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Historicist: One Tough Cookie

Football great "Cookie" Gilchrist's turbulent time in Argonaut double-blue.

Photo of Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Hamilton, by Peter Macdonald via Creative Commons on Flickr

Photo of Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Hamilton, by Peter Macdonald via Creative Commons on Flickr.

“I dealt with racism when I was in Canada. I dealt with racists. I was totally exploited. I was left with nothing, with no dignity. I was treated like an animal,” Cookie Gilchrist seethed in a July 1983 interview with Paul Patton of the Globe and Mail. “Go through your files,” the former Canadian Football League and American Football League all-star demanded. “Canadian newspapers are full of Cookie Gilchrist stories and all are derogatory. There’s nothing complimentary. I have all the clippings in a scrapbook and, if you read those stories, you wouldn’t think that I was worthy of the Hall of Fame. They didn’t treat me like a human being when I was there.”

Cookie, a ferocious and dynamic force on the field and a charismatic personality off it, was refusing to be enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. One of the biggest stars for the Toronto Argonauts in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the bruising fullback was considered by many to be one of football’s all-time greats—Canadian or American.

Cookie was always outspoken and could be a cantankerous interview at the best of times. Living as a virtual recluse by the early 1980s, he was suspicious and paranoid of even innocuous questions from reporters. And he seemed to still have a chip on his shoulder about the decade he spent playing football in Canada. Although a perennial all-star, Cookie had a rocky relationship with most coaches and general managers, which eventually led to his ignominious departure from the Argonauts in 1962 for breaking curfew.

“Any place. Any brand of football,” insisted Larry Felser, a sportswriter who covered Cookie’s stateside career after he jumped to the fledgling American Football League. “Cookie was, pound for pound, the greatest all-around player I ever saw. He would be a superstar in today’s football.”

Keep reading: Historicist: One Tough Cookie



Ford Fest 2014 Starts Weird and Turns Ugly

Tempers flare, crowd confronts LGBTQ activists at annual Ford family barbecue.

Men and women who have been in a warzone describe it as long stretches of boredom punctured by short bursts of action. Ford Fest 2014 was hardly Da Nang, but it was slow, it was hot, it was tense, and it was confusing. It was sometimes pitiful and largely absurd. It was a lot of waiting broken up by emotion and violence. It was a whole lot of ordinary people looking for a free burger, undercut by an angry, pushed-to-the-edge faction.

By the end of the night, mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson had ridden in on a bright white steed; people had been shoved, slandered, choked; LGBTQ activists had been goaded, and at least one had been assaulted.

This year’s edition of Rob Ford’s annual booster barbecue—which was not a campaign event, mind you, and there were bylaw enforcement officers present to make sure there were no violations of the fest’s community activity permit—was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Friday, but the mayor was over an hour late. Thousands had lined for a Ford Nation T-shirt. A few hundred more snaked across the park, waiting in front of a canopy tent where Ford was scheduled to do a meet-and-greet. This was old-time populism in action.

Keep reading: Ford Fest 2014 Starts Weird and Turns Ugly


Newsstand: July 24, 2014

According to an Algerian news agency, air navigation services lost track of a Swiftair plane—Flight AH5017—50 minutes after takeoff in Burkina Faso en route to Algiers, early this morning, with 116 people aboard the flight. In less-startling news: phone numbers in the 416 area code are worth a pretty penny, online and phone voting in the upcoming municipal election is cancelled for disabled citizens, the City has a new transportation centre, and mayoral candidates talk pedestrian safety.