WELCOME TO 'UP' WEEK
Does it mean anything in the standings? We'll get to that in a minute but more than anything, it was just a euphoric feeling to actually win a game. It sounds so small and hollow to say that, but the Roughriders were finally rewarded for all the hard work they've put in over the past number of weeks. They celebrated lustily - some said as if it were a Grey Cup win - but Rider boss Chris Jones had no problem with it.
It seemed like the bubble may have finally burst. But is it too late?
2 - How many fans got out their calculators Sunday night and were doing some quick Rider Math? Let's see, with six games to go, if the Riders win all of them and the Eskimos, Argonauts and Alouettes lose most of theirs, then Saskatchewan could be looking at a crossover playoff berth. Do we even dare dream of an 8-10 record when all is said and done?
That sounds like a tall order indeed but for now let's just revel in Sunday's victory over the Evil Empire, a team which appears to have its own set of problems as we enter the stretch drive.
3 - The TSN Turning Point in Sunday's game likely was the Justin Cox interception off Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly at the Saskatchewan 54-yard line with 1:08 to go and the game tied 20-20. We assumed the Command Centre already looked at it since it was a turnover, and the Rider offense was already on the ball.
However Eskimo Head Coach Jason Maas threw his challenge flag and it went back to Toronto for another look. How many of you were seeing the final minute of the Labour Day Classic playing out all over again, with disastrous consequences looming?
"I just thought 'Here we go again'", admitted Rider coach Chris Jones on 620 CKRM's postgame show. "But then I watched the replay and it was eerily similar to a couple weeks ago against Winnipeg. But clearly he didn't make contact and we were fortunate enough to make the play."
The video replay official at the Command Centre in Toronto was Jeff Harbin and apparently he saw what Jones saw. I haven't looked at it since but at the time, it appeared as though Cox tugged the receiver's hip about 12 yards past the line of scrimmage, long before the ball arrived.
4 - It's hard to make any judgment on the call without having looked at it again forwards, backwards and from all angles but - if there was mild contact - does that mean that the Command Centre is loosening up its approach on Pass Interference as we head down the homestretch?
That would be a tough thing to do now, even if it's what everybody wants. Sunday's game was a great example of what the CFL could be with some mild tweaking of the rules and their interpretation.
There was only one challenge in the contest and the officials were actually allowed to call the game themselves without the interference of "Helicopter Officiating" from Toronto. Some referees have indicated to me that they're not fans of the new "All 24" camera in the Command Centre, which was instituted to correct on-field errors or confusion.
There's been an apparent awakening amongst CFL powerbrokers that the game currently is broken, but there may be some unrest ahead on how to go about repairing it. (i.e. getting nine teams to agree on what needs to be done).
Less challengeable plays and less video review clearly is the way to go. However that's a conversation for this winter.
5 - A point of clarification. My longtime colour commentator Carm Carteri referred to some players on the Rider punt cover units as "braindead" for taking multiple No Yards penalties against Edmonton on Sunday. #27 Kevin Francis did it twice and #25 Matt Webster did it once.
However I was informed by the Riders late Sunday night that they coach their players to get downfield and take the No Yards penalty if necessary, especially if it's in the endzone. 99% of the time the penalty is declined in that instance. It's a lot easier to cover and take the penalty rather than to try to stay outside the 5-yard halo, end up stationary, and then try to make the tackle.
6 - The fourth quarter touchdown by "rookie" Rider Armanti Edwards was his first professional touchdown despite all his years in the National Football League (including four as a receiver in Carolina). That nugget comes courtesy of the Watauga Democrat newspaper, which I happened to be reading early Monday morning. It was an incredibly acrobatic play by Edwards to reach the goalline.
What's that you say? The Riders finally made some big plays? And they won? Go figure.
Anyway when Edwards is healthy, he's likely the Roughriders' best receiver. The trouble is he's suffered through several nicks and bumps all summer long and was rarely healthy enough to get on the roster. Hopefully Sunday was the start of something special.
