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The Globe and Mail

Third down and long for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Mayor Rob Ford prepares to make a play during a short game of touch football as part of the 100th Grey Cup celebrations in Toronto.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

When Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's chief of staff Mark Towhey was fired and escorted out of City Hall on Thursday, many assumed that he had fallen victim to the controversy over the video allegedly showing Mr. Ford abusing crack cocaine. Perhaps Mr. Towhey was dismissed for urging Mr. Ford to confront the allegation head on.

There's an alternative explanation, too. Councillor Jaye Robinson, a member of the Mayor's executive committee, said, "I don't have all the details, but my understanding is it's something related to football and I'll leave it at that." It is impossible to know, but it would be so Rob Ford if his office were to be undone not by the serious drug video allegations swirling around the mayor, but by something to do with his dismissal as the volunteer coach of a high school football team.

Either way, there is a time to concede a point, and that time has come for Mayor Ford. His failure to confront directly and transparently the allegations that he appears in a video abusing crack cocaine is costing him the game. If Rob Ford has any defence to mount, now would be the time.

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Councillor Robinson described the Ford administration as a "train crash." In football terms, Toronto effectively does not have a quarterback.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board, in announcing the end of Mr. Ford's coaching career, did not link it directly to the drugs video controversy. But what school would want an individual with such innuendoes attached to him in a mentoring relationship with young people? And what city would want such an individual as its pivot?

It is not only that Mr. Ford's agenda, such as it is, has been badly fumbled. It is that Mr. Ford has retreated to the locker room. Besides the vital chief executive functions of the mayor's office, Rob Ford is, in effect, the First Torontonian. He is the public face of the city. He cuts ribbons, visits charity dinners and declares special days. In the circumstances, how can Mr. Ford play such a role? Who would want him to?

And who would want Mr. Towhey's job? He is the third chief of staff in two and a half years, not counting Earl Provost, back for a return engagement as interim chief. It may be the least attractive job opening in Canada.

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