Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Evening Edition

I had every intention of typing this up last night to ensure it was ready to go for Monday morning like usual. Unfortunately I succumbed to the post-Easter feast coma and those plans went out the window. I’m only human. The good news is that there isn’t really any pressing Rider news to discuss so I’m sure a few hours delay in reading the meandering thoughts of a dude who wears a robe in public on news that is no longer current will not ruin many people’s day.

My topic of the day is the signing of Matt Walter and what it could mean for our roster this upcoming season (spoiler alert: I have no clue).

I was somewhat surprised to see Calgary cut ties with Walter. He’s been a dependable contributor for them for years and they will still be starting a Canadian tailback. That said, Walter was clearly never viewed as starting material in Calgary as every time Cornish went down long term, it was an import RB who got the starting reps. Also, it’s been widely speculated that the Stamps are targeting RB Mercer Timmins in the upcoming CFL draft. Timmins is young, cheaper and has a higher ceiling than Walter. But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure… at least occasionally. Most of the time on man’s trash is also another man’s trash (especially when it’s dumped over the fence as opposed to being place in the trash bin).

While the Stamps have the Canadian depth to part with a guy like Walter, we do not. So (as we have been with signings like Hazime and Andrew Jones) we wisely brought in Walter to help boost our depth. Solid add. That’s the part I get. What I don’t get is what our plan is at running back. Pretty much every other position I have a good sense of who the favourites are to win a starting role and who is likely to be the depth guys. Running Back? Not so much. I honestly have no clue what the plan is there and Walter only adds another confusing complication.

When Allen got released, I assumed RB would be open competition in camp and the starter and back would be new guys. Then things changed when we signed Kendial Lawrence. He’s a Corey Holmes-type jack of all trades so I thought well we will still have an open competition for starter and Lawrence will rotate in at RB much like he did in Edmonton. Back-up RB solved. Then we signed Curtis Steele, who is a high effort player, decent RB and good special teamer. What he is not is an every down back. So then I’m wondering, are we going RB by committee with Steele and Lawrence? Is Steele just a depth guy and we still hope to find a starter among the new recruits?

So I was already confused (which admittedly doesn’t take much) before Walter was added to the mix. Normally its nice have a Cdn RB like Walter because you then don’t have to use one of your precious designated import spots on a back-up RB. But we already have Lawrence so unless we use Walter more like a fullback (ala Neal Hughes) I’m not sure how he will fit in.

I do still think that starting RB will be an open competition when camp opens. But it’s clear that Jones wants a ton of options at that position beyond just assuming one of the new guys will be a stud. My best guess at how this all pans out is that a new guy (Cobb, Houston, Young, Cyrus) wins the starter role, we use Lawrence as the back-up/utility guy on offense/kick returner, Walter will be used primarily as a FB and Steele will be a depth guy only (if he makes it at all). But then again don’t put much stock in that as its only really a wild-ass guess from a guy who has already admitted to you that he is very confused. 

A couple other random notes:

·         While I’m not that surprised to see Keith Price go (disappointed but not surprised), the fact that he chose BC seems like a very questionable decision. With Jennings and Lulay already entrenched Price is essentially competing for 3rd stringer. From an opportunity perspective I would think there had to be better options out there (us being one of them).

·         One name to keep an eye on is recently released Cdn DB Chris Rwabukamba. He played safety for Chris Jones in 2014. I could see him being added to the mix with Newman.

NFL Watch:
Xavier Fulton (Ssk) – Workout with Jacksonville

CFL Ins and Outs

In: OL Spencer Wilson, OL Shane Bergman (contract extension)

In: QB Keith Price, DB Colin Lockett, DB Loucheiz Purifoy (free agent signing)
Out: DB Chris Rwabukamba (released)

In: WR Tevin Reese, WR Solomon Patton, DL Jordan Stanton, DB Johnny Patrick (free agent signing)
Out: DL Bryant Turner, WR Clarence Denmark (released)


In: DL Omari Jones, DL Donovan Dale (free agent signing)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: The Big Move

As you enjoy your most recent reminder that winter in Saskatchewan is never really over (Lousy Smarch Weather), allow me to regale you with my sentimonies now that I've recovered enough to formulate thoughts and sentences beyond uggg and other such incomprehensible sounds. (Side note that level of communication would have allowed me to continue seamlessly blogging if I operated in Manitoba).

