Tagged: CFl

My position on the CFL moving up the season: I’m dead-set against it

Yesterday, the CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie gave his State of the League address and for the umpteenth time the idea of moving up the season came up. The thought is to go with a May to October schedule. This is something Saskatchewan fans have been calling for for years, because the fans here are spring chickens who can’t hack cold weather, apparently. Worse, it seems Ambrosie actually likes the idea of having the football season wrap up in October!

This is just plain wrong. November is football! Moreover, for me personally, it is the month when I finally get a chance to concentrate solely on football, for a change, with Major League Baseball season out of the way.

By moving the end of the season up a month, the CFL would end up in direct competition with MLB for the entire season. The way things are now, the CFL basically have all of November to themselves. Moreover, November is also their best month for TV ratings for that very reason! So why they would want to jeopardize that, I don’t know.

Can you imagine if the CFL had its Grey Cup game up against a World Series, especially onein which the Toronto Blue Jays were involved? The CFL would be clobbered! Moreover, the CFL would basically be conceding all of November to the NFL. So after the World Series is over, baseball fans looking for something else to watch will have no alternative but to tune in the NFL on Sunday afternoons — or for that matter, MLS soccer and NBA basketball. A fine way to grow Canadian football interest, eh?!

What’s more, this plan would push the start of the CFL season to late May, which would put the CFL in direct competition with the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs!

Can you imagine early-season CFL games going up against a Stanley Cup final involving Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs, or Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, or for that matter, any other Canadian teams? There would be no interest in these CFL games at all if this happens! At least with the current set-up, the CFL avoids this problem most of the time.

I say keep the schedule much the same as it is now, but be smarter about where the games are played during the final weekend. Instead of home games in potential cold-weather places like Regina or Winnipeg, make sure most games are in warmer places like Toronto or Hamilton, or under the dome in BC! That way, you’re more likely to cut down on the complaints about cold weather.

Shelve this idea of moving the season up right now, CFL. That’s my rant for tonight.

Update: Did any of you see this epic Grey Cup game played in the snow in Ottawa? Case closed. They even had the dogsleds bring out Shania Twain for the halftime show. This is why you don’t want to move the season up.

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The Roughriders are awful! Everyone in SK wants to fire Chris Jones!


Yesterday, I tuned in the Saskatchewan Roughriders inept 30-15 loss to the BC Lions while dining on ribs at the Chances Kelowna casino lounge. Despite the location, the place was filled, absolutely jam packed, with expatriate Riders fans. But they had very little to cheer about all game until backup QB Brandon Bridge fired a couple of nothing touchdowns in the final minutes. 

Honestly, this whole game was a disgrace. Riders QB Kevin Glenn was terrible with his turnovers, and the offence was dull and predictable and did absolutely nothing until the game meant nothing. The only player who seemed to still be giving an A effort was Duron Carter. Everyone else mailed it in for their big CFL paycheques, paid for in full by Riders ticket holders.

The Riders are now two full games back of the final playoff spot, and have started off this critical five-game stretch of games against Western opponents by laying a big, fat, green egg. 

This team has proven it can beat the mediocre and bad teams, like Hamilton or Toronto, but they are also rapidly proving they aren’t in the same class as the good teams in this league. By the time these five games against BC, Edmonton and Winnipeg are over, this Riders squad will be so far out of the playoff race that I’ll have no further reason to watch the remainder of this lousy season — even with the changes the league has made this week to cut down on the amount of coaches’ challenges in the games. The only drama left will be figuring out who will be fired at the end of the season. 

I’ve given coach and GM Chris Jones the benefit of the doubt to this point, but honestly, I’m ready to join the chorus of people in Saskatchewan who think he should go — him and a few other people in the Roughriders organization. Sustained success? Ha! Sustained losing is more like it.

That’s my rant! And now, back to my vacation here in the smoke zone.

There’s no excuse whatsoever to not go to the Argos CFL games!


It was a sorry sight on TV this weekend at BMO Field. Today the Toronto Argonauts were playing their home opener of the Canadian Football League season against their fiercest rivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Except there was hardly anyone at this game! The attendance was a crummy 13,583!

Folks, the Saskatchewan Rush lacrosse team regularly does better than that. In fact, half the National Lacrosse League does better than that! That’s how far the Argos have fallen in Toronto, folks.

And once again, everyone is coming up with the excuses for why they didn’t draw better. Last year, there were weather-related excuses and the competition from Duran Duran concerts and Blue Jays games and Indycar races and what have you. 

The big excuse I am hearing about this weekend is that it was Pride Weekend in Toronto, so that was the reason why people didn’t show up. This has surely got to be the most creative excuse I’ve heard yet.

Bottom line is, if there were football fans in Toronto, they wouldn’t care about any of the multitude of other stuff that goes on in the city, they wouldn’t even care about the gridlock traffic. They would find a way to be at the effing games, dammit! And they would surely be at a game involving the Tiger-Cats! 13,583 for the home opener against your arch-rivals is sad, ladies and gentlemen. 

And I don’t want to hear about how people in Toronto would rather enjoy the good weather than go to the CFL game. You can enjoy the good weather while sitting there in the seats, drinking a beer! But clearly, not enough people took advantage of that opportunity today at BMO, because there was row after row of empty red seats, on television.

You know what’s even sadder? It looks like the Argos might be fielding a better team than the Saskatchewan Roughriders this year, in spite of the fact that it took the Argos all offseason to find a coach (Marc Trestman.) Yet even if they have a winning season, the Argos will probably be a drag on the attendance for this entire league, and create more bad publicity about how poorly the CFL is doing — all because people in Toronto don’t care and won’t show up. Last fall’s Grey Cup in Toronto was also a debacle, by the way, with tickets practically being given away, and it turned out to be one of the best games in history with Ottawa winning in OT!

Come on, Toronto people, get with it. Give the CFL and the Argos a chance — especially after this game today. There, that’s my soap-box rant for this week.

Make Saskatchewan Great Again! QB Vince Young joins the ‘Riders.

The big news from Saskatchewan is that former Heisman runner-up and ex-NFL quarterback Vince Young has signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. TSN broke the story Wednesday and it was all made official at a news conference today. This is not only big news up here in Canada, but also down there in the USA. Heck, even agent Leigh Steinberg was up here today. The locals are impressed.

Will this succeed? The Riders are taking a risk here. Young hasn’t played for years, yet he does not see this as a comeback — instead, he calls it an “opportunity”. 

All I know is that when I was watching the feed from 7 News Miami and their Sports Xtra show a few weeks ago, when all this Young comeback talk was happening, superagent Drew Rosenhaus was saying he didn’t think much of it and thought a return to football was a bad idea. 

Personally, I say, why not? For one thing, anyone who could handle the fishbowl atmosphere at the U. of Texas and with the Tennessee Titans in the NFL should have no difficulties at all in Saskatchewan. Moreover, the Roughriders are such a total mess at the quarterback position that coach/GM Chris Jones might as well give Young a shot. Really, the Riders have nothing to lose. 

As for Jones: boy, does he ever look more and more like the Donald Trump of the Canadian Football League. 

He is anti-establishment all the way in getting rid of popular players like Darian Durant, Weston Dressler and John Chick, in thumbing his nose at the Commissioner and the league office with all his rule violations, and by making unconventional moves like this. 

Just like Trump, Jones is crazy, all right. Crazy like a fox. We’ll see if this works, and if Vince Young makes good on his pledge to Make Vince Great Again.

Everyone denying report that Sask. Riders gave illegal workout to Johnny Manziel!

I don’t know what to make of this. A report from Justin Dunk of 3DownNation.com came out today that the Saskatchewan Roughriders gave disgraced ex-NFL Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel a workout last month.

