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Monday, March 26, 2018

THROWIN' ELBOWS WITH BRENDAN MCGUIRE

1 – WHY DURON IS A CFL LIFER: Since tailgating prior to a December Rams-Eagles game outside the LA Coliseum back in December, I’ve been searching for the reasons Duron Carter isn’t playing in the NFL. I was asked by no less than 2 separate groups of fans we met with from Philadelphia about this YouTube sensation they’ve been hearing so much about.

He’s obviously good enough to play down there and command a heavy raise. His dad—Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter—discusses Duron almost weekly in front of millions of TV viewers. So how on earth is he stuck here in the 306?

It’s because the CFL is loosey-goosey with its work days for both players and coaches in comparison to the NFL. Down there, a 12-hour shift 6 days a week during a season is the norm. Up here, it’s 4.5 hours per day max. Duron fits our mold better than theirs and it’s a lifestyle choice for him and other players like Nate Davis who just fit our way of doing business better than the robotic round-the-clock stuff down there. I don’t say that critically. Some guys perform better on game day when they’re having fun and those are guys the CFL has done really well with.

2 – RETIREMENT OF RIDERS’ ONTKO SHOULDN’T CAUSE HYSTERIA: Get comfy with the football concussion discussion because it’s not going away anytime soon. Lately, it seems to be creeping into CFL discussions every week with lawsuits, CTE found in ex-football players brains and now the retirement of 26-year-old Roughrider linebacker Cameron Ontko. Now he didn’t point the finger at concussions directly but he did cite health risks for factoring into his decision to walk away.

It’s a great discussion that should be front and centre and thank goodness it finally is. But again, until we find a large sample of regular Joe’s brains and determine how many of them have CTE or other concussion-related problems, we still have no idea how dangerous football really is or isn’t.  I suspect the violent parts of the game will continue to be phased out until we get a better understanding which is years and probably even decades away.

For now, I’ll keep watching.

3 – WILDER FINDING NO LOVE FROM OTHER PLAYERS: Bumped into star linebacker Kyries Hebert at CFL Week in Winnipeg. Seeing James Wilder (fresh off his contract extension which roughly doubled his salary), I saw fit to ask Hebert if he had any sympathy for Wilder being locked in with the Argonauts and unable to test his wares in the NFL.

Hebert had a very similar situation early in his career when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers wouldn’t let him sign with the Cincinnati Bengals. His response: No sympathy for Wilder.

Kyries argues his scenario was an apples to oranges comparison since he signed with the Ottawa Renegades just weeks before they folded and was given a letter stating he was free to sign with an NFL team. As for Wilder’s earlier offseason complaining and threats to sit out the season, “He knew the terms of the contract when he signed it.” Hebert said. Case closed.

And by the way, Wilder was showing off his own clothing brand about 10 feet away from us which shouldn’t bother anyone at all but when he compares his football salary to his construction job salary in Texas, it is a little misleading.

4 – MORE IMMIGRANT FANS KEY TO REVIVING CFL’S BIG THREE: So what did the Canadian Football League really get out of this CFL Week other than appeasing some media and nerdy diehard football fans like those of us who went? Well, it got some exposure on print and broadcast radio in Western Canada along with some goodwill with young fans who get to meet some of their heroes in the autograph signings.

The real elephant in the room for these conversations with the league isn’t about how to make things cook in the CFL’s small prairie markets. It’s what to do about Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver?

The solution: More immigrant fans.

Solving the question of how to expose this great game through the schools, pubs and other businesses in Big City Canada is what will ultimately decide the direction of the league.  But as we learned in the late 80’s and early 90’s, this league cannot survive long-term without Montreal. And if it can’t survive without Montreal, then it sure as hell won’t survive without Toronto and Vancouver either.

5 – SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS—NOT PATS—FACING ALL THE PRESSURE: So many assume the Regina Pats feel all of this pressure to do well in the playoffs because they’re hosting the Memorial Cup. Some of that is probably true but from someone who has no dog in the race (The legendary Rob Carnie turned me into a Moose Jaw Warrior fan growing up), consider the scenario for Speedy Creek:

You blew a 3-1 series lead - including a 2-goal lead in Game 6 - to the Pats in a matchup you should have been able to close out last year. And even with Monday night’s Swift Current win, you’re still in the fight of your life with a team you’re supposed to beat this year. The thought of a hasty first-round playoff exit has to put an enormous amount of pressure on the young men playing for the Broncos and their coaching staff.

The Pats meanwhile get another chance in May, no matter what happens in this series. I picked Regina to win in 7 despite the Broncos early series lead but again, doesn’t matter to me as I have no skin in this game.

6 – NHL SHOULD DITCH LOSER POINT: I have to confess the Winnipeg Jets have caught my interest for the NHL once again as Sheena and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience Friday night at our first Jets game since their return nearly 7 years ago.

Although seeing the Ducks have possession in the offensive zone during overtime, only to carry the puck back to their own zone in trying to play keep-away and drain the clock for a shoot-out made me fume about what’s still wrong with the NHL.

A bigger problem might have been the fact the Jets fought like hell to pull out a shootout win over the Predators Sunday night but only gained a point on them in the standings. I think if the NHL had just made the changes necessary such as smaller pads, bigger nets and illegal defense instead of tip-toeing around with subtle changes like telling goaltenders not to play the puck in the hexagon behind the net (what a disgrace) and creating single points for teams who lose, we could all just go back to the way points were awarded for the first 85 years or so.

