Friday, November 9, 2012
Things are happening so fast and furious right now it's hard to keep up. Here's the latest:
* The CFL could use Paris Hilton as its spokesperson right now because THAT'S HOT! With the NHL lockout ongoing, CFL teams are top-of-mind in their markets. Even in Toronto, I'm told the Argos are #1 (although the Raptors may have something to say about that). The NHL's loss has certainly been the CFL's gain. If they can hold off for just a few more weeks, we'll be good to go.
* The forecast for Sunday's CFL Western Semifinal between the Roughriders and Stampeders at Calgary's McMahon Stadium calls for sunshine and a high of minus-7 degrees.
* The Stamps are 5.5-point favourites.
* The week got off with a bang with the Roughriders announcing they planned to close their practices in advance of Sunday's WSF at Calgary. Of course within 24 hours, the stance was reversed and reporters were allowed in once the league intervened. One thing that should be noted is that Rider coach Corey Chamblin has been bend-over-backwards accomodating with the media all season long. He refuses to start his post-practice media scrums until ALL reporters are ready and, if you can believe, if a TV station is represented by a new cameraman on any particular day, Chamblin is always quick to acknowledge him or her. Many predicted Chamblin would be in a snarly mood once practice was opened up to the media, but that wasn't the case.
* I am surprised, and a little saddened, to see the hostility coming out of Calgary towards Saskatchewan this week. It has to stem from the fact the Riders have a five-game playoff win streak against the Stampeders but back when the Stamps were on top in the 90's, I don't remember this type of venom going the other way. When Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Dave Dickenson, Kelvin Anderson, Marc Boerigter and Vince Danielsen were whipping the Riders' butts on a regular basis, we didn't hate them! We respected the heck out of them.
* And even Corey Chamblin admitted that when he was on the Stampeders' coaching staff, he noticed crowds at McMahon Stadium were "50/50" between Rider and Stamps fans when the two rivals collided in the Foothills. Not so according to Stamps play-by-play man Mark Stephen who said on the Sports Cage this week "That's a myth that's been far, far perpetrated. I'd say it's about 20-25% Rider fans. What Rider fans do do is make themselves very visible."
* Legendary Stampeders broadcaster Ken Newans piled on later in the show when he said "The Riders have a good young coaching staff but they're not ready for the big time. Their anemic secondary will not be in the same ball park as the Stampeders receivers".
* As far as Dean Molberg of Fan 960 goes, he's been suspended for the balance of the CFL playoffs for his Wednesday comments on the Roughriders. I didn't even know that until perusing the Calgary newspapers Friday morning.
* Most of us were shocked when Stamps coach/GM John Hufnagel tabbed Drew Tate as his starting quarterback on Tuesday for Sunday's playoff game. Anybody who said they predicted that is full of beans. However since sports imitate life I've compared it this way; Hufnagel brought Drew Tate to the dance, then danced all night with Kevin Glenn but in the end took Drew Tate home. I'd say that's honourable.
* And anybody who thinks the Stampeders have an edge at quarterback in this game is full of beans too. In this blogger's opinion anyways. The proof will be in the pudding come Sunday.
* It's hard not to like John Hufnagel. Rider great Bob Poley told me a story at his Regina Beach cottage this summer about Hufnagel. John was at Poley's Grand Coulee house in the 80's when he found out he'd been traded from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg. He had to go to Winnipeg immediately but he was so rattled that he drove the wrong way all the way down Highway #1 back to Regina! You'd have to know the geography there, but that's quite a feat.
* Truth be told, this game makes me nervous. The Stampeders have won six of the last seven meetings against the Riders and won four more games than Saskatchewan in the regular season. The Riders truly are the underdogs. Maybe that's a good omen. When the Riders go into games which I fully expect them to win, they generally falter (see the 2010 Grey Cup).
* I texted Gainer the Gopher this week to see if he's going to Calgary to be on the sidelines for Sunday's game. I got no response. I suppose it's hard for a gopher to text.
* There may not be a Gibson's Finest CFL Reporter this year because I'm told Gibson's has pulled its sponsorship. Hall of Fame writer Darrell Davis is tabulating the votes and this week at Gold's Gym, I bumped into Darrell and cast my vote for Sportsnet's Arash Madani. "It's about time a TV guy won," I told Darrell before he informed me of the sponsorship situation. He told me they're hoping to get Gibson's to purchase a trophy and have the honour still given out annually.