The big topic on the prairies this past week has been the transition plan to new Mosaic Stadium... this despite the ongoing provincial election campaign. If we are being truthful, the only way to bump election talk ahead of Rider talk would be for a party to promise that if you vote for them they would guarantee your choice of seats in the new stadium... or imply that the opposing party is planning on ruining your current seating arrangement.

The first details of the transition plan were released last week along with the prices for the new stadium. At this point details are fairly high level and until people actually start getting their new seat assignments are hard to say whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing. That said I have a couple initial observations on what has been released so far and both are relatively positive.

The first thought is that the new seat prices are less gaugey than I anticipated. It was a forgone conclusion that prices would increase in the new building and generally speaking they did but not by that much. They also kept the endzone seats pretty reasonable. Are the prices high for Saskatchewan and what we are sued to? Yeah. But in the grand scheme of pro sports and even the CFL, prices will still be pretty reasonable. Now I say that with 2 caveats. 1) Expect the increases in concessions costs to be way more gaugey. A $10 beer to wash down your $8 hot dog. 2) The Riders have opted for smaller but consistent increases over large one-time ones. So as they have every year (even the years where prices were "frozen" but the stadium improvement fee went up) prices will keep gradually increasing year over year. But that's just life.

The second thought is that the Riders seem to genuinely be doing their best to take care of the fans. Obviously there is no way they won't piss some people off. Its impossible to move over 25,000 people to a new seating configuration and not piss off somebody. But they genuinely seem to have done their homework and be taking steps to minimize that. From a fan perspective this may be the one positive of the Riders sucking so bad for the last season and a half. Had this transition occurred in the hay days of the "it doesn't matter what we do success and boat loads of money will come our way" Riders (2007-2010), I doubt they would have cared as much about the fans' "feelings" during this process. But the healthy dose of humility they were dealt last season may have reminded them about the importance of taking care of the people who have sustained this team over the years.

I will say that reserve the right to take back all the nice things I just said if the Riders give me a crappy seat assignment. Consider yourself warned Craig Reynolds.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Delayed

Due to an unfortunate run in with the stomach flu that has been going around there will be no sentimonies today. I've spent so much up close and personal time with my toilet that in some states we'd be considered legally wed and my body is in more shambles than most March Madness brackets. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be back to the land of the living.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Thoughts On Rules And New Facilities

We are in the midst of the dreaded lull in the CFL calendar between free agency in February and the draft in May. There is generally no more than a smattering of news stories each week which means devoted bloggers such as myself (okay in the spirit of honestly, half-assedly devoted bloggers such as myself is more accurate) are left to try cobbled these bits of CFL news into a somewhat coherent collection of thoughts (or as its know around these parts quality that exceeds the average).

This week's array of topics include the CFL Combine, Proposed Rule Changes and the pictures that were released of what the football ops rooms in the new stadium will look like.

CFL Combine
You folks know that I am a CFL Draft junkie. I read everything there is to read and starting in April I will once again have CFL Draft analysis, predictions and coverage. One thing I am not though is an evaluator of talent (well to be fair there's many things I'm not but let's try and focus). I will profess to being woefully under-informed on collegiate football and in not much of a position to be making talent evaluations based on combine performances. So while I will put my draft analysis up there with most out there, I will defer to people who do Combine coverage way better than me. I highly recommend where you can find some great stuff on the Combine.

