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This article was published 16/5/2016 (1254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It is the dream of any professional athlete who has suffered through a difficult or ruinous season: turn the microscope around at those who evaluate and critique their work, and see how they themselves would fare in a similar scenario.
This past Saturday, nearly twenty media members — from local radio and television, to print and national networks — showed up for the brainchild of Jeffrey Bannon and Christine Hoenisch: the first annual Media Combine by Kidsport, an organization that helps fund children who want to play organized sports.
These brave media participants were invited to try their hand at some of the fundamental testing that aspiring pro-footballers go through. While the media types commendably aimed to raise awareness for the charity, they also dispelled any notions that they may have what it takes to do more than just comment on matters in the sporting world.
For the first time in most of the participants' amateur and recreational sporting careers — with a few exceptions — their athletic prowess was put on display and they were measured, timed, filmed, critiqued, and compared to not only the 2016 CFL combine results, but the nearly 100 Kidsport kids who came after them and were put through the same paces. To give you an idea of the media results, former lineman Obby Khan remarked that, by comparison, he left the exhibition feeling almost, "superhuman," and like "an Olympic-calibre decathlete."
The 40-yard dash is the ultimate proving ground and great equalizer of pro football. The ability to accelerate and run fast over short distances is as fundamental and critical as any other physical requirement of the game. Sean Assor, a TSN 1290 employee, turned in the top 40-yard dash time with a 5.28 second jaunt, which would have placed him 45th out of 51 participants at the 2016 CFL combine. Not a bad result until you consider that the prospects he beat were exclusively offensive and interior defensive linemen, all of whom weigh well in excess of 300 pounds.
Kidsport participant Benjamin LeBlanc, 17, had the fastest time of the camp with an eye opening 4.9 second run. Radio and TV pundit Jim Toth, who tied for first in the punting competition with a 41-yard boot, had the best hairstyle of the race, but finished last in the media group with a time of 6.44 seconds, or as former punter Mike Renaud said, "he performed with all the urgency and pace of arterial hardening."
The next most critical fundamental in football, arguably, is explosiveness. It’s a measure of how much power your body can generate from a standstill into an athletic movement, and the standing broad jump is often used to gauge it. Adam Toy of TSN1290 won with a jump of 92 inches, followed closely by CTV video journalist and former NCAA athlete Michelle Gerwing with 91 inches (Michelle tied for the overall lead with four top-three finishes on the day). At the CFL combine, Toy would have tied for last place with Phillipe Gagnon, a 317-pound guard drafted by the Alouettes. The best broad jump of the day once again went to 17-year-old Benjamin, whose leap of eight feet, nine inches, would have placed him 36th at the CFL camp. Phil Aubrey, Sara Orlesky, Kirk Penton, and once again, Jim Toth, all tied as the least explosive members of the media contingent with broad jumps of six feet even. For perspective, a high percentage of the eleven- and twelve-year-old participants in Kidsport managed to surpass this figure by more than half a foot.
Lastly, we look at the lateral movement test results, or shuttle drill, that gauges linear speed and the body control required to stop and change direction in rapid succession — a feat that almost cost Kirk Penton a mid-shaft femoral fracture. This was Sean Assor’s second first-place finish with a time of 4.88 seconds, which would have put him 48th out of 51 at the 2016 CFL combine. Once again, Kidsport phenom Benjamin scored a camp best 4.53 second shuttle, which would have had him tied for 28th at the pro-entry level.
At the other end of the spectrum, it took media contestant Ezra Ginsberg over six and a half seconds to complete this measure, which will put him at a considerable disadvantage when he is moved to the highly competitive Kidsport grouping of five- to eight-year-olds next season.
While there simply isn’t enough space to account for all of the non-athletic feats and hijinks witnessed in the media combine — like long snaps from specialist Chris Cvetkovic that completely overwhelmed participants — everyone enjoyed the revelry, and there was even a unanimous MVP. Seven-year-old Madden Bauman decided he didn't need presents at his own birthday party, and instead raised $335 and donated it to Kidsport himself.
At the end of the day, the media got a better appreciation and perspective of the subjects they often cover, and the current and retired athletes who helped out have a new level of respect for the attitude, sense of humour, and sportsmanship of a group that bravely forged into a very unforgiving, and unrelenting, testing environment.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.