10 ODDS 'N ENDS
1 - BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Gene Makowsky will be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Saskatoon tonight, in the very same place he was drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders over 20 years ago; TCU Place (or the Saskatoon Auditorium, as it was known back then). Congratulations Gene! The same goes for fellow inductees Eddie Davis and Bob O'Billovich. Eddie's a Rider great as well, but if this were Cooperstown, he said he'd be going into the Hall of Fame wearing a Stampeders cap. At least he admits it! That's not the story with Gene however, who's a Roughrider through-and-through and one of the greatest of all-time. Nobody's played more games in Green & White than him.
Speaking of Hall of Famers, happy birthday to former Roughrider running back Tim McCray who turns 55 today in Florida. He'll be inducted into the Rider Plaza of Honor in September along with Scott Schultz.
2 - KUDOS RIDER NATION!: Saturday's home game against the Calgary Stampeders will be the first sellout at Mosaic Stadium since September 21 of last year when the Riders beat Ottawa 35-32 in overtime. I talked about it at length yesterday on the radio -- this sellout seemed a little fishy, ONLY because it was announced so early in the week. Usually the announcement of a sellout goes right up to the day before, or the morning of, the game.
The conspiracy theorist in me thought the Riders snatched the remaining 1000 tickets up themselves, just to buy up the goodwill. For instance, the positive publicity the sellout has generated on social and mainstream media has been immense. (i.e. "They're 0-7 and the fans are still selling out the park! Love this team!"). By the way, the idea isn't so far-fetched. Our NFL insider Jim Lang told us on the SportsCage last night that NFL teams do this all the time. I would've just done it several weeks ago, and distributed the tickets to the needy.
However this isn't the case here. It's legitimate. There were 500 tickets left as of Monday morning and only 300 tickets left 24 hours later. By Tuesday at noon, the announcement of a sellout was made.
Why is this the first sellout in almost a calendar year? 1) The Stamps are the Riders' top rival. 2) We're running out of games at old Mosaic Stadium. 3) We're especially running out of warm weather games at Mosaic Stadium. 4) It's the Hall of Fame Game with Gene Makowsky and Eddie Davis being honoured and 5) Fans truly want to support their team. They haven't turned their back on the Riders.
3 - ANT MAN: Whether you want to admit it or not, the verbal spat between Riders running back Anthony Allen and defensive line coach Mike Sinclair prior to Tuesday's practice during the stretching period was symbolic. Things like this happen all the time, it's true, but for a team that's supposed to be putting the past seven weeks behind them and starting over, that was a dreadful way to begin the post-bye practice week.
Allen was dealing with personal issues which included the health of his father, and he explained the tiff after Wednesday's workout.
"Frustation from both us from being 0-7. We hadn't had the chance yet to hit somebody else on the field," Allen said. "I was around girls for the last 10 days. It was just some built-up stuff from both of us. It's been dealt with and we've moved on. (My Dad) is always on my mind but that's no excuse for what happened. I apologized to the team, I apologized to the coach I was involved with. I wish I could apologize to the fans and I apologize to the media who was out here at the time. It's very uncharacteristic of me and it's a one-time thing. Both of us were frustrated but we're all good now."
Nobody really batted an eye across the league, however it caught everyone's attention. Former Rider players chimed in on Facebook with their thoughts:
REC Jeff Fairholm: "I do have hope for the Riders but everything I read and hear suggests they are imploding!"
FB Shawn Daniels: "These spats are only newsworthy because of the record."
Shawn's probably right. Are disputes in practice a big problem?
No. But they're certainly not ideal. Especially for an 0-7 team which is trying to pull together.
4 - BIG BLUE: Rider lineman Brendan Labatte says the sellout on Saturday is "absolutely fantastic". He clearly doesn't follow the sports news much because the sellout was news to him on Wednesday afternoon. However the Radville, SK resident said this shows the Rider players that the province hasn't given up on them and the support will go a long way. I asked "Blue" what his memories are of watching the Riders as a fan at Mosaic Stadium.
"I remember watching Andrew Greene quite a bit," Labatte recalled. "Before that, I'd say Shonte Peoples. That was a big thing down in Weyburn. I just remember the atmosphere in the stadium was quite a thing. We didn't have 10,000 people in Weyburn but you come up here and there's 30,000 all in the stadium. It was an eye-opening experience. The energy in this stadium when it's rockin' makes it a special place."
Ironically Labatte just missed out on playing with Andrew Greene. Greene spent 2007 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers while Brendon got to Winnipeg in 2008. By then, "Drew" had moved on to the Argos.
5 - FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH: The CFL Game Notes package has illustrated how devastated by injuries the Roughriders have been this year. For instance in their last game at Toronto in Week 7, the Riders had 15 players on the injured list who represented 626 career starts. Meanwhile the B.C. Lions had only seven players on their I.L. (55 career starts).
6 - STAR ON THE RISE: Rookie quarterback Brett Smith is gaining a lot of fans in the Wheat Province as he prepares for his 3rd career start on Saturday. His quarterback efficiency rating in his first start at Edmonton was 46.0 however it vastly improved to 99.5 the next week against Toronto. This statistic takes into account completion percentage, interceptions, times sacked, rushing yards, etc.
7 - RIDICULOUS STAT: Perusing the game notes, something jumped off the page even though it won't be news to the old-timers. Ron Lancaster was the Riders' quarterback from 1965-1978. Of the 224 games in between, Ronnie started all but FIVE! No wonder they call him "The Greatest Roughrider Of 'Em All". Incidentally Lancaster's grandson Marc Mueller comes in with the Stampeders on Saturday.
8 - GROSS STAT: The last Roughrider quarterback other than Darian Durant to win a regular season game against the Calgary Stampeders was Michael Bishop in 2008. That's not saying much however, as Darian started 93 of 100 games up until last year's Banjo Bowl.
Question: is Weston Dressler's consecutive game streak with a catch in jeopardy after missing last week's game in Toronto? Obviously not, because he missed half of last season while trying out in the NFL even the streak is now up near 80 games. I can't remember how it works in hockey, if you miss a game does a point streak end? That was always very confusing.
9 - PEOPLE WITH NOTHING BETTER TO DO: The story that suspended Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was in Regina this week was a hoax. The photo was snatched from online from some time ago, and some guy tried to pass it off as his own. He even said it was taken at the airport. No wonder the Riders said they had no idea why Gordon was in town. He wasn't.
10 - THE NAME GAME: A topic which has come up the last little while revolves around the name of the University of Regina's football team. If you read the three-page report from that satellite committee on how the program could improve a few years back, one of the recommendations was changing the name from the Rams to the Cougars. Some think that will never happen, however the team is wearing a Cougar patch on its jerseys already THIS year. If this happens, will the Regina Thunder junior program change its name to the Rams so their illustrious history won't become extinct? You can't blame them if they don't want to.
I'm headed down to "Compete Street" - or the U of R - for Day 5 of Rams camp today. Perhaps we'll discuss it there.
THAT'S ALL! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND