SPORT

But the Twain Do Meet

H. H. ROXBOROUGH December 1 1933
SPORT

But the Twain Do Meet

H. H. ROXBOROUGH December 1 1933

But the Twain Do Meet

SPORT

H. H. ROXBOROUGH

TORTURED by Mr. Dumsday’s verbal lashings, suffering under the allegation of blindfolding the goddess of Justice, humiliated by accusations of discrimination and unfair dealing, smarting through the insinuation that dishonest officiating and biased legislating are part of a scheme to win national rugby titles, it requires some control for an Easterner to reply calmly and logically to the problems aroused by the Western accuser. Nevertheless there are explanations, and the recording of them may, in some mysterious way, create a better understanding and promote a little harmony.

In the first place, let us discuss Canadian rugby in its references to the senior teams. Since 1921 nine games have been played between the Eastern and Western finalists. In those contests the East won every game and have scored 221 ixñnts, while the West gathered seventeen points—a game score comparison of about twenty-five to two. Surely it would be unreasonable to suggest that the difference in the results could be attributed to weather, transportation or location of games. Any sportsmen would recognize and admit that such superiority could only be attributed to a difference in ability.

However, Mr. Dumsday stands right up and suggests that referees and umpires conspire to ensure Eastern victories. But the thought that Eastern officials have greatly helped Eastern senior teams is repudiated by the fact that one of the officials in the 1932 final game at Hamilton was Bob Thompson, of Winnipeg. Yet Tigers defeated Regina by twenty-five to six. Two years ago the Tigers toured the West, played under Western officials, and still showed much superior class.

Neither has the financing of the senior games inspired any tendency to criticize Eastern sportsmanship, for the Westerners received more than $2,500 from the last senior final, and even this amount was not equal to that paid in other years when attendances were larger.

Another striking indication of a desire to co-oiaerate with the Wrest is evidenced in the shortening of the Eastern season. If the Western champions never came East, the winners of the Interprovincial. Ontario and Intercollegiate unions could play home and home games without any great exl>ense and secure many thousands of dollars in extra rc ceipts. But rather than prolong the final date for the meeting with the Western champions, they play only sudden death games, then go into a national final game that gives them very little financial return.

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But the Twain Do Meet

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Furthermore, with a desire to give even more consideration to the Western demand for an earlier season closing, the three Eastern senior leagues once invited the West to send down their finalist a week earlier than usual and play against the Eastern club drawing a bye on the first Saturday; then on the following Saturday the two winners of the previous week would meet in the national final game. But the Western representatives declined the offer and expressed a desire to play only in the final, regardless of the time or weather.

So there is some evidence that the needs of the Western seniors have been fairly considered. Finances seem ample. Western officials are welcomed and respected, a suggestion to close the season earlier has been extended. Indeed, it now' appears that if the West could only produce a senior team with sufficient power to lick the Eastern finalists, there would be little real cause for Western complaint.

Junior Problems

OF THE six games played between the youngsters, the East has won five and the West one, while the combined scores have been fifty-three points to thirtyone. Naturally, it is difficult for an Easterner to recall these figures and accept the suggestion of a Westerner that prejudiced officials and scheming executives have combined to make these victories possible, particularly when we remember that in 1929 St. Thomas Juniors defeated Moose Jaw Juniors by fourteen to nothing on the Saskatchewan champions’ own stamping ground.

But, even so, the East is not glorying in the supremacy of its junior clubs. In 1928 Regina came East and defeated St. Thomas by nine to six, and in every other Eastern match the margin of victory has been so slight that only the breaks of the game decided the issue. The w'riter does not happen to know a single Eastern rugby fan who has not the greatest admiration and respect for the ability of the Western juniors.

But eulogizing the playing power of the Western clubs will not solve the real financial problems. It does seem disappointing that teams travelling so far in search of titles should return home with nothing save a huge deficit. It also appears unfair that the West should contribute twice as much in one game as the East shares in two finals.

Yet the “heap of debt” experienced by the Western challengers is almost unavoidable. In the East, junior rugby is not revenue-producing. Many junior clubs play on open parks and “pass the hat;” the final games when played in the larger cities arouse little enthusiasm, for the senior clubs are the crowd-attractors and the money-gatherers.

The writer is not familiar with the financing of the Woodstock game in 1931, but even the Western critic admits that the Moose Jaw Club was given $150 in excess of the original offer; and that, while the Westerners received $900, the amount retained by Woodstock for personal use was $700 less.

It is also refreshing to know that while the Moose Jaw share of the 1932 final gate receipts was disappointingly meagre, the University of Toronto team did not receive a nickel, and that even the expenses of the game were paid by the Athletic Directorate. While the lack of enthusiasm for Eastern junior rugby is regrettable, surely very little fault can be found with an Eastern team which expects no financial return for itself and gives everything to the gallant invaders.