7 – NEW AMERICAN PRO FOOTBALL LEAGUE WILL FAIL, AGAIN: The Alliance of American Football is turning heads for the credibility it has with the likes of Pro Football Hall of Fame executive (and Cal Murphy’s old buddy) Bill Polian and Charlie Ebersol who created that great 30 for 30 on the XFL. But hearing Polian state that his model to follow is that of the old World League of American Football which later turned into NFL Europe, I cringed.

That league failed because the NFL was tired of losing millions on it and I have yet to hear one concrete argument from Polian, Ebersol or any of their investors as to why this will be any different. God love these guys for trying but if they really want to dabble in pro football ownership and are too small for the NFL, then they should simply invest in the CFL.

8 – FOOTBALL SCOUTING COMBINES ARE STILL A JOKE: Always skipped the CFL scouting combine thinking it would be boring. Then my pal Mark Whettel of Winnipeg Blue Bomber fandom offered me an extra ticket to tag along Saturday and so I did. I came out of it thinking …. pretty well the same thing. It’s all a farce. We don’t play the game in our underwear and so why on earth would we do the Combine with players in their underwear? And besides, are you really going to write someone off because they slipped in one of the drills on the slippery carpet of Winnipeg’s Convention Centre?

9 – BEST PART OF CFL WEEK: The historic artifacts they have started to trot out for this thing are impressive. This year they had a “1988 B.C. Lions Grey Cup Champions” hat. For those of you who are not obsessed with CFL history like I am, the B.C. Lions didn’t win the ’88 Grey Cup and instead blew it on a Matt Dunigan interception in the dying seconds. Usually, those hats end up somewhere in poor countries I’m told but this one somehow made its way back home.

10 – DOCUMENTARY/BOOK OF THE WEEK: Grabbed myself a copy of “The Hot Line” when touring a bookstore in the forks area of Winnipeg over the weekend. This read is all about the legendary trio of Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson transforming hockey through the WHA and leading the Winnipeg Jets to greatness. One look at those old school Jets jerseys that they wore for the Heritage Classic last year and I just couldn’t say no to buying the book. 

(Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendanhowardmc)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll watch a CFL combine any day rather than watching another overrated NHL hockey game. The NHL blows and the sooner people realize it the better

Anonymous said...

Awwwww, somebody's grumpy!!! Poor little guy!

Anonymous said...

CFL or construction salary? I'm still not sure which is better. That's why I follow the CFL. For the most part they play for the love of the game and get cost of living.
LF

Russell Cone said...

Brennan,

You should have gone Sunday and watched the one on ones.

Some great match ups.



Russ from Saskatoon

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Cameron Ontko cut by the Riders in the offseason? I'm guessing not getting any offers is the real reason for retiring and now he just needs attention.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't a fan of Mr. McGuire's work in his first two weeks, but he's come along nicely. Nice piece!

Anonymous said...

as per item #4...

New Canadian citizens aside, The CFL lost a whole generation of young fans in the 90's and early 2000's who's parents and grandparents built the fan-base and led golden years of the CFL (60's and 70's and most of the 80's). The lost generation of fans are now the fans with the biggest purchasing power and are making critical decisions as to where their sports entertainment money will go.

Having personally left Sask, I have witnessed first hand living in 2 other western CFL markets. The CFL is simply not that big of a deal. This may kill Rider fans to hear and it is a statement of fact. Whereas the NFL...you can't get a spot in a sports bar on a Monday night NFL game in any Canadian city no matter how irrelevant the teams are, there will be tables of millennials watching games and watching their fantasy leagues. My own kids do this! An average football fan from Canada who is a millenial would have trouble naming a receiver (probably not 2) on the Grey Cup champ Toronto Argonauts team without Googleing it. I bet they know who was the best fantasy dark horse receiver last season in the NFL! Look at the E-Sport rise! Don't even think this isn't a thing...NHL is even embracing it!

New Canadian citizens can't wait for an MLS game on TV or spend their money to catch a game live. Soccer is Canada's largest growing sport hands down. MLS matches bump CFL games on TV when the run late! Canadian basketball is on the rise due in part to the Raptors and development of Canadian stars. These are just 2 examples. New Canadian citizens are leading this charge and have zero historical reference to CFL football. Look at the cultural and age demographics of a MLS game in Vancouver/Montreal/Toronto vs CFL. Only in Sask is CFL football a 365 day a year phenomena for a majority of the population and its fans. Folks Rider Nation is made up hype! This hype is way smaller scale and probably more realistic in other Canadian markets. One may say 'well it should be more if they cared and they should care more.' There are other choices to spend entertainment money on and most non-Rider fan people currently choose the CFL near the bottom of the list of choices. Remember the Skydome during 1991 Argo games (no drapes)? Remember BC place in 1985 games (no curtains)? Remember Commonwealth in 1983 (no Board signs near the bottom)? Remember Sask in 1984 (except Labour Day)? We almost lost our team yet the league was strong. Times have reversed and unfortunately have changed. It's a different sports market now.

The CFL has a huge challenge ahead of it to make the game relevant to kids and specially 20 and 30 year olds. In 10 years...who are the fans going to be? This is a very serious question. I sure hope I don't see huge, tax dollar subsidized empty stadiums being paid for for generations like the "Big O" with nothing in them.



a very concerned 40+ year CFL fan...

Anonymous said...

Great read. Well written and well thought out Brendan!! Could teach Scruffy and Pedersen a few things......lol

B-Rad

Anonymous said...

That blowhard Obama Y'er Welcome is on here posting again we see/read, and long winded to boot. Good gracious me. He's now promoting soccer, what a dumbass.
PS, no such thing as Rider Nation, its RIDERVILLE! Always has been, always will be, forever RIDERVILLE!

Anonymous said...


B-rad is clue-less, I would rather read the thoughts of Pedersen and the old Scruffdog any day of the week.