The problem is Manziel is on the neg. list of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats! So this workout would’ve been illegal, and the Riders would therefore be in trouble again. Just like they were last season, with one violation after another!

For his part, Saskatchewan GM Chris Jones issued a statement denying this even happened, and TMZ Sports reported that Manziel himself is denying he had a workout with any CFL team! 

You know, when I said that the Roughriders were turning into the Cleveland Browns of the CFL, I thought I was half-kidding. It’s quite possible I’m not! Anyway, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have become part of this whole Johnny Manziel circus that he’s had going for a while. All the sports outlets that love to report on Manziel’s endless antics are now reporting this story, too. Somehow, given the gong show the Riders have become under Jones’ leadership, it seems fitting. 

Honestly, I don’t know who or what to believe on this one — the Riders, or Justin Dunk. Somebody is fibbing, big time, about something.

Ottawa Redblacks’ 39-33 OT Grey Cup win caps a massive day in sports

After all the bellyaching we’ve heard from these experts about the state of affairs of the CFL, with all the worries expressed about the future of the league and so on, we found out tonight that sometimes all that needs to happen is for the critics to get out of the way and just let the game sell itself. 

That is what happened tonight. A 20-point Calgary comeback wasn’t enough as the Ottawa Redblacks scored a TD in overtime to upset the Stampeders and win the Grey Cup, 39-33, to end a 40-year title drought for the city of Ottawa. Veteran CFL quarterback Henry Burris, aka SmilinHank, has reason to smile tonight as the MVP.

That triumph happens on the same day that Nico Rosberg finally clinched the F1 title in Abu Dhabi. This really has turned out to be the year that all the long-suffering teams and cities ended their droughts, didn’t it? 

My genius suggestion to the CFL: do what the NFL is doing


I am tuning in the big Canada-Russia World Cup hockey game while waiting for the less-than-big Saskatchewan Roughriders-Hamilton Tiger-Cats CFL game to come on.

I have spent the last few days reading all this boohooing about the CFL product, with all the lousy penalties and challenges, some questionable firings of writers from the CFL’s own website, and how bad their ratings are up against the World Cup of Hockey, the Toronto Blue Jays, the NFL, etc. etc.

Well, I have figured out a sure-fire approach that will improve the CFL on-field product immediately and win back viewers. Here it is:

Figure out what the NFL is doing right, and copy it. 

And that’s it! That’s all the CFL has to do. Just emulate the NFL’s product, which, if you’ll notice, has far less ridiculous flags, far less ridiculous challenges and challenge rules, and fewer ridiculous plays in general — but also a ton more marketing and publicity. Just do what they’re doing, it’s as simple as that, and then maybe the fans in Canada who aren’t tuning in the CFL anymore might come back.

Now, the other thing that the CFL will need to do is avoid the multitude of things the NFL is doing wrong at the moment. And believe me, it’s a multitude. It goes way beyond all this unpopular take-a-knee-during-the-US-anthem nonsense.

Expect a big rant on that, tomorrow.

It’s that time of year, folks: it’s finally hockey season!

Yes, folks, at long last hockey season is upon us! Tonight, the SJHL season begins with five games on the schedule. 

My press pass is here, and while I’m not going to be covering the game tonight here in the Battlefords against Kindersley, I’m looking forward to following the games on the radio and maybe even getting out to cover one in the coming weeks, in between municipal election coverage.

And may I just say that if there was ever a year in which Saskatchewan sports fans are looking forward to the return of hockey, it is this season! Usually, the return of hockey depresses the heck out of people because it means winter’s coming. But I think fans simply want something to get their minds off the Canadian Football League.

Honestly, the entire CFL product — and I’m not just referring to the terrible 1 win-10 loss Saskatchewan Roughriders — has been awful this season. Lousy officiating, endless senseless penalties, and too many delaying video reviews and decisions by league officials at head office have made the whole sport unwatchable, and the TV ratings reflect it. The CFL is getting killed in the TV ratings by the Blue Jays and by the NFL, and even by World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament games! And it’s all because the product is lousy.

The Riders in particular have been a gong show, due to rules violations and bizarre player moves (ie. signing notorious anti-Semitic social media troll Khalif Mitchell, and now letting him go). If it wasn’t for the fact that this was the last season for the beloved old stadium, with everyone wanting to see the place before they tear it down, attendance would be far worse than it is. This team is so far out of the race now that it’s a waste of time tuning in, and there are still seven more games to go. Seven utterly meaningless joke contests – the season ticket holders won’t be impressed.

As for the fan mood in Saskatchewan, people here are just plain depressed and want this season over with. It’s a contrast to last season, where anger prevailed and everyone wanted everyone fired. Most don’t even have the energy to be mad at coach/GM Chris Jones anymore for all his roster moves — they’re just exhausted. Lately, the press has been trying to drum up interest in whether or not QB Darian Durant should be re-signed or traded, but people are too exhausted for that whole issue, too.

I think there will be interest in the final CFL game in old Mosaic Stadium as well as the “trial run” game at the new stadium between the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. Beyond that, fans are spent. They simply want to see this football season hauled to the dump, finally.

But hockey season offers new and fresh hope. I think sports fans in Regina are actually more enthused about the Regina Pats right now than the ‘Riders, because of all the predictions about how good a team they’re going to have in the WHL. The bottom line is a lot of people are looking forward to hockey season, not just myself.

Also starting up very quickly is the World Cup of Hockeyand for some reason I’m pumped up about this tournament. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling nostalgic for those Summit Series and those Canada Cup tournaments that had taken place years before. It has been a long time since we’ve had a tournament like this happen in the month of September, going back all the way to 2004. 

You may recall what happened back then: Canada indeed won the World Cup of Hockey, and then the very next day the lockout started that ended up wiping out the entire NHL season. So that kind of killed the fans’ enthusiasm for this tournament right there.

Of course, the main complaint out here in the West is that all the World Cup games will be going on in Toronto, at Air Canada Centre, with no games being hosted outside of there at all (except for these meaningless pre-tournament “friendlies”). 

It seems strange that organizers would set it up this way. Then again, many aspects of this tournament are strange (under-23 squads, etc.). 

Anyway, the bottom line is hockey is back, and for suffering Canadian football fans it cannot come back soon enough.

The CFL is finished in Toronto! My freak-out reaction to Wednesday’s Argo attendance


Relax, this headline is simply to get everyone’s attention. But this will be the headline if nothing changes in Toronto any time soon with respect to interest there in the CFL. Quite honestly, I’m alarmed at what I witnessed on TV this week.

Announced gate for Wednesday’s Toronto Argonauts contest against Ottawa was 12,373. That number seems generous given what I saw on TV on Wednesday. I would have put the number closer to 7,000.

I’m seeing a fair amount of excuses online for why the gate was so bad, and while some make sense others don’t.

One excuse was the problems with the road closures due to Indy. Fair point, which raises this question: why the heck did the CFL schedule the game at BMO Field for this week? They should have known about the road closures and the havoc that would cause in Toronto, a city infamous for its gridlock.

Second excuse was that people stayed away because it was 35 degrees Celsius. Well, the Blue Jays have played in 35 degrees before and the place was usually packed. When the Rolling Stones played that massive outdoor concert in Toronto in 2003 there were over a half million people there for that, and it had to have been at least 35 degrees then, too.

If it were 25 degrees, the excuse from people would have been that they wanted to enjoy the good weather at home, and if it were 15 degrees or less there would have been complaints that it was too cold. And if rain is in the forecast people would have complained about that too. So I don’t buy this explanation at all, this is total baloney. “I didn’t go to the game because it was hot out!” Right.

