Making ourselves looks foolish '08: Week 1

You can finally stop sending in those e-mails and letters (although a singing telegram would have been nice). It's finally back. What follows is a slew of predictions from someone who knows less about football than most people have forgotten.

Hamilton vs. Montreal

I guess the league has opted for the "try and keep the game close" strategy for week 1, although it means that we've ended up with a bit of a lacklustre matchup for the opening game, to say the least. You'd think that a Printers/Calvillo matchup would be something to look forward to; alas, it's not 2004.

Pick: Montreal

BC vs. Calgary

Let's go ahead and set the over/under for the number of times someone questions if the Lions should have tried harder to retain Dickenson at 40.5.

Pick: BC

Toronto v. Winnipeg

You have to feel good about the Argos' chances here. You don't cut guys named Hercules (okay, Hercule) unless you're confident.

Pick: Toronto

Saskatchewan v. Edmonton

I can't believe that we're into Year 4 of the Macocia Experience. You really have to wonder at this point what has to happen before he gets the boot. My guess: It needs to involve either the Wayne Gretzky statue or Nanook.

Pick: Saskatchewan

Bonus pick:

All of the Argos have been injured in practice and their coaches are engaged in a marathon parking-lot brawl with Khalil Carter, forcing Pinball to come down from the boardroom and play the Bombers himself. In an attempt to slow him down, the Bombers have declared that they'll be honouring Milt Stegall after every catch he makes. (Milt Stegall - retiring this year…and this time, he's serious!)

After a 20-minute ceremony to start the game, Pinball decides to fight fire with fire and declares that he will be giving a retirement speech after each of his touchdowns. Exhausted and barely able to stand up, the Bombers exit Canad Inns Stadium two days later after a walloping defeat.

Final Score: Pinball 840 Bombers 5

Number of minutes spoken: Pinball 3,657 Milt 26

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 12:28PM by Registered CommenterA-Rad in | CommentsPost a Comment

2008 Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Pop quiz: Anyone remember who was named Player of the Game in last year’s Grey Cup?

That would be one James Johnson, who intercepted three tosses from Ryan Dinwiddie. I raise this not to be labelled a Dinwiddie hater - who among us has not melted under the gaze of his icy blue eyes? - but merely to point out that the Bombers were basically one freak Kevin Glenn injury away from winning the Grey Cup.

This year, the Bombers have Glenn back with pretty much his entire offensive supporting cast Charles Roberts, Milt Stegall, Terrence Edwards, et al - intact. Meanwhile, players seem to be actually taking less money than they’re worth to stay in Winnipeg, with Tom Canada signing for less money than he was offered by Montreal and Derick Armstrong signing an extension that helped Winnipeg get under the cap.

Understand, this is no small sacrifice in the CFL; there’s a good chance that instead of heading to the Caribbean for their holidays, these guys will have to go to Falcon Beach.

One might assume they’re doing this because they think the Bombers have the best chance of winning the Grey Cup. Doug Brown, on the other hand, offers a somewhat more melancholy explanation. “You don't necessarily have to learn that hard lesson that we've all learned with our ex-girlfriends,” the defensive end says, possibly while sitting alone in his room getting misty to the latest James Blunt record. “Once you let them go, you realize how much you miss them sometimes." (Can someone please give Doug Brown a hug or set him up with a profile on eharmony?)

Ah, but in this feel-good atmosphere, whither Little Hawk? Alas, after 17 seasons with the team, Troy Westwood finds himself cast to the curb for a younger, hotter model.

Yes, the Bombers will likely dominate early and challenge the Argos for Eastern Conference supremacy. But in the end, I suspect, Doug Brown will prove prophetic.

No, Westwood is not going to get a hair cut (perish the thought! - ed), lose some weight and look better than he ever looked in the blue and gold. But don’t be surprised if the new kicker-de-jour messes up in a big situation and leaves Bomber fans wondering if they didn’t have it pretty good with ol’ Troy after all.


Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 09:22PM by Registered CommenterA-Rad in , | CommentsPost a Comment

2008 Preview: Calgary Stampeders

Good on the Stamps for figuring out that the one key ingredient they were lacking last year was an ageing quarterback who can’t run nearly as well as he used to and bravo on getting Dave Dickenson to play the Danny Mac role. Some may argue that the presence of a QB as accomplished as Dickenson, even if he is getting on in years, may be detrimental to Hank Burris, but at this stage I think Henry is thankful to know that in four years from now when he’s being outrun by offensive linemen, he too can be the Stamps backup QB.

