Kent Austin banner should come down for Grey Cup week | Sports | CBC Sports

Kent Austin banner should come down for Grey Cup week

Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 | 04:24 PM

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A Grey Cup winner with Saskatchewan as both a quarterback and coach, Kent Austin returns to Regina this week trying to lead his Tiger-Cats past his old team. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) A Grey Cup winner with Saskatchewan as both a quarterback and coach, Kent Austin returns to Regina this week trying to lead his Tiger-Cats past his old team. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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Kent Austin seems like a man who wants to both focus on winning the Grey Cup as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and distance himself from his past. I just wish the Saskatchewan Roughriders would realize that too and take his banner down at Mosaic Stadium.
REGINA -- This is the best place to start the second century of CFL history.

There's more green on display here than Dublin on St Patty's Day.

Most buildings are heavily decked out. Banks, eateries, gas stations and hotels, including the venerable old Hotel Saskatchewan, are showing their colors.

I think back to the last two Grey Cups, and although Toronto and Vancouver both had their teams involved, outside the stadium itself, there was little interest in the game.

Both those cities felt like houses where the parents demanded that their kid's  party be held in the basement. At best, in the backyard. You know, the places where you store things, knowing they might provide you some use somewhere down the line, but otherwise never think about.

There's no hiding the Grey Cup in Regina. Remember Chevy Chase decorating his house in Christmas Vacation?  It's like that, except all of those lights are green.

It must be said that, aesthetically, the area around Mosaic Stadium does look a bit like someone's basement or backyard right now. A mish-mash of construction materials, makeshift bleachers and port-o-potties bears no resemblance to the pristine (and somewhat sterile) domes in Toronto and Vancouver.

The question for me is: Where did we all have the most fun growing up? For me, the basement and backyard rank pretty high.

Signs of the times

Now, about a certain poster on said basement wall.

Yes, the likeness of Kent Austin (former Riders quarterback, now the head coach of the Tiger-Cats) stretching 50 feet down one side of Mosaic might better be described as a banner. But it reminds me of a poster.

In all my time growing up, my basement only ever had two posters on the wall: Fran Tarkenton of the Minnesota Vikings and Farrah Fawcett of Charlie's Angels.

Tarkenton was Doug Flutie before Doug Flutie, improvising his way to success in a league many felt he was too small to be successful in. His tenacity, competitiveness and creativity are values I was inspired by before my growth spurt at 13.

Fawcett was my inspiration after my growth spurt, but that's another story....

The point is, Taylor Field (because that's what it really is under its corporate branding) is hallowed ground, a place where a banner represents the values of the community both inside and outside of it.

The other banner hanging from the stadium right now is a perfect example. It shows a kneeling Roger Aldag. 

Aldag, from Gull Lake, Sask., played his whole career with the Riders, 17 seasons protecting quarterbacks that ranged from Ron Lancaster (the CFL version of Tarkenton) to, you guessed it, Kent Austin.

Aldag was an unsung hero. The football equivalent of the thousands of farmers who inhabit this province and, quite literally, put bread on Canadian tables.

Family matters

Many people say Kent Austin is a hero too, just of a different kind.

Austin quarterbacked Saskatchewan to the Grey Cup in 1989 and coached the Riders to the Cup in 2007. By doing that, he has helped orchestrate half the franchise's title wins to date. Not bad, when you consider the franchise has existed for more than a century.

But does short-term success like this warrant a banner?

I think not. In 1994, Austin demanded a trade from the Riders and ended up in B.C. It was about making more money.

In 2007, only months after winning the Cup, Austin left to be an assistant coach with his alma mater, Ole Miss. That was about family.

When Austin returned to the CFL in 2012, he chose to coach Hamilton over Saskatchewan. That was about family.

The thing is, playing in Regina is like being part of a family too. Community owned and community supported, it's an immensely close-knit organization.

The other two guys who've had banners hung over the rafters in their honour knew that.

George Reed spent his entire 13-year career with the Green and White. Ron Lancaster spent the last 16 years of his career here.

Despite this, a recent CBC poll shows that more than 70 per cent of people think Austin's banner should stay up during Grey Cup Week. Many assert that it would be petty to take it down. Others say his achievements brought glory to the franchise that can never be taken away.

Spoken like members of a family defending one of their own. Forgive and forget.

As for Austin himself, he was asked Wednesday how he felt about walking in to a stadium that'll bear his likeness on Sunday. He says it's an "honour" and says it wasn't his decision to put it up.

Austin seemed like a man who wants to both focus on the topic that brings him back to Regina -- winning the Grey Cup -- and distance himself from his past.

I just wish the Roughriders organization would realize that too and take his banner down.

It's been years since Fran and Farrah adorned my walls, and I think I may be the better for it.

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