Then the other excuse was that the gate was low because there was a concert for Duran Duran the same night. First of all, who cares about Duran Duran, it’s not like the Argos were up against Paul McCartney or Madonna or somebody like that. Second of all, this still makes no sense because the Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to be up against the Craven Country Jamboree this weekend with all these major country stars showing up there — traditionally the toughest concert competition of the year in this market — and yet the Riders are expecting around 30,000 at home! 

There are other excuses, but I think what it really comes down to is that few people in Toronto care anymore about the CFL. I think the bottom line is that the Toronto Argos are simply seen in Toronto as an inferior product — not only to the NFL but to all the other Toronto pro sports teams. Moreover, there is the distinct perception in Toronto that the CFL is “yesterday’s sport” — the league your parents and grandparents followed, but not you.

That’s the cold hard fact of the matter, but there are ways to deal with it through rebranding, better marketing, better fan experiences, better ticket prices, whatever. But that will take time and effort. You simply can’t expect all the problems to go away with a change of stadiums. Anyway, the new owners of the team clearly need to make more of an effort than what they are doing, just to right the ship. It sounds like a lack of marketing is still an issue there. 

As for moving to BMO Field and how it was supposed to solve all the Argos’ problems — it’s now apparent that all this is doing is giving the Argos a chance at a fresh start in the market, nothing more. 

The move to BMO Field solves some problems — at least the Argos won’t be kicked out of their stadium like they were before — but other problems have been created. Instead of being second-fiddle in Rogers Centre to the Blue Jays, the Argos are now second-fiddle at BMO Field to Toronto FC, whose fans are still hopping mad that the Argos have moved in to their beloved soccer stadium. Also, while BMO Field is good for tailgating, it isn’t really a convenient location. It’s way off the subway line, for instance, and even when you drive there traffic is usually terrible off the freeway. I know, I’ve lived there.
Bottom line — this new stadium is great, but more must be done to convince people to go there. I mean really, that was a sad scene on Wednesday, all those empty seats.

Here are some other stories and opinions about the Argos attendance debacle from the Toronto Star, from the CBC, and from Toronto Mike. Also, here’s a piece from Steve Simmons on a slightly different topic: the ridiculous ticket prices for the Grey Cup at BMO Field, with tickets running upwards of several hundred dollars. Seriously, some of these tickets are going for $899! 

Seriously, you’re better off simply using that money to buy two new big-screen TVs — one to watch the Grey Cup, and the other to watch the NFL game at the same time on the other station! As big a CFL fan as I am, I gotta say ‘no way’ to these prices, too.

Argos are still a flop in Toronto. Attendance at BMO Field tonight is terrible!


I can’t believe what I am seeing in the stands on TSN tonight. There are empty seats all over BMO Field at tonight’s Toronto Argonauts-Ottawa RedBlacks CFL game. To give you an idea how bad it is, in one grandstand you can easily see the white maple leaf in the middle of all those red seats. 

This looks really bad on TV — it’s as empty as Rogers Centre used to look. To be honest, though, this reminds me more of Sam Boyd Stadium for Las Vegas Posse games in the Nineties.

I don’t know what to say about this. Moving to BMO was supposed to solve the Argos attendance problems, and schedule problems, and all the rest of their problems. Now, it looks like the CFL is stuck with the same problems as before in Toronto. Unbelievable.

What boggles my mind is there’s literally no sports competition to speak of. This is All-Star week, the deadest sports week of the year in North America! Baseball is on its break, and while there are MLS soccer games on, the fact is Toronto FC is out of town in Columbus! 

Moreover, this Argos game is against a division rival who played in the Grey Cup game last year. This ought to be a good marquee matchup for the league. You would think there’d be a captive audience for the Argos tonight in Toronto, but no.

As for why this game is not being held this weekend instead, keep in mind this is Indy weekend in Toronto and this is always a big deal with streets blocked off and so on. In fact, it sounds like a lot of streets around BMO were blocked off tonight, too, because of the Indy races coming up. 

So why is attendance so bad tonight? Is it the location of the stadium? Is it ticket prices? The street closures? Perhaps it is simply because at the end of the day football is a fall sport, not a summer one, and sports fans simply aren’t going to be as excited to see a football game played in the middle of July. 

It could be all these things, for all I know. All in all, as a longtime fan of this league and as a former Toronto resident myself, this is discouraging to see.

In case you were wondering: I spent Friday in Edmonton, land of the NHL.

After what has seemed like ages, I finally took a road trip to Edmonton yesterday. Enjoyed listening to Edmonton and Calgary sports talk stations on the radio while driving.

I have to say – I found it refreshing, very refreshing, to hear the radio hosts spend their time talking about the NHL, and a little bit of the Blue Jays and UFC and English Premier League, instead of what fans are stuck with in Saskatchewan. 

And what do fans get stuck with in Saskatchewan? Why, what else — nonstop coverage of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the CFL. Even when it’s NHL season.

It’s at the point now where they cannot even do an NHL story without the ‘Riders being mentioned! This week the news was about how ‘Riders fans were invading Arizona with their green jerseys to see the Arizona Coyotes play the Anaheim Ducks! And I know people want to show their “Rider Pride” but this, folks, is getting ridiculous.

This is the offseason, guys. Let’s focus on the other sports that are actually going on right now, shall we? This is a paid political announcement.

Everyone in Rider Nation can finally chill out: Durant’s staying. #riders #cfl

Quarterback Darian Durant agreed to terms of a new deal today. So hopefully this will quiet down all the usual hysteria and high blood pressures we have all come to expect from Saskatchewan Roughrider fans, a.k.a. “Rider Nation”, about his future.

Jeez, folks, you need to calm down, all of you. This is supposed to be the offseason. Save your strength for the regular season, eh? 

The Sask. Rush are a hit! Hope the momentum keeps on building #NLL

  
I just thought I would add my two cents about the sports scene in Saskatchewan, and in particular about the arrival of the National Lacrosse League and the Saskatchewan Rush. The Rush are a hit! I was glad to see over 9,000 fans at SaskTel Centre for the first game. By contrast, both the UFC Fight Night event and the NHL exhibition game last fall (with Connor McDavid and the Oilers) saw a much lower gate, closer to 7 thousand. Quite honestly, if I were Lee Genier, president of the Rush, I’d be ecstatic. All that saturation promotion of the Rush on Saskatoon billboards and on TV (with their commercials littering the NFL games on CTV) did the job — in spite of the obvious non-interest shown by much of the sports media in Saskatchewan. Thanks for nothing, you guys. Fortunately, the people have spoken. 

The good news is that there are all kinds of reports of people giving the game experience rave reviews. On social media I am seeing a lot of comments from people who say they will go back for another game. This is exactly what had to happen — the Rush needed a big crowd in order to accomplish big word of mouth. I think the momentum is just going to build for this.

As for the whole fallout from the Weston Dressler-John Chick departures from the Saskatchewan Roughriders, fans are starting to calm down, but a lot of bitterness remains. All I have to say to Saskatchewan football fans is keep things in perspective. It could be far worse — you could be a football fan in St. Louis

That is it for now. Coming up soon: News from Nowhere. 

The current “state of the CFL” is just fine, but try telling that to the media!

 

It is Grey Cup week in Winnipeg, with the big game between Ottawa and Edmonton set for Sunday. As part of the week, today has been the big State of the League address by new commissioner Jeffrey Orridge. 

The big news from this address: the CFL has decided it isn’t content to keep its current logo. So unlike the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL, and other leagues that have had pretty much the same-looking logo for years, the league is changing to a new logo that looks like this, above. 
I should point out somebody likely got paid to design this. This, my friends, is where your money from your high ticket prices is going. 

Personally, I thought the old logo they had back in the Eighties and Nineties was just fine — the old “maple leaf on the football helmet”. They never should have changed from that logo, which was identifiable and classy looking, but I guess this league feels the need to rebrand just for the heck of it. 

