is Alfred Moses. He’s our X-factor. But he’s got that annoying two-weeks in, two weeks out work schedule of his at the diamond mine. We’re not sure he’ll be around for the playoffs. We tried to get Diavik to just let him stay in YK all the time and still collect a paycheque – everyone knows he doesn’t do any work up there – but Diavik’s management wouldn’t go for it. They said it would set a bad precedent.
Cabbie: Let’s turn to Surley Robert’s for a minute. Joel, you guys are in a familiar …. (Cabbie stops talking as he notices the other GM’s staring at Joel C, who is performing bicep curls with a five-pound dumbbell.)
Joel C: One thousand and one. One thousand and two. One thousand and three. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!
Oh, sorry Cabbie, did you say something? I couldn’t hear you because I’ve got a deep burn. It’s so deep I can barely lift my arm. I don’t know if you heard me counting – I did over a thousand.
Cabbie: Yeah I heard you homey. But what I was trying to say was your team is in a familiar position – first place with the league’s best record. Obviously, the salary cap hasn’t hampered Surly’s efforts to remain a league powerhouse.
Joel C: Well, Cabbie that’s because when you look at the job I do compared to the rest of the GM’s in this league, it’s like I’m playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. I saw this coming a long time ago. So, thanks to some savvy planning, Surly’s had a lot of things going for it during the off-season. Firstly, we finally got those lavish contracts previous management gave to Chris Baker and Damon Shelly off the books. Also, Brent Reaney, Jason Cutten and Nick Diem are still in the middle of their modest rookie deals and the rest of our roster is a collection of solid role players who don’t cost very much. I know everybody points to that monster five-year, $35-million contract we gave to Duane Vigilance and they wonder how we didn’t blow our cap. Well frankly – and don’t tell Duane this - most of that cash is backloaded onto the last two years of the deal. By then he will have probably left town. So he’ll never see the majority of that money. We have plenty of cap room now to add a missing piece to the puzzle if need be.
In fact, we were in secret negotiations with Daryl Mitchener in late November and reached a verbal agreement with him to bring him back into the fold. But he couldn’t make it to our Dec. 4 game because he said he was sick. And he wasn’t there for our Dec. 11 game because he was tired. But I’m sure we’ll see him in January.
Cabbie: Speaking of signings, how come you didn’t sign DC when he announced his comeback in September? You had the cap space and I know he wanted to play for you guys. In fact, I heard he still does. Didn’t he crash your team’s Christmas party, showing up blind drunk and screaming like Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds for you and the Commish to take him back?
Joel C: Yeah, well that was an awkward scene for everybody. We’re just trying to forget it ever happened and move on. But the fact is DC misread the market. There’s no way – salary cap or no salary cap – we were going to pay him the $3-million a year he was asking for….
(Joel is quickly drowned out as all in attendance burst out in convulsive laughter. Cabbie quickly calls for a 10-minute recess so everyone can compose themselves.)
Joel C: Anyway, as I was saying Cabbie, DC misread the market and asked for too much. We decided to go in a different direction and re-signed Hacksaw Melanson – who gives us the same production at a fraction of the price. And when we’re behind late in a game and we need someone to foul the opposition repeatedly to get ‘em on the free throw line, Hacksaw is always happy to oblige. DC never did that. He wasn’t a team player. If you look at where we are in the standings, it’s clear I made the right move.
Cabbie: Butch, I see you want to dive in here and make a comment?
Butch: You bet Cabbie. Let me first stress that I have the utmost respect for the Commish and the job he’s done with the YBA over the years. But I also think the salary cap he’s instituted and the league parity resulting from it will be the death of men’s basketball in Yellowknife. Sure, it all looks rosy now with everyone in playoff contention and attendance up a bit. But take it from a guy with 60-plus years of experience on the Yk hoops scene. It won’t last.
Dynasties are vital for the survival of sports leagues. The New York Yankees, the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Celtics, the Dempsey Oldtimers – dominant teams like that put bums in the seats. Fans either love ‘em or hate ‘em. They will go down in history. But a year from now no one is going to remember this current cluster f**k of also-rans masquerading as contenders. What is this – the NBA’s Atlantic Division? The Commish proudly calls this mess parity. I call it mediocrity.
(Commish proceeds to give Butch the stinkeye and makes a Miltenberger-esque throat-slitting gesture. Butch pulls out his BlackBerry and frantically tries to book an alternate return flight to Turkey.)