7 - A couple of Roughrider players are showing why Chris Jones went after them in free agency, and why he's stuck with them throughout this season. Running back Curtis Steele is a prime example, as he had an explosive start to the season but then went on the injury shelf for months. The Roughriders probably don't win that game on Sunday without him.
Meanwhile receiver/returner/running back Kendial Lawrence was in the fans' doghouse all summer but no one's said a peep about him since his 85-yard punt return touchdown in the Labour Day Classic. He had another monster return in the Banjo Bowl which was negated by a needless penalty. Why Lawrence was a scratch for the Edmonton game this weekend is a mystery to me, but I'm guessing it had nothing to do with performance.
A lot of things are going on that aren't apparent to the naked eye. Jones will likely be proven to be a genius yet.
8 - Now for what you all came here for today.
It all started on Friday afternoon with this Tweet from Drew Edwards of the Hamilton Spectator and the website 3DownNation.com:
However all our listeners and callers wanted to discuss was how Justin Dunk and I were recently dumped by the CFL's official website, CFL.ca.
9 - First, some background. In June, I informed the editors of CFL.ca that I hadn't planned on writing for their website this year. I was trying to "de-clutter" my life and was content to simply write for this blog and the Roughriders official website. (I relinquished my syndicated column in 23 weekly Saskatchewan newspapers as well).
The league said they'd still like to keep me on since my columns were amongst their most-read, and we struck a deal that they'd publish the Monday Morning Goalie or my weekly column from www.riderville.com. It wasn't for a lot of money.
That was going along great until Roster-Gate, after which I started to take aim at CFL Commissioner Jeffrey L. Orridge in this space. If you'll recall, four days before that, I wrote that I was willing to give Orridge another chance at the urging of those in the CFL office, most of whom I still have profound respect for. They're great soldiers.
10 - It should be pointed out that I still haven't received any word from the CFL office about booting me from CFL.ca. The word actually came down from two separate Roughrider staffers over the past couple of weeks. One said, "They're going in another direction with some younger writers" while the other said, "The decision came from the CFL hierarchy. The Commissioner and his P.R. guy don't like you very much".
That's hardly surprising, given the tone of my columns, and I greeted the news with a shrug of the shoulders.
However it spread like wildfire across the CFL over the weekend and even one Eskimo coach laughed before Sunday's game, saying "Look at you making the news again!" as he shook my hand.
The "firing" even brought these responses from some of the Hall of Fame media who cover the CFL:
11 - That last one was my personal favourite, from Zig Fracassi of Sirius NFL Radio in New York. My beliefs are simply that I only want to write for - and broadcast to - Roughriders fans. What other teams - or fans of other teams - think about my opinions isn't something I care about.
I spend the off-season travelling thousands upon thousands of miles across this province greeting Rider fans at sports dinners and appearances and always try to portray the franchise in a good light. So many have said, "Thanks for sticking up for the Roughriders".
The fans really are what it's all about, and reporting on the Riders for them is what gets me out of bed each morning. But I'm not a journalist. Never was and don't profess to be. Don't want to be.
I've carved out my own style over a 25-year career and if people want to label it as an "entertainer", that's up to them. There aren't many guys on the continent doing what I do, but it's a helluva lot of fun.
So, again, when Orridge made the statement on August 12 that the Roughriders "compromised the reputation of the CFL", I took great offense to it and still do.
I have a mandate, the full support of my bosses, and that's all I care about.
12 - The only thing that stung out of all this was when my daughter said Sunday evening, "Dad, did you get fired from the CFL because that's what I heard?" I had to give her the background and make her realize that, no, her Dad didn't lose his job. NBD.
13 - That's all I've got today because I have to prepare for a very important speech I'm giving at Tuesday's Recovery Luncheon in Regina plus a couple of school presentations, media appearances and of course MY JOB. This blog continues to be just a fun sideline.
THANKS FOR LISTENING,