Movies have been made about the acquisition and revelation of secret information. There have been Mission Impossibles planned to recover it, and it has been the objective of more than one James Bond assignment.
It is the new contraband of the CFL, clouded in secrecy to shield its players from the truth, and with a street value that will only increase as the days go by. It is all about the names that were, and were not on, "the list."
It matters little we are talking about unearthing the names of professional football players and not double agents living undercover around the world -- it is still an important list. It is a list of those protected and left exposed for the expansion draft. It is a list that is said to be kept from the public to "protect" the people on and off of it, and their work relationships -- which makes it worth finding out about.
After Monday's expansion draft, we now know only three of the players who were not protected by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Import Miles Wallace and non-imports James Green and Rory Kohlert. What we don't know and what I don't understand, is why the public wasn't privy to the complete list of protected players submitted by the member clubs over a week ago, and therefore, more importantly, the ones left off of it.
When asked about this veil of secrecy at the 2013 Grey Cup, as Vancouver writer Lowell Ullrich recently reported in the Province, commissioner Mark Cohon told the media, "the most important thing is to protect the relationship between players and coaches." Indeed, this is what they intended to do, but it is a very misleading notion.
"Protecting the relationship between players and coaches," is not how the CFL should have explained this omission. They should have been honest about what it really implies, which is the CFL will not be releasing this list, "to prevent some players from being exposed to the truth and reality about their relationships between their coaches and member clubs."
The truth is that, almost to a fault, coaches and organizations blow smoke at their players all day, every day. They want them to think they are indispensable and highly valued components of their football team, even when they are not. They want their players to think they have their back, even when they don't, so they will be motivated and can get the most out of them. The revealing of these protected lists would have done the players a huge favour, but the teams a disservice. It would have interrupted the state of denial so many athletes live in, it would have shown them an honest snapshot of their value to their ball clubs and it would have taught them a quick lesson in the realities of pro sports.
By hiding this list the CFL is shielding their players from the reality of their situations. You know what happens when you shield something from stress? You make it weaker.
This was an opportunity for the CFL to give their players an honest accounting of where they stand with their football teams. This was a chance for the players to see the truth about how their organization really feels about them -- not just what they are told -- and where they are ranked. It might have stung for some and been a surprise for others, but it also would have been vindication for some athletes insecure about their standing, and a wakeup call for others living off the fumes of past performances. This wasn't about "protecting relationships between players and coaches," this was about protecting fragile egos and perpetuating the lies told to naive athletes on a daily basis, lies they have wholly bought into.
Discovering which players were protected and which were not would have been a strong discussion and debating point, and given fans insight into this decision-making process. More importantly, the players could have learned and grown from it. But you know the saying: If you have nothing to hide, you wouldn't be hiding it.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.