All in all, the Canadian Football League has its usual problems, like the overzealous officiating we’ve seen and lack of a drug testing policy, and their crummy website, and a few other things. But in spite of all of what was thrown at the CFL this year, this league is still standing. Orridge is right about the Pan Am Games, FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Blue Jays, etc. being tough competition. 

Yet the ratings have stayed resilient, and this past weekend this league got good TV ratings. Over a million people watched the two semifinal games, and there will be a big rating for the Grey Cup. 

As well, teams across the league are getting new stadiums that look good on TV, and the Ottawa RedBlacks have been a success story in a market that previously had seen no end of problems.

But if you listen to the media, especially our media here in Saskatchewan, you would think the entire CFL is at death’s door! They point to the problems in Toronto this season with poor attendance and the team being kicked out of their stadium all the time this season; they also point to the interest in all the other sports leagues, and in particular the NFL. The media here is freaking out about how everyone outside Saskatchewan would rather watch the NFL, and they always freak out over the CFL always scheduling games on Sundays against that league.

They are also freaking out about how the Grey Cup in Winnipeg has had trouble selling out, and about the new commissioner and about how “invisible” he is. But of course, here Orridge was today, facing the angry lions. 

I dunno. Overall, I think this league is in far better shape than people let on, but they do have some issues they need to address.

Update: I am currently tuning into Sportscage on 620 CKRM radio, and boy oh boy, are these guys ever tearing up the Commissioner and ripping his State of the League address. Wow.

20 years ago this week: Baltimore Stallions hoisted the Grey Cup

Yesterday, Nov. 19, marked an important and historic anniversary in professional football. It was the 20-year anniversary of the Baltimore Stallions’ victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup game to become the first and only American-based franchise to win the Cup. 

Also notable was the fact that it was Baltimore’s 18th win of 1995, setting a CFL record for wins in a single season. Moreover, the game was historic for another reason: it was the first Grey Cup game ever held in Regina. Here’s a CBC News story on the game, below, and as you can tell all of Canada was stunned. 

This week, Rolling Stone ran a piece about that Baltimore franchise. It only lasted two seasons and was part of the bizarre and failed American expansion experiment. They also ran into legal troubles; they had wanted to use the name Colts since the NFL had left, but that got blocked in court and so the team had to go their entire first season in the league without a name before settling on Stallions. 

Despite this, of all the US franchises Baltimore was by far the biggest success. Their 1995 team featuring the likes of coach Don Matthews, running back Mike Pringle and quarterback Tracy Ham, is considered one of the best of all time in CFL history. 

And the fans in Maryland embraced the team right from the start. As that Rolling Stone piece noted, baseball had gone on strike, so the CFL had Baltimore all to itself in 1994. And there was no NFL team to speak of. The only reason the CFL team eventually left Baltimore was because the Cleveland Browns announced during the ’95 season that they were moving in. And in fact the Grey Cup game marked the very last game for the American expansion experiment, because the Stallions became the Montreal Alouettes and the other American teams folded. 

Earlier this year there was a reunion to celebrate the ’95 Stallions, and well they should be remembered. I think it’s really cool that Regina got to be a part of it all by hosting the Grey Cup that year. 

In fact, I still find it bizarre that the Saskatchewan Roughriders were in the same league as teams from Birmingham, Memphis, Las Vegas, San Antonio etc. during those American expansion years. It was as if Saskatchewan woke up one day to find their football team in the USFL. 

Weird times for Canadian football, indeed.

Now, one final venom-filled rant about this miserable Saskatchewan Roughriders season

  
The CFL season is over for Rider Nation, and for this miserable fan. 

To bring this lost season to an end I served up this venom-filled rant of a column in the newspaper looking back at this terrible Saskatchewan Roughriders 2015 campaign. 

In a nutshell, I basically skewered the “conventional wisdom” we got from the Riders and from the “Riders media” all season. I was sick of the nonstop hype for this team, and sick of continually hearing how this season was the inevitable tradeoff for 2013, and sick of hearing all this whining from Riderville about all the fans being interested in the Blue Jays instead of the Riders. I was probably far more disgusted with all of this than with the actual play on the field. 

Mainly, this column on the Riders season serves as my final parting shot as I can finally set aside my duties as “interim sports reporter,” and get a full weekend off for the first time in weeks. 

And no, I am not going to go out of my way to watch the CFL playoffs this Sunday afternoon. NASCAR is going to be my priority, especially since there are only two weekends of racing left and I haven’t watched nearly enough of it all season.

Now the sports: SJHL news, plus more on the Riders’ woes

  
I just thought I would add an update about the sports action from around here. Today, the SJHL Showcase is on in Warman, so I am following the Battlefords North Stars’ progress there this week. The team was also in action on the road this weekend. Here is a link to my story about the two North Stars SJHL games in Nipawin and Flin Flon, although I feel I should point out I was not actually at the games. 

Instead, I wrote this story entirely based on SJHL online score sheets and Craig Beauchemin’s radio play-by-play — which, I should note, got bumped on Saturday night to FM 93.3 The Rock because rights holders CJNB 1050 were airing the game featuring the pathetic Saskatchewan Roughriders against the BC Lions. Honestly, it is the ‘Riders who deserve to be bumped, because they are awful. 46-20 was the final score on Saturday.

Incredibly, the backup Lions QB who started and did so well in taking the ‘Riders apart on Saturday, Jonathan Jennings, had actually been given a tryout by the Roughriders down in Florida a year ago! But the geniuses running the Riders passed up on him to go with Tino Sunseri, and Seth Doege!!

This brilliant decision-making, my friends, is exactly the reason why ex-GM Brendan Taman and ex-head coach Corey Chamblin are out of jobs today. And while on the subject of Florida, I notice the Miami Dolphins fired their head coach Joe Philbin today, right after they had gone to London, England and lost to the Jets — and his record this season was 1-3! By contrast, here in Saskatchewan they waited until the team dropped to 0-9 before the people on high finally did something about it. 

Finally, some work-related news. The good news is I am no longer “Temporary Interim Sports Reporter” at the newspaper.

The bad news is I am now simply “Interim Sports Reporter” as it is increasingly obvious there is nothing “temporary” about this situation. Once again, apologies to Northwest region sports fans. I clearly am going to be doing the sports beat for a while yet. 

Starting today, my blog goes All-Sports for the rest of this month!

  
I have an announcement to make. In honour of the fact that I am now “Temporary Interim Sports Reporter” for the coming couple of weeks, I have decided to completely turn over my blog to sports for the duration. 

This will be until my “interim” tag is lifted and I can go back to covering news — I expect Oct. 1 or whereabouts. Then I’ll go back to posting what I normally post.

That means, for now, (a) no coverage of the election, and (b) no coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival — although I notice eTalk and ET Canada, and Citytv, seem to be doing a good enough job of their live feeds. In fact, I notice Tanya Kim is with Citytv now, doing their red carpet coverage. 

Bottom line for me, though, is I have nothing to add about the film festival anyway because I’m not there.  Maybe I’ll go to The Martian or Black Mass or these other films when they hit the cinemas later on.

As for my whereabouts, I am covering the SJHL hockey season beginning tonight at the Civic Centre when the Battlefords North Stars host the Kindersley Klippers. The North Stars will also be on the road tomorrow in Kindersley, but I will not be at that one, it’s too far away.

As an aside, this is one year in particular when everyone is really, really happy to see hockey back, because this football season has been a BUST. 

It’s not just CFL season that is a bust, it’s also the CIS season! Tonight’s big university contest is between the Rams and Huskies in Saskatoon. Of course, both teams are 0-2. So yeah, it has been a big disappointment for everyone.

