A RIDER DOZEN QUICK HITS
1 - WELL THAT SUCKED: The second last-ever game at Taylor Field was one nobody will care to remember other than Vernon Adams and the Montreal Alouettes. Amid cold, pouring rains on Saturday, the Alouettes snapped the Saskatchewan Roughriders' four game winning streak with a 19-14 victory in Adams' first pro start.
Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones was as nauseated as anybody, labelling the performance a "step back" rather than a simple bump in the road, and lamented the fact the Riders' offense didn't wake up until the fourth quarter.
The Riders are rightfully livid too at the non-call on the helmet-to-helmet hit by Montreal linebacker Winston Venable on Rider running back Joe McKnight on the game's final play which, if called correctly, would've given the Riders 15 yards, a first down, and one more play from deep in Montreal territory with 0:00 on the clock.
But the simple fact is the Riders were beaten by a 4-11 team whose quarterback was making his first pro start, and the game shouldn't have come down to a blown call. It was the Riders' poorest showing since August.
2 - CONSPIRACY? WHAT CONSPIRACY?: The non-call on Venable was just the latest in a series of officiating foibles in the CFL. Nobody's madder than Hamilton Coach Kent Austin for calls which haven't gone their way lately. There's no conspiracy. It's just been inconsistent for all nine teams.
The Venable hit could be shown in the text book of officiating for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit, and major foul. It's inexcusable that it was missed.
Meanwhile sources within the officiating fraternity tell me that Austin is the hardest on CFL referees amongst head coaches. And furthermore, the refs don't like having multiple voices in their headsets while they're trying to call the games.
The whole officiating system in the CFL seems haywire this season and it's unlikely to be corrected until this winter.
3 - DON'T MESS WITH THE BULL: An eyewitness in the stands behind the Rider bench Saturday night told me that after the game, Chris Jones had some choice words for a Rider fan who voiced his displeasure with the team's performance.
The guy who told me this thought it was a poor display of sportsmanship by Jones but frankly I don't have a problem with it at all.
Paying your money for a ticket gives you the right to do and say pretty much whatever you want. However if you get in the face of the coach or a player, don't be shocked if you get it right back.
If you mess with the bull, you get the horn.
4 - SO HERE IT IS: From the moment that plans for the Farewell Season were unveiled by the Roughriders last winter, our attention immediately turned to the final game which, after a very long road, is finally here.
The last-ever Rider game at Taylor Field is this Saturday against the B.C. Lions in a 5:00 kickoff. I get chills just thinking about it, and have for months.
The early forecast for the day is 6 degrees Celsius and cloudy, but you can expect that to fluctuate throughout the week as kickoff approaches.
Remarkably, to date the game is not yet sold-out which is mind-boggling when you consider what the Riders will have in store to send off the Grand Ol' Lady in style.
Remember the last-ever game at Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum in the spring? It was incredible.
But Saturday's Roughrider pregame, halftime and postgame ceremonies will be at least as big, and will offer enough memories to last a lifetime.
I expect to be extremely choked up at the end of the broadcast.
5 - SO WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN?: I'll admit that at this point, I'm not sure. I've purposely covered my ears and ignored the whispers and rumours about what the Roughriders have planned all season long. We know the Riders will feature some of Saskatchewan's biggest names in the world of music, including Canadian country star Jess Moskaluke.
What alumni are coming back? What video tributes will be shown? How long will the postgame celebration be and what exactly will go on?
My guess is as good as yours. However beginning with Monday's SportsCage on 620 CKRM, Rider personnel will come on the air to outline the festivities.
In the words of the immortal John Lynch, "It's just going to be fantastic!"
6 - CHEVY RUNS DEEP: What a great story the signing of long-time long-snapper Randy Chevrier by the Roughriders is. The 40-year old Montreal product is in the 16th season of his colourful pro career which has included stints with the Jaguars, Cowboys, Bengals, Jets, Dragons, Eskimos, Stampeders, and now, Roughriders.
Rarely has the signing of a long-snapper garnered so many headlines, but he was brought in due to the sudden retirement of current Rider deep-snapper Dan McDonald (concussions).
In those bitter, nasty feuds between the Riders and Stampeders over the last decade, Chevrier was right there in the middle of it pouring out blood, sweat and tears while wearing Red & White.
He hated the Roughriders. And now he's one of them.