The other major offseason move was obviously the signing of a new head coach. Now Hufnagel will most likely be able to help the offence, but is that really the major problem for the Stamps? In terms of skill position players, they have enough talent that even Gary Etcheverry’s “run for two yards, run for one yard and hope the ref doesn’t know how to count” offence would probably be mildly successful, even if they are starting two linemen straight out of school.

The key here is obviously going to be the defense and what, if any, improvements they can make after a tumultuous year in 2007. Personnel wise, they haven’t really added much on that side of the ball, with the notable exception of JoJuan Armour. Admitedly though, he was only really effective in Hamilton when he was running on to the field at the start of games with a sledgehammer. So if this doesn’t work out, look for him to be in the running for Pigskin Pete duty.

It’s all about taking small steps though. At this time last year, Akili Smith was slotted in to play a key role and they had a coach that bore an uncanny resemblence to Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Now if they’d only stop angering the football gods by running fake field goals in long decided games, maybe they’ll have something.

Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 at 06:00AM by Registered CommenterRusty in , | CommentsPost a Comment

We're not quite sure how this happened either...

but thanks to the National Post for running our ramblings on the CFL

Posted on Saturday, June 21, 2008 at 10:55AM by Registered CommenterRusty in | CommentsPost a Comment

Channeling a knee-jerk Leaf fan reaction

We are not liveblogging tonight's exhibition game, but damn!  Seventy-six yard touchdown pass, Bishop to Bethel is certainly a good way to kick things off. 

Strike up the Argonotes!  Start planning the parade...  It's a guaranteed Grey Cup!

Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 07:14PM by Registered CommenterRusty in | CommentsPost a Comment

Also their pizza sucks

Consider this a pre-emptive strike.

While at the Jays game Friday night (at this point it would probably make more sense if I started renting a room at the RC hotel) the woman sitting behind me was giggling with delight after every Jays strike out. Now if she was just delirious about the Jays recent lights out starting pitching or was enjoying the mutton chopped stylings of Brian Tallet that’d be one thing. But no, like thousands of other occasional Toronto baseball fans she was giddy over the prospect of possibly getting a free crappy $2 pepperoni slice from Pizza Pizza.

“Wouldn’t it be great if they did this at every game in Toronto?”

Hell no! We’ve already seen this damn promotion ruin Jays and Raptors games and there is no way as fans that we should allow it to spread to other teams. There is little that is more embarrassing as a sports fan in this city than to have a top of the ninth situation in a close game and have the crowd chanting “Pizza! Pizza!”. I get it from Pizza Pizza’s perspective, it’s a great marketing trick, but why people are so enthralled by this (or the chance to win a shirt that says FedEx on it) is beyond me. If the Carolina Hurricanes had a promotion where everyone got some free ribs if the team scored 4 goals and the whole crowd starting chanting “B! B! Q!” in the third period, we’d all think they were brain dead hicks, so why do we stand for this in our own city? Incidentally, the Hurricanes example would actually be somewhat defensible on account of BBQ being awesome.

So, how does this relate to the Argos? Well, so far Pizza Pizza’s advertising at the games has been restricted to bringing out that guy who won the world pizza dough competition and having Damon Allen make incomprehensible jokes about Jude St. John being Italian. But we all know that it won’t stop there.

As we speak there is someone sitting in a big leather chair at Pizza Pizza headquarters plotting a way to get pizza chants going at all public places. Weddings, funerals, beer fests and yes, Argo games. It’s not a stretch to picture fair weather fans making too much noise when the Argos have the ball because one more first down will get them a soggy piece of cardboard with cheese on it. Or groaning after a third down stop because it didn’t get them the last sack needed for an angioplasty inducing slice, and the last thing this city needs is to have the rest of the country think that he have the dumbest fans in the league save for the gaggle of bandwagoners that show up for the Als game at the Big O every year.

So is there any sponsorship that Pizza Pizza can take on that would make us happier than seeing Timmy Chang coming into a game? Easy. Cheese Race! Cheese Race!

Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 06:00AM by Registered CommenterRusty in , | Comments2 Comments

2008 Preview: Montreal Alouettes

If Montreal’s season goes anything like its off-season, there’ll be only one word to describe it: awkward.

After a poor 2007, highlighted by his players openly criticizing his performance, Jim Popp was relieved of his coaching duties. Although he retained his GM duties, Popp decided to stay home and pout rather than attend the press conference announcing his replacement, Marc Tresman. But no worries - the new head coach wasn’t there either. Due to a personal issue, the Tresman hiring was formally announced to the media in December but the man himself didn’t actually turn up until about a month later. Awkward.