Rules Changes
I will preface any discussion on potential rule changes by stating that I am sick on tired of the perceived need to change the rules every freaking year! I'm all for the game evolving but there's this mentality out there now that unless the CFL changes at a handful of rules every year they feel they aren't doing their job. Change for the sake of change is stupid and generally overreactionary. How can we honestly expect any kind of consistent performance from the refs when the rules change every damn year? Add a little stability to things and you might be surprised to see the positive results.

Are the rule changes proposed this year revolutionary? To be fair they are relatively minor. But I just hate people trying to justify their jobs by forcing rules changes on an annual basis. I actually would be in favour of the idea for a video review ref if I weren't so convinced by past experience that the CFL will find a way to screw this up. The amount of questionable decisions that emanate from video review already make me sceptical that this idea (though fine in theory) will help. At some point they will need to recommend the establishment of a video review process for video review.

I mean if you're the police, who will police the police?
I dunno. Coast Guard
(I award you bonus points if you get that reference)

New Football Ops Pictures
We'll end today on a positive note by talking about the impressive pictures that were released of the Riders' new digs at the new Stadium. To say this is a huge improvement for the team would be an understatement along the same lines as saying alcohol moderately increases the rates of promiscuity at Craven. To help drive home just how big a step forward this will be for the team I will contrast the new with what it is replacing.

Th new seating in the locker room will replace the milk crates borrowed from behind the grocery store. The floor will no longer just be dirt and the lockers themselves will replace the current need for the team to covertly steal lockers from local high schools.

This team meeting room will replace the current one that features one 56k modem, a collection of coaches people left by dumpsters and one solitary 13 inch black and white TV that the rookies have to take turns holding the rabbit ears so it gets reception

Lastly this Hydrotherapy room will replace awkward sponge bathes from creepy eyed trainers.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mosaic Memories Part 3 – Top 5 Shenanigans In The Stand

As I reminisced on my memories (some of which are pretty hazy) for this edition of Mosaic Memories, it really struck me just how many good stories have amassed in my time in the stands over the years. People I never knew outside of Mosaic have become dear friends. I'm still not why they still tolerate me after having to spend this much time with me but I'm glad they do.

There were so many memorable stories that had to be left off the list. Things like
Chocolate pudding girl (note: it was most definitely not chocolate pudding that was on her skirt); that time we had to be security (and were 100 times more effective than actual security); junior cheerleaders dancing around the limp corpse of Spergeon Wynn; that time they had to stop putting the fireplace video on the MaxTron because it resulted in too many 911 calls; that time the MaxTron actually lit on fire and I bet 911 didn't believe them. The list goes on and on. But here are the 5 stories that stand above all others in my mind.

5 - A coke for Milt Stegall
Like many young people in the early 2000s, I took in many games from the university section. And by that I of course mean I drank excessively and somewhat paid attention to the game. The exact date escapes me but if I say “The game where Milt Stegall burned Davin Bush for 3 TDs” most of you will know exactly what I’m talking about. So the scene is: me and a few of my buddies (who had also partaken in a quantity of drinks commensurate with sitting in the university section) taking in the game and Milt Stegall is just utterly embarrassing us. Stegall’s third TD was scored in the endzone right by our section and Stegall was showboating right in front of us. Someone makes the offhand comment that somebody should throw something at Stegall. My buddy who can be fairly easily impressionable after a few (and a trouble maker) without missing a beat hurls his large cup of coke towards Stegall. I should mention that said coke was not actually paid for but casually taken from an unsuspecting drink vendor’s tray in passing. I should also mention that I use the wording “towards Stegall” intentionally as the coke did not come close to the intended target. In fact it would have hit an unsuspecting ref had Stegall not stepped over and casually knocked it to the ground. Of course security immediately started pointing at my buddy (and me by association) so we made a beeline for under stands. There we acquired new headwear by signing up for credit cards (with utterly false information). We then returned to the stands and found some new seats not far from where we were before and finished watching the game.

