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No What-Ifs for short-lived Las Vegas CFL team

Unlike Greg Anthony fouling out against Duke in the NCAA title game, and other questions raised by Mark Anderson in Sunday’s Review-Journal feature, very few people ask “What If?” the Las Vegas Posse had survived.

But with the Canadian Football League kicking off another season of 12-men-a-side and multiple men in motion over the weekend, VICE Sports revisited the Posse’s rapid rise, and even more rapid decline, in a retrospective called “The Bizarre Story of the Las Vegas Posse and the CFL’s Stint in Sin City.”

Having covered the team — eat your heart out, Red Smith — that lasted almost one season, my favorite part remains the pooper scoopers.

Like most everything about the Posse, its mascot was uncommon. It had this horse-drawn stagecoach thing, a poor team’s homage to Oklahoma’s Sooner Schooner. The horses would get uncomfortable during 110-degree heat and … well … you know. It was sort of like the pool scene in “Caddyshack,” except these Baby Ruths didn’t float. A guy sort of dressed in team colors would run onto the field, the way a guy runs onto the field to retrieve a kicking tee. Only this guy had a pooper scooper.

“I only began covering the CFL in late 1995, and missed the Posse completely,” said the VICE story’s author, Perry Lefko. “But having a chance to write about it, especially with the input from Jeff Reinebold, was fun and hilarious. He shared some stories that were not appropriate. Suffice to say, some names and their experiences were not shared.”

Cast of characters

Reinebold was an assistant coach on a staff assembled by Ron Meyer, the former UNLV coach and head man at Southern Methodist during the uproarious Pony Express days. He also was coach of the NFL’s New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. The colorful Meyer once ordered a snowplow driver onto the field to clear a swatch of turf so John Smith could kick a game-winning field goal against the Dolphins. So you knew he was the right guy for the Posse job.

Because snowplow drivers were rarely required at Posse games, Reinebold and Meyer and the other coaches would parade around the practice field — those grass expanses still used for tailgating at UNLV football games — barefoot and bare chested, clad only in coaching shorts that roughly resembled Tarzan’s loincloth.

It was not a pleasant sight, although you sort of got used to the scent of Hawaiian Tropic before final cuts were made.

During a preseason game in Vancouver, Meyer and the other coaches had the foresight to remind punt returner extraordinaire Tamarick Vanover that fair catches were not allowed in the CFL. Midway through the first quarter or thereabouts, the BC Lions punted, Vanover signaled a fair catch, the BC Lions fell on the ball in the end zone for perhaps the easiest major score in CFL history. BC Place erupted into chortles and guffaws.

The Posse would pull a singer named Dennis Casey Park out of a lounge to sing “O, Canada” before their home opener against Saskatchewan. It came out sounding like “O, Christmas Tree.”

“I can remember standing on the sidelines with a couple of guys and we were just peeking over in the corner of our eyes and saying, ‘Oh my God, this is bad.’ You knew he was in trouble and it got worse,” Reinebold told VICE Sports.

It was so bad that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and U.S. Vice President Al Gore wrote letters and issued statements.

Lowering the curtain

It wasn’t all bloopers and scoopers. The Posse also would launch the careers of CFL Hall of Fame quarterback Anthony Calvillo and linebacker Greg Battle. But nobody around here knew them then. The Posse essentially folded before the 1994 season even ended. There would be no trade for Doug Flutie in a futile attempt to save the franchise.

A final home game against Edmonton was switched at short notice to Commonweath Stadium up there. Planeloads of Eskimo fans watched on big-screen TVs in an Imperial Palace ballroom while truckloads of Canadian beer were brought in.

There would be one final ignominy.

A dispersal draft was held to select the Posse players, and the Ottawa Rough Riders would take Derrell Robertson, a defensive lineman who had been killed in an auto accident the previous December.

Nobody bothered telling the league office.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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