* The Saskatchewan Roughriders are atop the CFL with a 6-1 record. These should be the "best of times", but you wouldn't know it. The barrage of negativity which has come with Saturday's last-second, 24-21 victory over the Montreal Alouettes is truly astounding. Here are some of the comments I've heard from the Rider Nation over the past 24-36 hours:
"If they'd played like that against BC or Calgary, they would have been slaughtered."
"If Anthony Calvillo stayed in the game, the Roughriders would have lost."
"That was Durant's worst game of the year."
"That was the worst game I've ever seen."
* I can give you that last one. Saturday's game was an eyesore. So much so that I tried to re-watch it on Sunday afternoon but it was impossible. For most of the contest, it was gross. The Riders led 8-7 at halftime in a much lower-scoring game than we expected but it got more exciting as the game went on. It was tied 11-11 after three quarters and 14-14 with 2:00 to go. In the NFL, they're kneeling down and grinding out the clock with two minutes remaining but in Saturday's game, 17 points were scored in the last 1:45!
* Bad game? Yes. Bad performance? Not really. The Riders weren't perfect - in fact they lost the turnover battle 4-3 and time-of-possession - but they did what they had to do on that day to beat their opponent. Try to smile.
* Perhaps it's the mammoth expectations which were placed on this team in the off-season. The club never shied away from them, but it has to be a lot to bare. Everybody wants perfection, even if they're not perfect themselves. It's not fair.
* Booing Durant? As distasteful as that was, I'm not going to get on people for that. We beg people to buy tickets so I'm not going to scorn them for their actions once they get to the park. Some say they never heard it but it was clearly audible on the west side grandstand, which is home to the most demanding of Rider fans.
* Darian spoke about being booed after the game, saying "The fans, they want perfection and I've been here eight years and I've been booed plenty of times so it was nothing new,'' he said. "Of course it's nothing you want to hear but at the same time you understand why and if you don't want to hear it, just go out there and make plays and give them something to cheer about.''
* It used to get to him but I don't think it does anymore. We've discussed it and I tried to tell him it's not personal. They booed Ron Lancaster, Kent Austin, Kerry Joseph and now Durant. They're all the best. I don't remember you booing Henry Burris, or at least not when he was wearing green.
* It's a tough crowd.
* Who was the guy who put 10 points on the board in the final 1:36 with the club down 21-14? Oh yah. Darian Durant.
* The Roughriders provided no injury update over the weekend on wide receiver Rob Bagg who left Saturday's game with a knee injury. Bagg's scheduled to undergo tests today and the club will have an announcement later today or tomorrow.
* With 40,637 on hand for Saturday's Roughrider win, the club is poised to lead the CFL in attendance for the first time ever. They're the #1 draw at home, the #1 draw on the road and have the highest TV ratings. And yet teams still get mad when the Riders are called Canada's Team!
HE SAID IT:
* Here are some quotes you may find interesting from a weekend interview with Rider GM Brendan Taman. A lot of the questions which fans put to me, I turn around and ask "B-T" in the pregame show. Here are his answers:
ON EXPANSION DRAFT PREPARATIONS
My focus is on week-to-week who we play and our roster and the set up of our roster. We all know that Ottawa's holding the draft in December and we're wary of that but I don't want Corey Chamblin, Jeremy O'Day, Craig Smith or anybody else around here focusing on Ottawa, a team that doesn't even exist, so-to-speak. We know what's going to happen, we know basically what we're going to do and who we'll protect but there's still some contracts we'll have to work through and whatnot. There's a long way to go before that happens and we'll do the necessary work to get that in place.
DO YOU KNOW IF THE SALARY CAP'S GOING UP?
No not yet. I've got hints from various people that there's going to be an adjustment to it. To what degree, we're not sure and that's what makes the Ottawa thing tricky; you're not sure where the cap's going to be when you negotiate with players. I have a fairly good understanding that it will go up and that's good but until it gets done but until those negotiations are finalized, you really don't know.
I'm not too familiar with the workings of the NHL and NBA unions but our players, I think everybody including the owners would say, are deserving of more money. It's just a matter of do the owners and the league have that money to give to them? I'm sure there will be adjustments accordingly but our players our good athletes and they're paid somewhat well, but I'm sure everybody always wants more money.
DO YOU HAVE A COMMENT ON JEREMY O'DAY AND THE BLUE BOMBER GM JOB?
I do have a comment on him. He's very good at what he does. I've really enjoyed working with him and hopefully that will continue for quite awhile. Anytime a situation opens up around the league, his name's going to get talked-about because he's a young up-and-comer and he's very good at what he does. I pride myself on the fact I've given him the chance to do a lot of things. I'm not one of these guys that just sits him in a room with the light on and tells him 'go do your work'. I try to let him experience as much as he can. He does a good job and any smart team would probably want to look at him for sure. But selfishly I'd like to work with him for quite awhile going forward but whether that happens, remains to be seen. They haven't asked for permission and I don't foresee that happening until the end of the year quite frankly. But I'd be surprised if they didn't.
MORE FOOTBALL NOTES
* The Blue Bombers appear to be nowhere near ready to hire a General Manager. They're still firing people, including Sunday's dismissal of offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. If you're paying attention, Crowton was a holdover from the Joe Mack regime as Mack hired Crowton to be Paul Lapolice's offensive coordinator after Jamie Baressi was let go days after the 2011 Grey Cup.