As for other football news — only in Saskatchewan is there a quarterback controversy for a lousy 1-10 football team! 

Veteran QB Kevin Glenn will start for the Saskatchewan Roughriders against the Ottawa RedBlacks, much to the consternation of fans who want to see the Riders develop young QB Brett Smith. 

People, get off the ledge. This Riders season is a write off, and it really doesn’t matter who plays. Smith has had enough playing time as it is and will likely get even more once the team is officially eliminated. As for Glenn, he is your best chance at winning right now and probably your best chance of evaluating the receivers and other talent on offence. On top of that, he’s still getting paid, so you might as well make him earn a paycheck in the meantime. 

Overall, this silly “QB controversy” means little in the grand scheme of things and getting all worked up about it is not worth the effort. It’s just more pointless drama being cooked up to maintain what little interest fans have left in this season. Folks here need to settle down and quit drinking so much Pilsner, already. 

The Toronto Blue Jays are crushing opponents on the field and in the TV ratings! 

  
Pennant fever is gripping all of Canada. The Toronto Blue Jays are in first place and last weekend wrapped up a big weekend series on the road against the rival New York Yankees, and what’s more, Canadian sports fans have been tuning in. 

Chris Zelkovich over at Yahoo! had the numbers for the weekend and they were crushing. The Saturday doubleheader on Sportsnet got between 1.7-1.8 million viewers between them, and the Friday game was very close behind. 

These numbers rival what Hockey Night in Canada gets for their early Saturday night games during the season. Of course, Rogers holds those TV rights as well, so they have to be pretty happy. They are killing TSN.

The baseball contests were up against CFL football games over on TSN and the Blue Jays simply crushed them in the ratings. In fact, the Toronto Argonauts’ game against Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday was head-to-head against the Blue Jays, and the birds totally killed them with 1.7 million viewers to the CFL’s 418,000.

Now, this latest ratings report has produced handwringing from folks here on the prairies, where CFL interest still reigns supreme over all other sports. In fact, I was at Boston Pizza last Friday in Saskatoon and most of the TVs in there were actually tuned to the Argos-Ticats, if you can believe it.

Our die-hard CFL fans here just cannot wrap their heads around the Blue Jays’ good fortune. They worry about what it means for the future of their beloved CFL. In fact I notice a lot of local fans are resentful of the Blue Jays’ and their success. They are venting anger at the team and at Rogers for stealing fan interest away from the CFL. 

They are also quite livid that the Argos are being kicked out of Rogers Centre when the baseball playoffs start. They consider this an insult to the CFL. It’s funny – fans here are more outraged about this situation than they are in Toronto.

Personally, as a Jays fan and a former Toronto resident myself, I find this local reaction funny. I cannot blame fans across Canada for being more interested in the Blue Jays. It’s been a while since they have been in contention this late in the season, and it’s about bleeping time. On top of that, they are offering the superior product to the CFL’s on-field incompetent play and micromanaging refereeing. 

With the Jays, you have Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson and everyone else belting home runs and pitchers like David Price getting Ks. And they were facing the best the Yankees had last weekend. The Jays deserve all the fan excitement they are getting right now. 

Still, the ratings debacle for the CFL last Friday could have been avoided. I wonder why the CFL schedule-makers would put a Toronto-Hamilton rivalry game up against a rivalry Blue Jays-Yankees game on a Friday night to begin with. The CFL brass could have scheduled this game for any other point in the season, such as the summer, or early November. 

Then again, how were the people at CFL office to know that the Blue Jays would still be in the race? When they set the schedule they probably figured those games with the Yankees wouldn’t be important, given the past history. They gambled, and they lost. 

And CFL football on TSN is probably going to keep on having a tough time in the ratings as long as the Blue Jays last, which could be a while.

I’m supposed to be excited about this Banjo Bowl today, but I’m just not!

  

It is football Game Day again, and as usual all the province’s media are hyping up this Banjo Bowl game in Winnipeg between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and how we all ought to be interested in this football game and in the Canadian Football League, and so on. 

I think it’s some sort of law in Saskatchewan that we are supposed to all be big CFL fans. Yet I’m not into this game, a matchup which looks more like a “toilet bowl” than a “Banjo Bowl”. The Bombers are 3-7 and the Riders 1-9!

In fact today I am much more concerned with what’s going on with the Toronto Blue Jays and their baseball series with the New York Yankees, fighting for first place. They have an important doubleheader today.

I can’t help it. I’m just a bad Saskatchewanian.

Update: And the Saskatchewan Roughriders are just plain BAD. They lost 22-7, and their record drops to 1-10. (Well, at least the Blue Jays won.)

Labour Day weekend is here. Time to relax one last time before the fall hits!

Well, it is here again, Labour Day weekend. A weekend of CFL and U.S. College football, U.S. Open tennis, MLB, and other stuff — including the UFC! But there is no MDA telethon this year of any kind, as I have pointed out before, so I may need to watch some old Jerry Lewis TV shows on YouTube to pass the time late Sunday night, just for nostalgic reasons.

For me personally, this weekend is a last chance to decompress before the stretch run of what has been a boring Canadian federal election campaign so far in my neck of the woods — although that could change if the polls show the Conservatives in any further trouble. As for the never ending American presidential race, I don’t think I’ll do a write up on that until after the long weekend. Maybe by then Donald Trump will have said something else to get people riled up again.

That is it! Time for some football!!

Enough was enough! The Riders have fired coach Corey Chamblin, GM Brendan Taman.

  
Well, after yesterday’s utter debacle of a game in Ottawa, followed by mass outrage by fans on social media and on the post-game talk shows, the hammer has indeed fallen for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. 

It has been confirmed now in a news release from the team that head coach Corey Chamblin and GM Brendan Taman have been fired. 

This absolutely had to happen. I know these two led us to the Grey Cup, but now they are leading this Riders franchise to ruin. 

This team is 0-9 and going nowhere. Yesterday’s game was an utter debacle, with Chamblin pulling QB Brett Smith and putting in the hapless Tino Sunseri for no discernible reason.

As for Taman, he was the architect of this bunch of castoffs and old timers, and of course the older they are the more injury-prone. He saddled Chamblin with this group of people. Worse yet, it looks like this team is going to be terrible for years now, so he has to be fired, right now, before any further damage is done to the franchise.

Personally, I had felt for a while that both of them had to go, but only if there was a plan in place for who to bring in. But the Ottawa game was absolutely the straw that broke the camels’ back for me and for everyone else, the game that finally finished off any hope that Saskatchewan fans had left about this season. People were threatening to boycott the Labour Day Classic if nothing was done. 

Now, the plan is for Jeremy O’Day to be interim GM and Bob Dyce to be interim head coach for the rest of the season. I can’t see either of them doing any worse than the two guys who were there before. 

I cannot believe I am still tuning into this ridiculous Redblacks-Riders game #CFL

  
Ahem. Remember my last post to Toronto sports fans about how the CFL was a fine product and worth your support, and yada yada? 

Forget all of what I said. 

This Saskatchewan-Ottawa game is absolutely bush league. And I can’t believe our coach Corey Chamberlain, I mean Chamblin, put quarterback Tino Sunseri into this game. 

At least the Blue Jays are worth watching. What a farce.

A few words on Toronto Argos attendance: I don’t get it!!!

  
Read a story at the CBC website this week about the crummy attendance the Toronto Argonauts drew for their game against Ottawa this past weekend at Rogers Centre.

It was a little over 14,000. This gate for one of the CFL’s most storied franchises, my friends, is sad. 

What’s worse, this was a game against a division rival, and the Argos were fighting for first place (and in fact are in first place as of today). And according to the story, the roof was open and it was a beautiful day for football.

