One of my favourite times of the year is but days away… The annual Rider/Stampeder Thanksgiving Day Clash. What better way to celebrate all the blessings in my life I’m thankful for than by ditching my family and partying in Calgary for the weekend (though Mom if you are reading this could you please save me some turkey… and disregard the previous line while your at it).
Monday these 2 rivals meet with the season series and a good shot at 1st place on the line. The stakes are higher than my blood alcohol level will be this weekend in Calgary. With a sellout crowd expected this will have all the intensity of a playoff game (which can only mean good things for us Rider fans given the Stampeders recent playoff track record).
First, I guess I have to address the gong show of a week courtesy of the Stampeders. It all began in the moments following Friday’s game at Mosaic. After the game, Stamps D-Line coach Cornell Brown as well as DBs Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson confronted and verbally berated the referees outside the locker rooms. For this fantastic display of professionalism and sportsmanship, Browner and Anderson were fined undisclosed amounts and Brown was fined $2500. The thing I find funny about this is that $2500 is the same amount Eric Tillman was fined for voicing his concerns over the injury list rules. So apparently in the league’s view, voicing legitimate concerns in a calm and intelligent manner is as grave an offense as verbally abusing a CFL official. That’s the equivalent of a judge laying down the same sentence for aggravated assault as for participating on the debate team… but I digress. In Calgary’s defense, I’m sure these 3 loud mouthed idiots were complaining about the No Yards calls against Calgary that were missed as opposed to the correct on-side kick ruling, you know in the spirit of sportsmanship towards the Riders.
But the stupidity didn’t end there. In the days that followed, we were treated to Henry Burris taking shots at Rod Pedersen and JoJuan Armour alleging that the refs were trying to pump up the Regina crowd and encouraging them to cheer (turns out it wasn’t a ref, it was merely Joe Hadesback). The fact Armour can’t differentiate between a radio broadcaster and a uniformed CFL referee would definitely concern me if I were Jon Hufnagel. While the whole ordeal has been ridiculous it did effectively cover up the fact that the Stampeders (heavily favoured to win the West) were defeated by the Riders 4th string offense. All week, all the media cared about was the reffing, the fines and the allegations. No one was questioning the Stampeders on why their defense couldn’t stop the offense formerly know as the Riders practice roster. No one was questioning Burris’ screw ups (1 INT, 2 fumbles). No one was questioning the Stampeder O-line for allowing 3 sacks against a team that generally struggles to manage 1 sack a game let alone multiple. So maybe this whole gong show was just a way for Hufnagel to take the pressure off the team for the week. If so the plan worked to perfection… though to be fair, if Hufnagel is putting this much effort into diverting media pressure away from his team’s bad performance rather than simply working on improving, he’s a lot dumber than I have given him credit for.
Now onto the game itself…
The Riders (as always) are ravaged by injuries and no big names are expected to return from the injured list for the game (though there is word John Chick may be ready to return (again) on Monday). To top it off we are playing one of the top teams in the west on the road. On paper things don’t look good. However, for one thing this can hardly be considered a road game since half the stadium will be Rider fans. For another, our injury problems are offset by the fact that the Stampeders are beginning their annual October collapse. With so much uncertainty in the world it’s nice to know you can still count on something. In 2006, the Stamps went 1-3 in October and ended up losing the WSF. In 2007, they went 1-4 and once again lost the WSF. Seeing the pattern? They are the CFL equivalent of the NY Mets (who are my favourite squadron).
For the Riders, there are 3 keys to success. First and foremost Michael Bishop needs to turn in another solid performance. If he’s patient and takes what the defense gives him our offense should move the ball effectively. Second, we need to remain committed to the run. They are certainly no Wes Cates, but Charles and Hughes can gain yardage and keep the defense honest. Third, we need to contain Calgary’s receivers (I’m looking at you Omarr Morgan... unfortunately so is Henry Burris) and keep the scoring low.
It will a very close game and the intensity will be way higher than last time. I expect Calgary to play a better game but still…
Riders by a Luca Congi Field goal.
See you in Calgary!