But the Eastern sportsmen did more than give money, for they also contributed a spirit of chivalry that might not have been uncovered but for the allegations of Mr. Dumsday. Here is the incident. On the morning of the 1932 junior final, the Toronto University coach visited the stadium, found the ground too hard for slippery leather cleats and decided to shoe some players with rubber-soled shoes.

Then, even though a junior national title was at stake, the Eastern coach promptly phoned the Moose Jaw Club officials, described the ground condition, told them it was his intention to equip part of his team with running shoes, and thus generously shared valuable information w'hich might have been denied to the youthful Western opponents.

Does such a chivalry inspire the suggestions that Eastern sport leaders stay awake at night in their zeal to conjure new ways to defraud and defeat Western rugby champions?

When East Goes West

BUT ALSO remember this, Mr. Western Fan. When Eastern clubs travelled West, they too on many occasions had to journey without guarantees and had to depend upon home-town generosity. During the past year, for instance, Eastern boxers and wrestlers competed in national finals at Winnipeg; Eastern girl track and field champions journeyed to Vancouver; Eastern lacrosse finalists competed at New Westminster. In every instance no guarantee was forthcoming from the West, and there was a desperate effort to obtain the necessary travelling funds. Indeed, while the Western junior rugby clubs do receive some hundreds of dollars, many Ontario and Quebec athletes have “gone West” and not only have they received no expenses whatever, but they have made the financial sacrifice without complaint.

Lack of financing, however, not only affects the players but is also responsible for the greater use of Eastern officials. I have been informed by a member of the Canadian Rugby Union that a capable Western official should be used in every final game, but it would be quite unjust to pay $200 for the expenses of such a referee or umpire when the financial returns are so small that the team itself would receive very little more than that sum.

Consequently, Eastern officials are generally used for the Eastern games. But only the best men are invited. In the 1932 junior finals, Hal DeGruchy and Fred Barlett were in charge, and no Eastern rugby fan will question their knowledge, fairness or courage. True, they made a decision upon which the game was ultimately won and lost, but you may depend upon it that those two officials are not the type who would be so keen to see a home team win that they would cheat to do it.

But the most unfounded criticism advanced by Mr. Dumsday is that the date of the final junior game is delayed because “the Ontario teams wish to raise money from home and home series.”

Remember this: In Toronto there are

possibly thirty junior teams; in Ontario, perhaps 150 clubs. Is it expecting too much to permit a couple of months—only eight Saturdays—to bring all these clubs through their many leagues and play-offs?

There is no loafing during the Eastern junior rugby schedule. Last year the Malvern Grads, after winning their group, played six games against four different teams in fourteen days, and were eliminated in the sixth game. The University of Toronto Juniors, including the final game with Moose Jaw Maroons, played three games in a week—and every game a sudden death, not home and home games as suggested by Mr. Dumsday. Surely boys in their teens should not be asked to play more than three names within seven days.

Furthermore, while “the Western champions batter themselves in practice grinds on frozen fields for a month without opposition, ” the Eastern clubs, not in practice, not without opposition, but in tough contests on muddy, slippery grounds, are compelled to play “for keeps” and give all they have, regardless of the likelihood of serious injuries. Almost any coach would prefer to tune-up his rugby team in practices rather than play three games a week.

Regardless of financial problems, official worries and climatic distractions, when Mr. Dumsday claims that “Blind Justice has swayed Canadian rugby football long enough,” he is reflecting upon the integrity of the officers of the Canadian Rugby Union. Are these all prejudiced Easterners, too? Decidedly not. Even though the East has the preponderance of clubs and leagues, still, the constitution provides that the president shall alternately be a Westerner and an Easterner. The 1934 presiding officer will be Dr. McCusker, of Regina, and the second vice-president will be Prof. E. A. Hardy, of Saskatoon. Surely these men are quite capable of expressing the viewpoint of the territory they represent.

In fact, there is already evidence of their success, for the writer has been assured that there is a decided likelihood that, from 1934 on. the senior rugby finals will alternate in the East and the West; and if climatic conditions permitted, the junior finals which are usually contested later than the senior, might also alternate.

In the meantime, however, if the financial losses are too heavy for junior teams in either East or West, it would seem wise for the national governing body to recognize the Eastern and the Western champions as separate territorial title-holders; for, after all, the playing of a final game proves very little and is quite costly when the turnstiles do not click.

Furthermore, those more prominently associated with Eastern rugby are almost unanimous in their declaration that Western juniors are likely to take the junior national title any year and that a Canadian victory for the Western seniors would be the most inspiring incident that could possibly occur in Canadian rugby.

Meanwhile, if §2.000 is too high a price for a junior national rugby title—and I am sure it is—then the West should refuse to come East until a satisfactory guarantee is assured. But please don’t suggest “secession” as the remedy. It smacks too much of that childish complaint, “If I can’t get what I want I won’t play.”