4 - The Day Hell Froze Over
Following the conclusion of the 2007 Grey Cup, I like most of Regina, made my way to Vic and Albert to party. It was a blast and I'm only vaguely aware of making my way home. The next morning I got up because the team was flying back to Regina with the Cup and were going to be honoured at the stadium. Aside from my Grey Cup seized hangover what I will remember most about that day is how freakin' cold it was. Just nasty cold. It was as if the Riders winning a Cup had literally caused hell to freeze over. Despite the bitter bitter cold (and bitter bitter hangover) a ton of fans still flocked to the stadium to welcome the team. And we did our best to give them a warm welcome. It was pretty awesome. The funny part was at the end when the announcer said "that concludes our program please stay and watch this video tribute"... no one stay it was a furious rush to the parking lot praying cars would still start. Apparently Rider fans will brave any harsh conditions to honour the team but draw the line at video tributes.

3 - Parting the Seas
At the conclusion of every Rider game we go through the same process. The ramps and exits clog up as everyone tries to leave at the same time (minus the part time fans that are long gone). Normally I can be found among the masses as we collectively slowly shuffle towards the exits (I have to come down from the second deck after all)… except for one time. I had dressed up in my patented robe, beard and staff for the game. As I approached the clogged ramps, I (somewhat jokingly) raised my hands and staff and made a parting motion like I was Moses parting the Red Sea. Suddenly some people looked back and said “Its Moses, make room!” In a scene I have never managed to replicate (despite many attempts) an entire ramp full of people simultaneously split right down the middle and gladly let me pass by them. I wish I could have caught the moment on camera.

2 – The Karate Chop Kid (aka why I’m no longer allowed to sit in an aisle seat)
I can admittedly get pretty emotionally invested in games. I’m a roller coaster of emotion from the profanity laden lows to the exuberantly celebrated highs.  When important first downs the Riders occur I will often be seen in the stands signalling the first down. I forget the specific game but a number of years ago I happened to be sitting in an aisle seat. The Riders got a key first down so I stood up and made the first down signal as I often do. 

This time though there were two very unfortunate and poorly timed issues. The first was that my first down motion was less pointing to the side (like the refs do) and more horizontal karate chop (powered by my previously mentioned high strung emotions). The second problem was that an unsuspecting young lady happened to be making her way down the stairs right as I did this. Needless to say my chop caught her right between the eyes. I have no clue how she stayed on her feet but I clocked her good. She wobbled something fierce and I’m not sure she knew where she was for a moment. I felt awful… really awful. Ever since I have worked hard on a less aggressive and less karate choppy first down motion and have avoided aisle seats in the interest of everyone’s safety.

1 - Handsy Celebration
For the sake of protecting the identity of the subject of this next story we will call him Mr. X. Mr X and I have been friends for many years we been through many shenanigans. To say we are close would be an understatement. Anyway, when exciting things happen we can have some pretty exuberant celebrations in the stands. Every now and then Mr X can get very "handsy" with his celebrations (its probably somewhat related to alcohol intake). Its always above the waist and generally focused on my chestal region. You get used to it. 

This past season one such exciting TD occurred and it was time to celebrate. Given how few moments there were to celebrate last season Mr X may have had extra pent up enthusiasm. Mr X (who sits in the row in front of me) turns around and starts giving me one of his handsy celebrations. Part way through this particular celebration, Mr X came to a startling revelation... he looked two people down the row to see me high fiving other fans. It was at that point he realized that the person whose chestal region he was being celebratory with was not me but an unsuspecting middle aged women. 

I was completely oblivious to all of this until I turned around and saw him sitting there half laughing, half pale faced. I asked him what was up and he told what happened. Shocked, I asked what happened when he realized what happened. Did he say anything? Did she say anything?!? He said he looked at her very sheepishly and at a loss for words puts his hand up for a high five. She high fived him and that was the end of it.

The whole ordeal led to the saying that "If the high five was hit, you must acquit". For Mr X's sake we hope that holds up in court.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mosaic Memories Part 2 - Top 5 Playoff Memories

Today I continue my series reflecting on my favourite memories of Mosaic. A reminder that if you have a favourite memory you'd like to share please leave a comment or drop me an email.