By all accounts Tresman is a very nice guy, and he did spend over 17 years in the NFL as an assistant coach and offensive co-ordinator. But that would make for a more impressive c.v. if club president Larry Smith hadn’t initially said he would be looking for a coach with proven CFL experience. So Smith was hung out to dry a bit when Tresman announced to the media that he was “excited to learn something new.” Nice to see everyone is on the same page, because otherwise it might get a little awkward too.

As for Popp’s performance as GM, the Als were one of two teams caught having violated the CFL’s salary cap in 2007. The other, Saskatchewan, was only nominally over the limit and received a small fine. Conveniently, it also won the Grey Cup. Montreal, meanwhile, was so far over the cap that it had its first-round pick in the draft taken away. Less conveniently, Popp’s overuse of someone else’s money earned the Als an 8-10 record and a third-place finish in the East, followed by a quick playoff exit. Awkward.

Popp’s offseason wasn’t much better. It wa s rumoured that Tom Canada, Dario Romero and JoJuan Armour all turned down more money from Montreal than they were being offered elsewhere. More recently came word that the Als signed running back Corey Holmes to a contract - only to have him vanish into thin air. This, admittedly, was not so much awkward as just flat-out weird.

Whether the Als have any hope of pulling themselves out of their funk probably depends on which version of Anthony Calvillo will be back this year. If they’re lucky, it’ll be the one who won the CFL Most Outstanding player award in 2004. More likely, though, it’ll be the ancient-looking ’07 model. On the bright side, Marcus Brady’s torching of the CFL’s touch-football tournament during last year’s Grey Cup festivities suggests he may be ready to take it to the next level. If only they can find some more middle-ages contest winners for him to throw to, it could be lightning in a bottle.

To give whoever’s behind centre some help, the team did sign former NFL “stars” Charles Rogers and Peter Warrick at wide receiver, the latter of whom lasted approximately 46 seconds on the roster before his release. While disappointing, this was not nearly so upsetting as the departure of Etienne Boulay for the NFL, which means Montrealers may have to start looking to the Als’ cheerleaders for their dose of cleavage. (It also means certain bloggers may have to start finding some new material.)

All told, it’s hard to see the Als finishing above even Hamilton. And if you don’t believe me, I’ve got irrefutable evidence - a Sportsnet online poll! to prove it. On the question of who will win the ’08 Grey Cup, the results went like this:

Roughriders 24%

Lions 23%

Blue Bombers 15%

Argos 11%

Stamps 10%

Eskimos 10%

Tiger Cats 5%

Allouettes 2%

Missing the playoffs in the year you are hosting the Grey Cup: awkward.

Posted on Monday, June 9, 2008 at 06:00AM by Registered CommenterShoomy in , | Comments1 Comment

Thanks, Damon

There are so many Damon Allen memories to choose from. The initial joy in seeing some skinny little kid come into the game for the Eskimos in the '87 Grey Cup, and the ensuing horror as he dismantled the Argos' defence. The glorious one-year stewardship of the late and lamented Memphis Mad Dogs (R.I.P.). The resurgence in B.C., and the next one in Toronto. The shattering of assorted records. And of course, the '04 Grey Cup - one of the all-time clutch performances, considering the guy played about 800% better that game than he had the rest of the season.

What sticks in our heads, though - because we're all about the anecdote - is a little incident at a Labour Day Classic that Damon wasn't even playing in.

It was sometime during his tenure in B.C., and because of some quirk in the schedule the Lions had arrived for the Argos' next home game before Labour Day was even done. Evidently unenthralled with whatever there was to do in Toronto at the time, they opted to cruise down the QEW to take in the action at Ivor Wynne. They may also have been drawn to the area by the annual Burlington Ribfest - truly the finest ribfest of its kind - but we digress.

Point is, we're sitting in our seats enjoying the game, when a dude in a Hawaiian shirt turns up in the aisle in front of us. He's shaking a few hands, chatting up a couple of people - and just as we realize that it's a certain legendary quarterback, the local Hamiltonian working security turns up to tell him to move along because he's blocking the aisle.

This was a quintessential CFL moment - one of the league's most prominent players not being recognized at a football stadium. But it said something about Damon, not just the league. The guy was so small and unassuming, you wouldn't have pegged him for a football star; you'd have thought he was just some regular dude 9-5ing it somewhere. And there was no pulling rank; more polite than a lot of Ivor Wynne patrons would've been, he took the hint and went back to wherever he was sitting.

Whatever ego Damon has - and one isn't entirely unwarranted when you're wearing four Grey Cup rings - we'll remember him as an ordinary guy in a league full of them. He just happened to be an ordinary guy who threw for 72,000 yards.