I’ll tell you, folks where I live now would pack the stadium for a game like that! And quite honestly, here in Saskatchewan, fans are really worried about the Argos. Fans are deathly afraid the problems in Toronto will continue right into their new stadium next year, and ultimately drag down and ruin their beloved CFL. 

The big excuse for the low crowd Sunday is that folks in Toronto were more interested in the Blue Jays game versus the Angels on TV. But that still makes no sense, because surely there are TVs on in the Rogers Centre where fans could still watch the Blue Jays. And people have smartphones these days and can follow the Blue Jays live from their seats at the Argos game. I still don’t get it.

Now, the reality is there is intense competition for the pro-sports dollar in Toronto, more so than anywhere else in Canada. Moreover, this the only CFL market in the country that has to compete directly with Major League Baseball. It’s tougher than ever now that the Blue Jays are on such a roll. I get that. 

I also get the fact that the Argos will be moving to BMO Field next year. But the Argos haven’t even been outdrawing Toronto FC, either! 14,000 people is a low CFL number whether at BMO or Rogers Centre, or anywhere.

I personally think the Argos deserve a second look from Toronto sports fans. Among other things, this franchise has managed some winning seasons and even a Grey Cup title in recent years. That’s more than what Toronto has gotten from the Maple Leafs. Not only are still selling out games, but they are still charging an arm and a leg for it, far more than what Argos tickets go for. 

Yet the Leafs’ product is terrible! I’ll say this about the Argos: their product is not terrible. Not this year.

Moreover, the point must be made that the CFL is worth supporting. It is a longstanding tradition in this country with a rich history and some name players. The Grey Cup is a national tradition as well. On top of that, the product is exciting. Also, I know there are lots of football fans in Toronto. The problem is many have this snooty attitude to the CFL. They say they prefer the NFL, but even when the NFL was holding games in Toronto fans wouldn’t go to those, either.

I am starting to ramble on, but the point is that there are lots of selling points for the Argos in Toronto. So go out there and sell, darnit! The CFL is still a great product and there is no reason for the Argos to languish like this. There, that’s my football rant for today.

This bad news roundup is all about Saskatchewan!! The #Riders are the bad news!

  

Well, all I have got to say is that it’s a good thing this province is getting the Saskatchewan Rush pro lacrosse team, because that’s about the only championship-calibre action to look forward to around here for the immediate future. 

The low point of last night’s 30-5 debacle to Edmonton, which dropped the Saskatchewan Roughriders record to 0-6 for the first time since 1979, was when Corey Chamblin threw the hapless Tino Sunseri in as QB in the fourth quarter. It was that moment when I threw my hands up and said “that’s it! It’s official, the Riders have completely given up on this season.” This was the moment the Riders season jumped the shark, in my view. The “it’s over” moment. 

Still, being a Rider fan to the end, I will keep on following the team for the rest of this miserable season, even if only for the spectacle of listening to fans freak out on the post-game shows on CKRM and CJME. Last night’s shows were epic, to say the least.

So that was the first piece of bad news, the Edmonton game. Now the second: Saskatoon-born wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper has died.

That’s really about it. What a way to start a long weekend, eh?

Even the radio hosts are losing hope about the #Riders; today they talked BASEBALL on CKRM! 

 

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are 0-5, going on 0-6, going on 0-18. Now that quarterback Kevin Glenn is on the shelf for six weeks, everyone has lost hope except for the few die-hard optimists remaining. 

I noticed this afternoon that even the sports radio guys here in the province, the ones who normally devote 24/7 saturation coverage to the Riders and the CFL, are losing hope. Evidence of this happened today on 620 CKRM on the SportsCage show. I noticed they spent much of the show this afternoon discussing the Blue Jays’ big acquisition of David Price from the Tigers. They also talked about the local WMBL baseball team, the Regina Red Sox. 

A sports talk show in Saskatchewan talking about baseball? During CFL season, no less?! For most of the show? This, my friends, never happens here. 

Now granted, Rod Pedersen wasn’t on the SportsCage show today because he’ll be calling tomorrow’s game in Edmonton, but it still is a great example of how far the Riders have fallen.
Among fans, I notice a distinct change in mood this week. A couple of weeks ago when the problems started, everyone was freaking out and calling for people’s heads to roll, including coach Corey Chamblin’s. But there has been an eerie calm this week. I get the feeling people realize what a train wreck this campaign has become with all the injuries and problems, and that nothing can be done to save the ‘Riders season. People seem to be coming to terms with it all. Either that, or the fans are still in such a state of shock about how swift a fall it has been that they don’t know what to say anymore. 

As for the game against Edmonton on Friday the fans’ expectations couldn’t be lower. No one expects third-string QB Brett Smith to do much. 

I’ll likely tune in the game tomorrow, but I really ought to stick to baseball instead. In 2015, football season is simply depressing the heck out of me.

Corey Chamblin feeling the heat after Riders epic meltdown in BC!!! #riders

  

Wow, was last night’s defeat to BC Lions the most inexplicable one for the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the ’09 Grey Cup?! 

The Riders had the game in the bag — until that BC touchdown, and then QB Brett Smith was stuffed on the third down conversion, handing BC the opportunity to tie the score on an improbable 55-yard field goal. And of course in overtime the Riders lost the game.

Now the Riders are 0-3, and even though it is still early in the season, the fan base is outraged at what they are seeing.

The local post-game call-in shows were interesting last night, to say the least. People were bashing head coach Corey Chamblin, and moaning about the play calling and the defence again. 

The message boards are also full of venom. Check out the headlines at the Riderfans.com discussion forums and they tell you all you need to know about the general fan mood right now. One of the threads is entitled “Chamblin you are a disaster…” while another reads “worst coached Rider team since Greg Marshall.” Another thread reads “if they let Chamblin go.” 

This is just two years after Chamblin led this team to the Grey Cup, yet people are already calling for his head. But this place is notorious for pulling the trigger quickly. In fact, coach John Gregory was just two years removed from a Grey Cup win himself when he was fired early in the ’91 season.

The real problem for Chamblin is all the other scapegoats you could point to on this team have already walked the plank. The offence tanked last year, so they canned offensive coordinator George Cortez. They also tossed Richie Hall over the defence’s performance. 

The fans cannot even blame QB Darian Durant for any problems anymore, because he’s out for the season. The real issue is there’s no one else left to blame. It’s all on Chamblin, and for that matter, general manager Brendan Taman. Who, by the way, is taking increasing heat for building a squad full of old and castoff football players. 

So if you are going to fire anyone, you have to fire them, it’s that simple. Any more losses like this one last night and the chorus will be on full blast from the fans to find replacements for both these two. 

As an aside — isn’t it awful for a whole province to have to pin its hopes on just one pro team? 

That’s the advantage of living somewhere else, like Toronto. Instead of just one pro team letting you down, they have five or six of them doing that. 

But at least in Toronto, when one team’s season starts to head straight down the tank, you at least have the option to move on to something else that might offer fresh hope or at least a few wins in the meantime (ie. the Raptors). 

Here in Riderville, you can’t. We’re stuck with the Riders, like it or not, and there are still 15 more agonizing contests left to endure.

A few thoughts on the CFL, now that it is back! 

 
Yes, indeed. The CFL football season is back on as of tonight when Montreal hosts Ottawa.  

This follows a turbulent off-season with the appointment of a new commissioner (Jeffrey Orridge), controversial rules changes and criticisms of the CFL’s lax drug policy. There was also the Michael Sam sideshow in Montreal. (Update: apparently he’s back.)