* Past winners of the CFL Finest CFL Reporter are: Bryan Hall (CHED Edmonton), Ed Tait (Winnipeg Free Press) and Lowell Ulrich (Vancouver Province).
* It was great to bump into the Vancouver Province's Ed Willes in Vancouver last weekend. He told me that he's working on a book project during the NHL lockout and when I asked what it's about he replied "I'll tell you later!" I get where he's coming from.
* There was plenty of coverage in the Vancouver newspapers about how local hockey fans are coping with the NHL work stoppage. The Vancouver Sun reported attendance at WHL Vancouver Giants games is up 657 fans per game while UBC hockey games have experienced a bump of 500-800 fans per game. However in Abbottsford, home of the AHL's Heat, attendance is still abysmal. They drew about 1700 fans for a game last week against the Toronto Marlies. They are averaging 3534 per game but expect sellouts this weekend when Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Schultz and the boys from the Oklahoma City Barons roll into town.
* Speaking of hockey, Mitch Lipon scored twice as the Regina Pat Canadians won 5-1 over the Notre Dame Hounds Thursday night in Wilcox. With the victory the Pat C's improved to 8-2-2 and into a tie with Tisdale for first-place in the SMAAAHL. Thanks to Doug Exner for the info.
* Here's a glimpse into how CFL year-end awards voting goes. While in Vancouver, Lions colour commentator Giulio Caravatta was campaigning hard for Lions tailback Andrew Harris to win the Top Canadian award. As it turns out, Calgary's Jon Cornish won the honour. Perhaps I didn't campaign hard enough to other voters because the Roughriders were shutout of the division awards.
* CKRM Rider analyst John Lynch told me how excited he is to take Mrs. Frenzy to the movie ARGO. I had to tell him the film is not about Pinball Clemons.
* We saw the movie Thursday night. It is magnificent.
* One thing I noticed at BC Place Saturday night was that when the Riders were on offence in the first half, there was ear-splitting noise. However when I studied the stands, not that many were making noise. Hmm.
* I'm also no expert in CFL clock management but I found it odd that in the fourth quarter and the Lions were on offence, the clock ran straight time from 5:53 down to 3:00.
* Lions coach Mike Benevides informed the Leader Post's Murray McCormick that his Rider Rumblings blog is the only reporter's website which Benevides has bookmarked in his computer. And therein you realize why the Riders wanted to close practice. When I realized CFL coaches were scouring this blog for Rider practice info, I stopped reporting it.
* The NFL needs to do something about touchbacks. Penalize them or something. At CenturyLink Field on Sunday the 68,000-plus fans were whipped into a frothing crazy prior to kickoff and then BOOM! The kickoff went through the endzone and it was like popping a balloon. You hardly have to cover any kicks in the NFL.
* I also noticed the Seahawks' game notes were a paltry five pages. Double-sided. In the CFL we get a package big enough to choke a horse.
* One of the many things I learned from Eric Tillman is that people need your support more in a time of crisis than in a time of celebration. For instance if you drop a line to someone who got hired as a coach or signed as a player, it's just as good an idea, or better, to send them a note when they get fired or cut. Rarely do you receive a reply, but it has to help.
* Much has been made about office people leaving the Eskimos during Tillman's era but the ones I know didn't leave because of Tillman.
* Much has also been made that Tillman spent half of his time in Regina while running the Eskimos. That's hogwash too. It didn't matter to the Esks when Hugh Campbell was running the team from Idaho.
* The Eskimos have won 13 Grey Cups but none with a losing record, which they currently sport. Also no time has ever won a Grey Cup while crossing over into the other division. That doesn't mean it won't happen however.
* It would be a heckuva story if Rams quarterback Marc Mueller serves as a 3rd or 4th-string quarterback in the CFL next year with an eye towards becoming an offensive coach.
* Mueller and the Rams take on the U of C Dinos in the Hardy Cup Saturday at McMahon Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:00 pm and 620 CKRM has the broadcast.
* I bet guys who sport moustaches year-round really hate Movember. You will notice I am not growing one however I will contribute to the guys I always do during this time of year.
* It will be a great day when Canadian airplanes have ports to charge cell phones and Ipods.
* Here's the Friday Press Box Sports Bar lunch buffet lineup from Chef Laura:
Sausage and Sauerkraut
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE AT 5:00 FOR FOUR SEASONS FOOTBALL FRIDAY!