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 12:33PM by Registered CommenterA-Rad in | Comments1 Comment

2008 Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

At first glance, CFL fans may feel that the Riders have gotten a little cocky after winning their first Grey Cup in nearly 20 years. It almost seems as though they've decided to add a degree of difficulty to their campaign to repeat.

First, head coach Kent Austin left to become the offensive coordinator at his alma matter Ol’ Miss. Then starting QB and 2007 CFL MOP (that really is a quality acronym) Kerry Joseph was traded to the Toronto Argonauts. Throw in the loss of Fred Perry and useful RB Cory Homes… and… well... perhaps after all those years of losing and cleaning house might have joined watermelon headwear as an enduring if not always explicable Rider tradition.

But at closer glance, Riders fans have to admit that last year's storybook script of a season might not have been rewritable. After all, a lot of things bounced the Rider’s way: Joseph putting it all together for an MVP season; facing a rookie QB starting his first ever game in the Grey Cup; a poor season from Calgary; Luca Congi catching fire in the playoffs; the enduring presence of Danny Maciocia in Edmonton.

There are still reasons to be optimistic for the coming season. First and foremost, Marcus Crandell actually is an experienced and serviceable CFL QB - people forget he was the Grey Cup most outstanding player for Calgary in 2001. The integration of new coach Ken Miller should be a smooth one; apparently Miller called 95% of the plays last year, which might explain Kent Austin’s success given his abysmal play calling during the short-lived Ricky Williams era in Toronto. Throw in a year of playoff experience, a deep offensive line and the great Ronald Flemons (from all of us here in Toronto – you’re welcome, Saskatchewan). Oh, and Maciocia is still in Edmonton.

I'm predicting a second-place finish in a tight Western conference. with avoiding injuries and the integration of Crandell into the offense being the key for the Riders.

As an assed bonus, reason #239 why I like the CFL:

After trading for Hamilton’s pick in the final round of the CFL draft, the Roughriders selected the University of Regina Rams star quarterback – and two-time finalist for the Hec Crighton Trophy – Teale Orban (or is that Orban Teale)? The move made so much sense (draft a local kid from a local school to give the rabid fan base even more to get excited about), I seriously doubted it would happen. Yes, the lack of an import quota for quarterbacks will not help him, and there may be added pressure to play him if he looks even remotely up to it. But this was still a no-brainer and in a sports world sometimes gone mad (Maciocia), I do feel it is important to celebrate the no-brainers that do actually happen.

2008 Preview: BC Lions

I'm sure this will just play into the whole "East Coast bias" feeling that some of the league's left coast supporters point to, but generally the Lions have been a completely forgettable foe over the last number of years.  Obviously they've had some great teams, but the only real reminder I get that they're in the league are the Wally Buono chloseterol ads.

The Lions have been effective at finding little known guys to play big roles, meaning you never notice any big free agent signings, they play the majority of their games at a time when I've usually gone out for the evening and unless they're in the Grey Cup or hosting it, you're liable to see 10 Lions fans all of Grey Cup week. 

Completely forgettable. 

Which is a shame because Wally is always good for a few hissy fits every year, you never know when one of the players is going to be tasered (you're safe now, TJ Acree) and they always play an interesting offensive style.  Maybe that should be my new season resolution. Pay more attention to the Lions.  Onwards to the offseason movement:

  • While the big off-season question has been Jackson or Pierce, I'm guessing that this battle is already over. It's plain to see that Buck used his clout to make sure that he no longer had the most ridiculous name on the roster and I'm guessing he can't go to the well twice. Enter Rolly Lumbala.  Buck, Rolly... We're a "Nails" and a "Duke" away from a WWII platoon.
  • Jason Jimenez appealed his one game suspension for breaking Anthony Gargiulo's leg last year and while this has probably been resolved, who cares? Jimenez and Rob Murphy will just find another way to get suspended in the exhibition game. Tim Cheatwood's apparently available again - I'm sure he'd fit in nicely with the "total asshole" theme the Lions have been gunning for.
  • Seems that there is a possibility that Cam Wake could get out of his three year deal with the Lions allowing him the chance to explore his NFL options. As unsolicited advice: Go for it Cameron.  Don't turn into the next Joe Montford or Tim Cofield. (Actually, to avoid this you probably just need to avoid becoming a high profile addition to the Argos. But you get the point).
Finally, we were very pleased to see the Lions organization reach out and help the troubled BC forestry industry. Ensuring that the man who consumes nearly one third of all toothpicks produced in North America is in the province ensuring lower shipping costs will surely be appreciated and makes for great PR for the team. Welcome back, Roy. 
Posted on Monday, May 19, 2008 at 01:15PM by Registered CommenterRusty in , , | CommentsPost a Comment