You know, sometimes I feel the CFL is its own worst enemy at times. People around the league seem bent on inventing problems for the league to fix — like with all these rule changes for example. And now there’s this controversy about whether the CFL ought to move up the start of the season. What’s really needed is for the CFL to fix their real problems — like their own drug policies

As for this whole debate on whether to move up the season — honestly, I don’t like it. By definition, football is a fall sport, not a summer one, and in November I’m wanting to see football on TV. 

Still, I could probably support moving the season up a week or two so fans could avoid the tail-end of November weather conditions. But that isn’t enough for some people. Many of the local ones here are actually pushing for the season to move up a whole month, because they can’t stand the thought of being in a freezing cold stadium in November in the playoffs! Never mind that last year there were no playoff games in November in Mosaic Stadium at all. 

But the flip side of the coin is that by moving the season up a month, all these outdoor stadiums run a greater risk of getting hit by rainstorms and hailstorms — like the one that pelted Regina last week! And the attendance for that contest was terrible as a result, something like 18,000. Of course, a year ago the Roughriders home opener for the season was on the same weekend that Regina and the eastern part of the province was being flooded. That’s far worse than getting cold in a stadium in November.

The other big excuse for moving the season up is apparently to avoid direct competition with the supposedly far more popular NFL.

What nonsense — the CFL can avoid competing with the NFL simply by playing games on Fridays and Saturdays, when the NFL isn’t playing. And in fact, they do that most of the time anyway. 

But by moving up a month, you run head-to-head up against the Stanley Cup playoffs here in hockey-mad Canada. And in late May and early June there is no avoiding either the NHL or the NBA playoffs on any day of the week, just about. (Also, by playing playoff games in November, the CFL enjoys a full month with no competition whatsoever from Major League Baseball, which you’d think would be a consideration to folks in Ontario.)

I think a lot of people need to get off the ledge and realize the CFL has far less issues than everyone thinks it has. In fact, the sale of the Toronto Argos and their pending move to BMO Field has been a big step forward in solving most of Toronto’s, and the league’s, problems. 

In the rest of the country, the reality is the CFL is holding its own against the NFL and all other leagues in fan interest. I notice a poll came out that shows the CFL is still the second-most popular league in Canada behind the NHL, ahead of the NFL, MLB, NBA and MLS soccer. Of course, in Saskatchewan the CFL crushes the NHL in popularity. 

And the CFL is making good strides growing its brand internationally. The league is back with ESPN again and seems to be gaining popularity in the USA. Even folks in the UK and Ireland can watch the CFL now, which is good news for any relatives of mine who might be interested.

My point is the CFL is in a lot better shape than people say it is. The folks in charge ought to focus on the real problems instead of going overboard solving a multitude of problems that people think up with respect to the league. Anyway, that’s all I have to say, and go Riders!!

It’s on! Riders-Esks in Fort McMurray!!

This long, agonizing CFL season for Riders fans lurches into semifinal weekend

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We are heading into the playoffs for the CFL this weekend here in Polar Vortex-ridden Canada.

The division semifinals happen Sunday, as the BC Lions cross over to the East to play the Montreal Alouettes, while our Saskatchewan Roughriders head to Edmonton to take on the Eskimos. I guess this means I’m not tuning in the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale, then, given the scheduling.

I wrote a piece that sums up the 2014 campaign so far. I describe the season as “one big hangover” because it really has been one issue after another.

The quarterbacking situation since Darian Durant went down, followed by the big late-season swoon, has sucked the life right out of the fans. The word to describe the mood is one of “exhaustion”, really. Fans here look ready to be put out of their misery.

The hype machine out of Riderville has continued non-stop, however, with all this phony optimism coming out of there that nobody believes anymore.

They have been raising the prospect that Durant might be ready for the playoff game against Edmonton. We’ve been hearing these rumors for days and weeks on the sports talk shows. Well, word just came the other day that it is it is Kerry Joseph who is starting, not Durant, which confirms to me what I’ve thought all along — that this Durant talk was all a bunch of hot air designed to hype up interest in the team.

Despite this, there are still people in Saskatchewan who insist they’ll beat Edmonton, pointing to the injury problems of the Esks QB Mike Reilly. There are also people suspicious that these broken-foot rumors are all a ruse and that Reilly will end up in the game anyway.

We’ll see. But I’d be far more confident in the Riders if they were at full health. If the Riders get past Edmonton, and if Durant can get healthy and come back, maybe they still have a chance at the Cup. But right now I’ll have to see it to believe it.

I am a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan. I guess that makes me a horrible human being.

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It is bad stunts like the Edmonton Eskimos ads declaring Saskatchewan Roughriders fans to be “horrible human beings” that are dragging down the Canadian Football League. (This is in advance of tonight’s game in Edmonton where the Esks are hosting the Riders.)

It’s not only that, it’s stuff like the Riders themselves putting up billboards taunting the fans in the other teams’ cities, with “green is the new blue” slogans and other crap. In a way, the Riders deserve this comeback/comedown by the Eskimos, given their previous billboard arrogance and disrespect shown towards the other teams’ fans.

Still, it is exactly this sort of juvenility that is making the entire CFL look bush league compared to the other sports in Canada. No wonder people in Toronto, sophisticates that they are, aren’t going to CFL games if this is what they see. The folks in charge need to quit with these cheap gimmicks and realize that any fans coming to any of their games ought to be welcomed with open arms. This league needs all the business it can get — even if it comes from fans of the opposing team who travelled for miles to get to the games.

Here’s a suggestion — instead of these stupid cut-down-the-other-team’s-fans promotions, save your marketing money and give your own fans a break in the ticket prices instead. Then maybe more of them might show up, for a change!

There, I’ve said my piece for tonight.

Today is football … And more football!!

I was planning a long extensive post on all the breaking international news but I realize I am too preoccupied with the NFL to want to post much today.

On top of that it is the Roughriders versus Bombers in the Banjo Bowl so I really do plan a long day plunked in front of a TV set.

So world events can wait. See you later.

Riders fans better not get cocky over the BC Lions “guaranteed win” pledge, there is still a game to play

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Everyone in Rider Nation is chortling over the pledge made by BC Lions president Dennis Skulsky that his team would beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday. He guaranteed a victory and said if the Lions lose they will give everyone in the building a free ticket to a future home game. Story here.

Consensus in Rider Nation is that this guarantee was a monumentally stupid thing to do and that the Lions will surely lose their shirts over this “promotion” when the Riders go in and clobber the Lions on Sunday.

I suggest members of Rider Nation step back and remember that it was the Lions who came in and made mincemeat of the Riders when they met at Mosaic Stadium earlier this year. Moreover, the Lions are all ticked off and motivated because of a billboard that was put up, that went after the Lions fans by claiming “green is the new orange.” I guess this annoying billboard was the catalyst that motivated the Lions to make their big “guarantee” to begin with.

It reminds me of last year when Premier Brad Wall did that awful banjo-plucking video that absolutely enraged the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their fans, and led to the Riders’ humiliation in the 2013 Banjo Bowl.

Honestly, the Riders organization and the fans need to dial back on the arrogance, and quit enraging the other football fans and other teams with these stupid billboards and the like — because it just bites us back in the end. Seriously, we could use some humility on our part.

Even though I am convinced we’re doomed this weekend, I still say — go Riders! That’s all for now.

The Toronto Argos are a mess on and off the field

What a mess for the Toronto Argonauts. Not only do they get hammered 37-9 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but their lineup is so depleted by injuries that I question whether they can win against anyone, anytime soon. Quarterback Ricky Ray was getting shelled by the Riders D. It was an ugly scene in Regina.

On the one hand I am very happy Saskatchewan won the game. The Riders needed a win, and they got it. On the other hand, though, the final score is not going to convince people in Toronto, already a tough crowd as it is, that the CFL product is worth supporting at the Rogers Centre.