A buddy in Winnipeg emailed me a list of people who aren't working for the Bombers, but are still being paid by them. These are rough estimates of what they're earning: Paul Lapolice ($200,000), Joe Mack ($300,000), Garth Buchko ($300,000), Gary Crowton ($100,000).
* A disaster. An absolute trainwreck. As one source in Winnipeg put it, "As bad as it looks on the outside, it's 10 times worse inside". And, the source said "Gene Dunn and David Asper are running this team." If that's the case, take a bow.
* Had a chance to chat briefly with TSN colour commentator Duane Forde about the vacant Bomber GM job. I asked him what his stock line is when asked about the opening. "I don't have one," Forde said. "No one there has approached me."
* Regarding Jeremy O'Day, a source close to him told me the Rider Assistant GM could be here for a long time yet because he's smart enough to realize it's better to be where he is with a stable organization than to be in charge of the Titanic.
EVEN MORE FOOTBALL NOTES
* The Riders' Week 9 game is at Edmonton this Saturday with a 2:00 kickoff and the club is hosting a Rider Nation Party before the game from 10:30 to 1:30 at the Edmonton Expo Centre. Gainer The Gopher will be on hand plus there will be door prizes, food and drink, a rocking DJ and games. The grand prize is courtesy Tourism Saskatchewan and it's a trip to Regina for the October 12 Rider game against the Eskimos! All proceeds are going to the Edmonton Firefighters Burn Treatment Society.
* A complaint: The Canadian Football League needs to do a better job of promoting its US television broadcasts. Every week I'm getting emails and texts from friends travelling in the USA and wondering where to get the games. It's all over ... LA, Denver, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Florida, etc. I didn't realize until after Saturday's Rider game that it was being shown on ESPN3 in the States. By then it was too late. I didn't see anywhere in the game notes on which US network the game was being shown. If I had, I could have put it in this blog's game day preview and everyone would be informed. Frankly I couldn't find it on the league website either but apparently it's there. Somewhere. We need to get on this.
* Speaking of American network television, Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole are drawing rave reviews for their work on the weekend's launch of Fox Sports 1. I've seen some clips and it's their exact schtick from TSN but that's why they were hired in LA. Well done boys....
* The Calgary Stampeders will be without slotback Nik Lewis for up to six weeks after he broke his leg Saturday night in Calgary's loss at BC.
* The Lions' uniforms were hideous. Just my opinion.
* RDS reporter Didier Ormejuste left Dan Hawkins have it the SportsCage on Friday. Speaking about the firing of Hawkins by the Montreal Alouettes, Didier said, "No one in the organization saw eye-to-eye with Dan Hawkins. That's why he was fired after five games. He lied in the job interview, saying he wasn't going to change the offense. But he did."
* Current Als coach and GM Jim Popp confirmed all of this in a pregame chat with Rider Radio analyst Carm Carteri.
* Montreal has become a Chicago Bears town with former Als coach Marc Trestman now in charge of the Monsters of the Midway. I find myself caring less about the Dallas Cowboys and more about the Bears because of Trestman.
* Legendary football writer Peter King observed Trestman at the Bears' preseason game in Carolina. "Marc Trestman's a communicator," King wrote in the Monday Morning Quarterback. "Much more than I thought. After the game, he spent 13 minutes walking through the locker room, shaking the hands of half the players in the room, stopping for 10- to 60-second conversations."
* What do you think of Peter King's new MMQB website? I find it rather hard to decipher and am not big on the team of writers he's hired. I only want to read King's work because no one writes like him.
RANDOM NOTES TO CLOSE
* Apparently there's another interested buyer for the Regina Pats. While in Calgary last week I learned businessman Paul Colburne is bankrolling a prospective ownership group. His son Joe is a Toronto Maple Leaf. I was told "Paul's not the front-man, but he's the money-man". So I asked who the front-man is and my source said "I don't know".
* The Pats will need some PR help this season. Sitting in a meeting with a business leader last week, he said "Who's the coach of the Pats?" and he was dead serious. It's first-time WHL head coach Malcolm Cameron. We'll try to get him on the air as much as possible, and provide the Pats plenty of coverage here in order to help them out in that area.
* Sounds like Todd Ripplinger could be back in the game of hockey soon. Rumour has it the former Regina Pats head scout has had discussions with both the Brandon Wheat Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors about coming on board. That would be great to see.
* Paul McCartney was superb at Mosaic Stadium on Wednesday. Thanks to Molson for taking me. I've never been a huge fan and felt guilty because I felt bigger fans of the Beatles or McCartney should be there rather than me, but it was great to go nonetheless. And hey, if being a vegan makes you look that good at 71, where do I sign up?
* We've been able to catch a couple of movies that past couple of weeks. Based on the MMG recommendations, DO NOT go see Grown Ups 2. It's terrible. However Monsters University gets two thumbs-up. It's great for the whole family.
* There's still an Arena Football League? Last week the rock band KISS was an awarded an AFL expansion team for 2014 which will be called the LA KISS. I haven't seen any of their games on TV and thought the loop went under.
* Don't let the road construction get you down!! It's a pain in the butt but this is the only time they can do it. Just leave a little earlier and be happy the roads are being improved. It's a necessary evil.
Catch the Steelers at Redskins tonight on Monday Night Football at the Press Box Sports Bar and enjoy a full rib dinner for just $7.99!! Kickoff is 6:00.
ENJOY UP WEEK