Cabbie: That’s some strong smack you’re talking there, B.B. Do you agree with him Gilbert Pangilinan? It seems to me the Ring Queens are the league’s salary cap and parity poster child. Why in one short year you’ve turned a brutal one-win team into a championship contender. Could you have pulled it off if the Commish hadn’t instituted the salary cap?
GPang: I think so Cabbie. You must remember we were an expansion team last year. I knew we were gonna suck. But I had a plan and it would have been the same salary cap or no salary cap. And the plan was to build a team around big man Steve Sorochan, secure the number one pick in the YBA free agent draft lottery, sign an impact free agent in the off season and not break the bank doing it.
I accomplished all three goals. Of course, we got lucky when Ren Bessera agreed to take a “Filipino discount” to play for me but sometimes you catch a break. Other than that we really haven’t spent much money. Most of the guys on our roster aren’t even paid in cash – they get a ration of rice and beans and a month of free cable when they sign with us.
Jeromy B: Isn’t that against the YBA’s collective bargaining agreement?
Commish: Next question!
Cabbie: Well what about the Hot Shots Juniors Commish? They are 2-11 and in last place after a strong showing last year. Clearly this team has not adjusted to life in the YBA with a salary cap.
Commish: Clearly you don’t have a clue Cabbie. If you did, you’d know the NWT School Sports Federation – just like the NCAA – doesn’t allow its student-athletes to be paid for their services, so the salary cap hasn’t affected the juniors at all. Not that any of these mints besides Tyler Wells deserves to be paid anyway based on their play in the first half, but I digress. By the way, the C-Train and I have decided to change the name of the junior mints. They will now be known as “The-Biggest-Disappointment-Of-Our-Coaching-Careers Hot Shots Juniors.” I know it’s a little long but you’ve got to admit it rolls right off the tongue.
Cabbie: Guys, we’ve been talking about this for a while now but I still don’t feel we’ve reached any kind of consensus. I’ll ask the question one more time - is parity good for the YBA men’s league or should we go in another direction?
Josh C: Although it’s been a painful learning experience for me personally, I think we should stay the course. But enough beating a dead horse, I’d like to focus on the main reason I showed up for this thing, to confront Cabbie and the Commish for bad-mouthing BK in the local press. Cabbie, I think you’re exact words when you made your silly preseason YBA predictions were: “Black Knight: No BA. No Rug. No Chance.”
Well, I’m tired of being disrespected by a never-was, never-will-be hack like you. And that goes for all the rest of the BK haters out there, and that includes you too Commish. This ain’t no Roman Empire about to fall. This is the BK Nation. We’re 9-7. We’re in second place. And we’re gunning for the league crown. WE ARE WHO WE THOUGHT WE WERE!
(Josh C. then launches into a diatribe about Grant Gowans’s refereeing credentials, why technical fouls should be outlawed and just how the Commish was able to afford a Christmas holiday in Cancun. The meeting quickly descends into chaos with the GM’s arguing with each other.)
Commish: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Could you please settle down? I know we all have our differences. I know not all of you like the salary cap and the parity that’s resulted from it. But if this meeting has taught me anything, it’s only strengthened my resolve to stick with the salary cap regardless of the heat I take. I will not have a league where the inmates run the asylum. Whether you like it or not the salary cap was necessary to save you from yourselves. Now can’t we all just get along?
Josh C: (Extending his hand towards the Commish) Commish, at the bottom of my gut, with every inch of me, I plain, straight hate you. But dammit, I respect you!
All the GM’s: (In unison) Hear! Hear!
Commish: Well, I’d say that’s a wrap then. Boys, what do you say we play some poker! And don’t forget to put your names in this hat so I can draw for the t-shirt. It’s even signed by Mrs. Commish and myself. Could be a collector’s item someday. I also have my YBA Swimsuit Edition Photo signed for one of you luck kids.
Webmaster: Commish, I noticed Cabbie’s been taking notes the whole time. Is he going to want me to post something new on the website?
Commish: Yes he is. And I want it on there sometime before the slo-pitch season starts.
So that’s how it all went down YBA fans. Until next time, this is Cabbie. I’m at the Webmaster’s chalet. I’m not watching porn – Commish’s orders. I’m with my man C. I’m with my man D. And I’m gone.