In fact, there are still people down there who think the NFL is coming. There was more news in the papers this week about that Bon Jovi-led group trying to buy the Bills. Never mind that the Bills-in-Toronto series was a flop — people there still believe Toronto is close to getting an NFL team.

Moreover, it looks like the Toronto “Bills” are closer to a new stadium than the Argos are. All in all, these stories do nothing to enhance the Argos in the Toronto market. People are already worried about the crowds at Rogers Centre and a 1-4 start is going to simply make it worse.

People out West don’t want to see this going on because they know the value of having Toronto in the CFL. They want the CFL as a whole to succeed and a viable Toronto franchise is a big part of that. But the situation right now is a mess — for the Argos, and the league.

More thoughts on the CFL: Toronto fans, where the heck were you?!

The only thing more embarrassing than the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 48-15 drubbing to the Toronto Argonauts was the lousy attendance at the game in Toronto. Only 17,700 showed up at the Rogers Centre, which is pretty bad.

Seeing all those empty seats in the stadium on TSN was a sorry sight for the CFL. Now, granted, only 19,000 turned up at the Riders’ home opener the week before, but it was pouring rain in Regina and half the province was dealing with major floods that day! From the looks of it, it was perfect weather in Toronto, the roof was wide open, and there was no flooding to speak of. Yet fans in Toronto couldn’t bother to show up for a game between the reigning Grey Cup champs and the team that had won the Grey Cup the season before — which just so happened to be the Argos.

I guess the big excuse was that the important World Cup game was on between the Netherlands and Costa Rica,  which leads me to ask why the football game wasn’t scheduled for Sunday, instead, when there were no World Cup games going on.

The other thing is that there was a Toronto FC game at home at BMO Field in the evening where 22,000 people showed up. That really bugs the heck out of me — the fact that Toronto FC is selling out their games when they’ve had such a crummy team for years. And it’s not as if MLS is such a big-time league, either.

Meanwhile, there’s the Argos who’ve fielded competitive teams and actually won a Grey Cup in recent years, with a Hall-of-Fame QB in Ricky Ray. Yet people in Toronto will stay away and go watch these other losing local teams instead.

Folks, you really do need to start supporting your local Argos. It’s a good product and they deserve better, and so does the CFL. That’s my rant on the subject.

It’s great to see ESPN snatch up the CFL. Finally, US friends and relatives can watch the players play!

I never understood why the CFL has had so much trouble getting on TV in the USA. There are football fans down there, and you would think sports fans would rather watch the CFL than some of the other junk they show on American cable TV (ie. cheerleader contests, cow roping, stupid hot-air talk shows etc.)

For the past several years they have bounced from one network to another, from America One to NFL Network to NBC Sports Network to who knows what else. Now, however, they have a five-year deal to be on ESPN’s networks.

This expanded ESPN coverage ought to do wonders for the exposure of the game in the USA. Having said that, this is not the first time ESPN has shown CFL games on a regular basis. They picked up the Canadian feeds for CFL games back in the Eighties, and then in the mid-Nineties they even hired their own announcers to do the games for their then-new ESPN2.

Surely you remember the CFL on the “Deuce”, live from … Birmingham??!!

That’s right, folks. Birmingham, Alabama, where the Barracudas hosted the Baltimore Stallions, in the CFL. Oh yes, the glory days of US expansion. This clip is a blast from the past if there ever was one.

Peter King brings MMQB column to Saskatchewan

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Just happened to read the MMQB piece on the CFL by Peter King of SI. Good stuff. Hopefully it raises the profile of the whole league with the US fans. Too bad he had to meet Gainer the Gopher in such miserable conditions in Regina.

A few observations on his observations:

(1) It’s not just him who finds the single-point weird. CFL fans have found it weird for years.

(2) He finds all the ads on the field to be NASCAR-esque. Believe me, in junior hockey the situation is even worse with ads all over the ice and so on. What I find most weird at CFL games — the ads for PokerStars. Good luck seeing those at any NFL games.

(3) There was a good writeup on the retired QB Anthony Calvillo of the Alouettes, describing him to American fans as “the best player we’ve never seen.”

Actually, Calvillo did play in the USA at one point, but Americans didn’t know about him back then, either, because he was with the Las Vegas Posse, the most-infamous CFL franchise in history.

Folks in Las Vegas probably don’t even remember they even had a CFL team, because no one went to the games! Putting a franchise in Vegas, in the middle of the blistering July and August summer heat in the desert, has to rank as the dumbest of all the dumb ideas that came from the CFL’s American expansion era of the Nineties.

So that’s why American fans never saw Calvillo — they didn’t show up at the stadium when they had the chance! Oh well, he ended up having a good career here in Canada.

(4) For any American, I would think the whole Canada trip is worth it just to be able to tell your friends you were in Medicine Hat.

That is all for now.

The CFL is back, and better yet, even the Americans are interested

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I was tuning in the World Cup games until about the time the CFL game in Calgary started. At that point I couldn’t help myself, I ended up switching over to TSN and said to heck with soccer, I gotta have my fix of Canadian pro football.

Really, just the fact the CFL is here again has me all giddy inside. I almost feel I have more of a connection to this league compared to the others, probably for geographical reasons more than any other (growing up in Sask., etc.). But these stories spell out why for me — it really does have a “quirky charm” to it that keeps me coming back year after year.

This year the local fans are all gaga over the fact that Peter King has taken his Monday Morning Quarterback column to Canada for “Canada Week”, highlighting the opening week of the CFL. He was in Calgary today and is due to be in Regina tomorrow for the Saskatchewan Roughriders home opener.

Already there have been some good articles up on that site, such as this one about the home-town feel of the league, or this one by former Als coach Marc Trestman on the rules, or this one by Doug Flutie on his time as a QB in the league. I remember being live at one of his most memorable games — that Western final in the snow in Calgary, when his brother Darren caught that TD pass in whiteout conditions to beat him.

There’s also this article on the opening night in Winnipeg, with the Blue Bombers surprising the league by toppling the Argos convincingly. Anyway, all these stories, plus the just-announced deal the league announced with ESPN, are all good for letting football fans down in the USA in on the fun we have up here in Canada. Why should the CFL be a big state-secret? I think American fans ought to tune in and follow the league, because at the end of the day football is football.

Good news, football fans! We have a tentative agreement in the CFL labour talks!!

Good news, football fans! TSN is reporting the CFL owners and the players union has reached a tentative labour deal!

Hopefully, the players will approve this and we can get on with the season, although I notice there were lots of Tweets out there featuring quotes of players grumbling and more doom and gloom.

Anyway, this ought to be the end of the dispute, but I guess we won’t know for sure until the players actually take a vote on it.

This news tonight, of course, is the top sports story in Saskatchewan, ahead of the double-overtime Stanley Cup game, and ahead of even California Chrome’s Triple Crown hopes going down to defeat at the Belmont. Yes, we have our priorities straight.

It’s June, yet there is nothing but storm clouds on the horizon in Saskatchewan

Welcome to June in Saskatchewan, the start of what should be my favorite time of year in the province. No more snow or cold, folks — this starts the three warmest, sunniest, best weather months of the year, but more than that — it is the START of SASK. ROUGHRIDERS training camp!!

Bwahahahahaha!!!

Not only has it been rainy with storms here today, but it looks increasingly as if the CFL players are going to vote to go on strike, thereby ruining training camp and the season.

Well, so much for that.

Also, I wrote a column about the impending strike and the alternatives we are faced with as fans in the event of a walkout, a column which is really nothing more than a rehash of what I’ve already written here at this blog.

Anyway, you can add one more thing people can do in the event of a strike — and that’s watching Weather Channel live streams of storm coverage in the USA, which is exactly what I am doing right now. Fun stuff.