Today we focus on the playoffs. In writing this out, I realized that this was actually just a ranking all the non-Michael Bishop playoff games that have occurred since 2007... it was easy to exlcude that one from the list as I've spent the past 8 years trying to repress the memory of that game.. You have to realize though that there was only one other home playoff game held in my lifetime and I wasn’t old enough to be going to football games yet. It’s really kind of depressing when you type in out like that. I guess it’s a good thing we got our money’s worth out of the few playoffs games we have hosted.

5 - West Semi-Final 2013 
There are two things that I will never forget about this game.  The first was how freakin' cold it was. One of the coldest games I can remember. My rye's would freeze solid if not consumed within 5 minutes. The second thing I will remember is this was the game where Durant put the team on his back and carried them to victory... literally. We fell behind early and looked shaky but late in the game Durant started using his legs to exploit a weakness in the BC D. The end result made me forget the cold... at least temporarily.

4 - West Semi-Final 2010 
This is one of those games that took years off my life. From an entertainment perspective this game was full of big plays and drama... from a Rider fan perspective it was hard on the old ticker.It was back and forth and we blew so many chances to seal the victory. It led to one of the most nervous moments of my playoff memory followed by an amazing storybook finish.

In double OT, Cary Koch dropped the ball on first down. This is where the nervousness set in. That meant that if we didn't covert on 2nd down the game would come down to Warren Keane kicking a 42 yard FG to keep the game tied. It was looking grim, panic was rising. Fortunately hometown hero Jason Clermont not only caught the pass on second down but was wide open and ran in for a game winning TD to eliminate his former team. Very, very cool moment for a born a raised Regina guy. I'm so thankful Clermont prevented us from ever finding out how bad Keane was gonna miss that kick.

3 - West Final 2009
It's a pretty big deal to say you've witnessed a West Final at home here on the prairies. 2009 was the first one in 33 years and we have yet to see another. I remember Rey Williams being an absolute beast in this game (10 tackles 3 sacks). I also remember that we managed to tie it up at half after a rocky start and then game out blazing in the 2nd half (big return by Jason Armstead and TD by Fantuz) and never looked back. I think we'd all prefer to focus on the high this game left us with rather than... you know, the stuff than happened next game.

2 – West Semi-Final 2007
It had been 19 years since playoff football was last seen in Regina. There was just a wee bit of pent up excitement in Riderville. It was the biggest thing to happen in Saskatchewan in years. Scalped tickets would either cost you and arm and a leg or some pretty freaky sexual favours (you know, so I heard).

What I will remember most about that game was the energy level. You could feel it in the stands. The place was literally shaking (and very little of that due to deteriorating structural stability). It got loud long before the the player entrances. By the time the teams came out it was so loud you couldn't hear the announcer or the music and the fans didn't let up. When DJ Flick scored on the very first offensive play the place came completely unglued. It was an absolutely amazing experience in the stands. I honestly didn't think anything would top that game for me. Until the #1 memory came along.

1 – Grey Cup 2013
This had to be number 1, no questions asked.

November 24, 2013 offered Rider fans a once in a lifetime opportunity. The chance to see the Riders hoist the Grey Cup at home. After years (and years and years and years) of assuming the football gods hated us, everything in the universe aligned for a defining moment for a franchise.

The weather stupid cold for every single day that week... except Grey Cup Sunday. Durant fumbled the ball... directly to Sheets who rumbled for one of the biggest plays of the day. We got to beat Henry Burris in the playoffs... again. Everything went our way. The game was never in doubt.

From the "screw you CFL and your individual introduction" entrance, to the Dressler TD that just kept driving nails into the TiCats coffin to the enduring image of Durant hoisting the Cup with all of Rider Nation surround him. Despite my best efforts that night to drink away any memory of that game, that is a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.