"This is the best place to play as the enemy," Chevrier said on Friday. "Now I'm getting an opportunity to see what it's like on the other side of the curtain. For me, speaking as a CFL fan, the Riders are that team. If you played hockey, you wanted to play for the Canadiens. If you played baseball, you wanted to play for the Yankees.
"I believe that the Riders have that mystique in the CFL and as much I'd have hated to admit it - being a bitter enemy - I'm excited. It doesn't matter that the Riders are out of the playoffs. Somebody's going to show up to turn the lights on, somebody's going to show up to sell beer and popcorn, and people are going to be here to cheer. That's reason enough to compete."
A marketing whiz couldn't have written a better tribute to the Saskatchewan Roughriders than what Randy did off the cuff on Friday.
And although Chevrier's school-aged son cried on Thursday when he heard his Dad is going to be a Roughrider, the opportunity that lays ahead for him has not been lost.
Chevrier has the chance to close Canada's football shrine as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
After that, who knows?
But he's going to soak in every single historic second of the next two weeks.
7 - QUOTABLE: Speaking with someone in the field of sports medicine last week, he told me he figures there are two main reasons why injuries are wayyyy up in pro football over the past couple of years: 1) Players aren't as tough as they used to be, and many won't play unless they're 100% and 2) Concussions have only been diagnosed and taken seriously over the past few seasons as opposed to years ago when players just "got their bell wrung" and were sent right back out on the field. Now if there's a hint of a concussion, that player is taken out of the game immediately.
8 - WINTER CLASSIC TAKEAWAY: We had the television broadcast of the NHL's Winter Classic alumni game from Winnipeg on in the broadcast booth Saturday during the Rider game. The only thing I took out of it was a good news/bad news scenario for Winnipeg.
The good news: Dale Hawerchuk's Jets beat Wayne Gretzky's Oilers 7-6.
The bad news: It's not 1985!
These outdoor games will be great until a superstar catches his skate in a rut and tears an ACL. That's what ended my playing career! (Rec career that is!)
9 - GO PATS GO: In the summertime we said that this was going to be the best season of Regina Pats hockey in over 30 years and the numbers are already starting to prove it. Regina's 9-0-3 start is their best since 1984 when they went all the way to the WHL Final.
The club's #2 ranking in the nation is their highest since the inception of the CHL Top 10 and further proof that this one of the best Pats teams ever.
The talent on this John Paddock club is simply breathtaking and while watching Friday's 4-2 win over Spokane, my heart literally skipped a beat when the Pats were on the powerplay. They're a dominant club when it's 5-on-5, but when they're on the man advantage they control a game as good as any team I've ever seen in junior hockey.
The only bad news is that the Pats don't play again until they host the Seattle Thunderbirds next Sunday at 4:00 pm on 620 CKRM.
With the Rider season petering out, it's time this town sat up and paid attention to the Regina Pats and University of Regina Rams.
10 - THE WORLD SERIES: Many in this country have turned away from baseball since the Blue Jays bowed out last week but I suspect many will be tuned back in for the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians for Game 1 on Tuesday.
I don't know enough about it to make a prediction, but a clash between two long-suffering franchises will make for must-see TV.
I'll be pulling for the Indians for two reasons: 1) The movie Major League put the Indians in a corner of all our hearts and 2) Scruffy will be rooting his guts out for the Cubs.
He's too easy to rile up!
11 - 6-6: Still like the NFL over the CFL? Last night's Sunday Night Football game featured a 6-6 tie between Seattle and Arizona. Barf!
All that shows is each league has its share of great games, plus its share of dogs.
12 - AT THE MOVIES: We took the chance on Sunday's day off to hit up a doubleheader at Cineplex Odeon Theatre in the Southland Mall. Our viewing choices? The Girl On The Train and The Accountant.
They both get the thumbs-up from the MMG, but whichever one you choose will be up to your viewing tastes. The Girl On The Train was a twister of a plot and while all the girls in my house had read the best-selling book, they didn't spoil the ending for me. It was a doozy!
And the early stages of The Accountant didn't seem like your typical Ben Affleck movie however by the middle of it, it became a shoot-'em-up thriller. It's little surprise that it's the #1 movie in North America right now.
Get out and see them!
13 - THE HITS KEEP COMING: This website will achieve 17-million all-time hits over the course of the next 24 hours. That's quite something for a little old blog from Regina which featured its first post back on March 19, 2006.
All I can say is THANK YOU and I'm grateful you keep coming back.
THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY. ENJOY FAREWELL WEEK!