Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Let’s Talk Football

I know you were all looking forward to the thrilling conclusion of my series on the best Riders by number. And don’t worry it will come. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like talking about football. Not theoretical, or historical or absurdly comical football. But real life, present day football.

It’s been a while. My vocal chords are in better shape then they have ever been mid-summer. Wisers called me the other day to see if I was still alive because my purchasing has nosedived. Even my neighbours came to check on me because the loud curse words that usually emanate form house on a weekly basis have gone silent. I’m not dead, just missing football.

You’ll note that since this whole pandemic started I have talked very little actual football. I honestly just started mentally preparing myself for no CFL season. But with every other major league starting their returns and the CFL in a series of discombobulated conversions about its own return… it’s time to jump back in and talk football.

I get asked lots if I think there will be a CFL season. It’s second only to “Could you do up your fly?” in terms of the question I get asked most frequently. The honest answer is I don’t know. Two months ago I would have said zero chance. Today I would say there is a chance, but I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly great one. They have a hub city. As if the pandemic isn’t bad enough, CFL players would have to spend it locked down in Winnipeg. That could be considered capital punishment in some countries. But what the CFL doesn’t have is money or a deal with the players or a Health Canada approved plan. They can probably get a deal with the players but the money… well that’s the major issue. The feds already nixed the Jays so the health plan is also no guarantee. 

With no fans in a gate-driven league money is hard to come by and the federal government appears to the only other source of revenue available. Without it, there will be no season. It’s really that simple. I mean they haven’t tried the trusty old telethon yet but I’ve been pitching that for months with no takers.

The deal with the players will also be tricky. Look I get both sides of this. For the players, they are looking at a best case scenario of a 1/3 of their salary (which for most them is not a lot of money), to play with increased risk in an already risky job, while giving up all their freedom to live in one of the last places anyone outside of Manitoba would want to find themselves, with no answers on what happens if they or their teammates get the virus. Football players may not always be the brightest in our society but even they are smart enough to not be jumping at this high risk/low pay opportunity. Some players are so desperate for money and to play football they will play regardless of the deal. Some players (the higher priced vets) probably make enough to make playing worthwhile. Some may decide to sit out and that’s ok… unless it’s a Rider player and then the punishment is a public flogging and exile… its in the constitution.

I also get the owners' side. Most of them could make more money investing in VLT playing. Their revenues are way, way down so with a 6 game season they really only can offer a portion of the peanuts they normally pay. From their perspective why would you pay a player for games they did not play with money they do not have? (I’m not saying that’s a particularly nice stance, but it’s sound business stance). Football is a great game but a crappy business.

Also, I get people dumping on Randy Ambrosie (and I won’t pretend he’s without fault) but all he is in this is a glorified human shield for the owners. He delivers their message and executes their strategy and takes all the blame. Given freedom of action he may choose a completely different strategy.

So will there be football in 2020? I hope so… but I’m not prepared to bet on it. But it was nice talking football again.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 80-89

After a brief hiatus, we are back. I took a couple weeks’ vacation… it’s one of the few work benefits I was successfully able to negotiate when I signed on for this gig. I spent the time researching the effects of whether or not beer and fishing increase the effectiveness of social distancing. I can conclusively say I found no evidence to disprove my theory.

The 80s are all about receivers. The lists starts and ends with some of the best receivers in the history of the franchise. The middle of the list proves that, much like the franchise itself, the mid-eighties leave a bit to be desired.

80 – We start off with a hall of famer and record holder for most consecutive games with a catch (a mark that will likely never even come close to be being in danger of being broke). WR Don Narcisse. Narco’s patented celebration dance is as legendary as his career itself.

81 – Though about going Geroy here just to rile people up but I’ll play this one straight. Arguably the best Canadian to ever play for the green and white was WR Ray Elgaard. He is the franchise leader in receiving yards and TDs, is top 10 all-time in CFL history and did most of it with a smoke pressed between his lips. He’s so legendary that any decent football fan will be able to tell you the meaning of the “Elgaard rule”

82 – I know there are a number of people that would want me to put Clermont here. But let’s face it, while Clermont is a Rams legend and a CFL all time great, his years in Saskatchewan where little more than a promotional tour… except that game winning TD in the playoffs that one time. No here I’m going with a recent player, WR Namaan Roosevelt. He arrived amid some pretty terrible years and almost didn’t get the chance he so clearly deserved. Once he got on the field he was productive and showed a willing to sacrifice his body for pretty much any catch.

83 – Roy Shivers does not exactly have the greatest CFL drafting record. But he nailed in in 2006 when he picked WR Andy Fantuz. Probably the best Canadian receiver to play for us since Elgaard. I still marvel at the things he did during that ’07 playoff run. Do yourself a favour and go back and watch those highlights.

84 – This is where things get a but dicey. Top contenders included Elijah Thurmon and Cary Koch. Finally landed on WR Eric Gulliford. Not a long career here but amassed 1800 yards and 12 TDs between 1999 and 2001.

85 – We continue along the dicey train. I refused to give this one to guys like Prechae Rodriguez and Karsten Bailey (both leading candidates at a very weak number). Briefly considered Willis Jacox but eventually landed on WR Kyran Moore. Small sample size but in his 2 years he’s shown he could be one of the greats if he keeps it up.

86– Honestly the best/only option I could find here was WR Demetris Bendross. It was him or Nathan Hoffart.

87 – The last of the week numbers. I had to go with WR Yo Murphy here. Yes his best years came before he arrived here and his he had a minimal role even when he was here but he takes this one unless you can suggest someone more deserving.

88 – Ok back to some quality options. Runner up here is Curtis Marsh. The winner is WR Matt Dominguez. People forget just how dominant a receiver he was up until his injury in ’07.

89 – Some great names pop up here, Jamel Richardson, Duron Carter, Curtis Mayfield. But one name rises above the rest. Look I know I make a lot of fun about his inconstency but stats don’t lie and WR Chris Getzlaf is #5 all-time in the franchise in receiving yards and only 5 people have caught more TDs in green and white then him. He was a hell of a receiver… I will just always wonder how much higher he could have risen had he been able to catch on a consistent basis in stadiums other than McMahon.