The 2008 season is upon us. Gone are the long offseason months, gone are the grueling training camps, gone are the meaningless preseason games, and gone are Hamilton's chances of winning the cup. Okay maybe that last one was a bit premature given that they won't be mathematically eliminated for a number of weeks but realistically, they're more done than Man in the Bush was at our buddy's wedding last weekend.
Now the start of the CFL season on the prairies means 3 things: (1) A dramatic increase in the sale of Pilsner, Wisers and Watermelons (if you have stock in any of these I encourage you to sell somewhere around November), (2) A dramatic decrease in work productivity, particularly on Mondays and Fridays, and (3) the long-awaited end of filler posts from the Rider Prophet as he no longer has to try to justify his off-season existence.
Though the season officially kicks off tonight with Montreal at Hamilton and BC at Calgary, we will have to wait until Saturday to see the Riders in action. We start the season against a familiar foe... the Edmonton Eskimos, who trounced us (good word - trounced) one week ago in preseason action. The results of that game however, are about as meaningful as a late-March game between the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets when you consider that the majority of the players we dressed in that game have either been cut or relegated to back-up status. This time around, the Esks will have to contend with the likes of O'Day, Fantuz, Chick, Cates and Crandell for the first time. By contrast, Edmonton really has nothing more to throw at us that we didn't see last week.
To be fair, Edmonton is a better than last year. But given how far behind the rest of the division they were talent wise, saying Edmonton is a better team is like saying Britney Spears has taken great strides in her parenting skills. Sure it's a positive step, but don't expect her to win Mother of the Year anytime soon.
The key to Edmonton's season will be to get off to a good start. They are relying on 2 QBs who have suffered injuries to their throwing shoulders and I have my doubts about the durability of either of them over an 18 game season. Sure they both look good now... well let me re-phrase that... they are both playing good now but after the wear and tear of a few games look for a drop in performance. Speaking of injuries, Edmonton will be starting the season without defensive star Adam Braidwood, who was placed on the 9 game injured reserve as he recovers from knee surgery.
While I'm not expecting a blow-out, I do expect the Riders to start the season off on the right foot with a win. It will be a great start to the Canada Day long weekend.
Elsewhere in the CFL...
A lot is being made of Stampeder coach John Hufnagel's decision to close practice to the public all week. Speculation is running rampant over what it is exactly that Hufnagel is hiding. Is it trick plays on offense? A new defensive scheme? A touchdown celebration worthy of a Tony Award? The fact that Sandro DeAngeles has been able to bull rush their patchwork quilt of an offensive line and get pressure on the QB? Your guess is as good as mine. Then again, maybe Hufnagel is just doing it to piss off his old buddy Wally Buono.
From Winnipeg comes this week's weirdest story. It seems that Duncan O'Mahony will not play in Friday's opener against the Argos after breaking his toe when he stubbed it on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. See, that's why kickers aren't real athletes. I mean, when discussing what is keeping a player out of a football game, the term "unfortunate bathroom accident" is used about as frequently as "difficult reading mishap" or "tragic salad incident".
That's it for now. See you in the stands on Saturday.