Tuesday, July 17, 2018
THROWIN' ELBOWS WITH BRENDAN MCGUIRE
I’m hearing lots of belly-aching on the streets of Regina and it will only get worse if they lose in Hamilton on Thursday night. The team is in a quarterback mess and Chris Jones’s defense needs to keep bailing him out on this one.
2-NIK LEWIS BACK IN TOWN: Briefly chatted with both Lewis and Rider Defensive End Charleston Hughes at the Regina Red Sox doubleheader against Medicine Hat last Wednesday. And while I never did get around to asking Charleston if he liked Marshall Lerner’s idea of using the “Charleston Dance” for his sack song, I did manage to gather one small tidbit from Lewis. The CFL’s all-time receptions leader helped out as a guest coach in training camp before returning home to Texas to deal with an illness in the family. Now he’s back and ready for work. One would assume Chris Jones would find a role for his old pal but the talk of clamping down on staff sizes just might throw a wrench into that. I get the impression it’s not a question of Nik wanting to be with the Riders full-time but rather if the Riders want him.
3-WHY THE LIONS NEVER GAVE UP ON LULAY: No player in this league has been paid more to do less in the past 5 years than Travis Lulay. The Leos on-again off-again on-again starting quarterback made his 16th start since 2013 by following up a rusty first half with a spectacularly victorious finish Saturday in a 20-17 win over Winnipeg. Granted, Lulay's defense bailed him out with a couple of stands and a late critical turnover, but still! So why did they keep him around for so long after what appeared to be a career-ending shoulder injury late in 2013? Head Coach Wally Buono has always felt a kinship to Lulay. It was Travis who got Wally out of the mess that was Casey Printers in B.C. Part 2. It was Lulay who gave Wally his perfect ending in Wally’s swan song Part 1. It was Travis Lulay who kept coming back and battling every day, trying to get back no matter the circumstances of injury, who was at quarterback, or his own age (now 34). Wally never had the heart to cut him loose and Lulay loved the Lions and the game too much to walk away himself. They always felt like they needed each other and now we know why.
4-LIVE MIC A GREAT IDEA: Caught the second half to Friday night’s Edmonton-Toronto game featuring Jason Maas, Mike Reilly, Marc Trestman and James Franklin all mic’d up. Some are still scoffing at the gimmick, complaining it doesn’t give us much anyways. It doesn’t have to. Hearing Mike Reilly telling his centre how many yards behind him he is before taking a snap for the kneel-down and Marc Trestman confirming with his assistants about what play should be called on defense is good enough. TSN and the league deserve kudos for bringing us something different. When Access Communications does Regina Red Sox broadcasts, they mic up the home plate umpire and even place mics on the infield. It’s not something MLB broadcasts do much of, but that’s okay. It’s never a bad idea to have your own idea. These original ideas have gathered a great response from the audiences for the Access broadcasts too.
5-ARGO BOSSES HAVE NO IDEAS: Scanning the web Sunday, I noticed a CFL attendance ranking from the early going for the 2018 season. Only 5 weeks in and not surprisingly, the Argos are dead-last at 14,323. Defending Grey Cup champs and this is the best they can come up with out of the chute? It tells me what I’ve suspected all along which is that new team President Bill Manning under MLSE is more interested in name dropping and touting his own credentials as a soccer guy than he is with being proud of the Argos or promoting their brand. He takes credit for TFC becoming a business success even though it was Tim Leiweke who made those fans feel wanted and got the renos done for BMO Field to put a roof over the bleachers and save the Argos too. The Argonauts don’t need a name dropper. They need a strategy to connect with newcomers to Canada to match their fanbase to the growing diversity of the Greater Toronto Area. Too many grey-haired white guys at their events. That has to change. Where’s Pinball when you need him?
6-THOSE STREAKY REGINA RED SOX: They started the season 3-5,…then won 17 of their next 21,….before dropping 4 of their last 5 going into Monday night’s game vs the Melville Millionaires including a pair of shutout losses. They got a game-winning 2-run homer from newcomer Jahshua Jones Saturday on ‘Terry Puhl Night’ in Melville but it remains to be seen if this Red Sox squad is as balanced as we’ve believed them to be or if we’re in line for another late season meltdown like in each of the past 2 years. Their new bats need to heat up in these final 2 weeks or she’ll be a quick postseason exit once again.
7-TERRY PUHL DAY IN MELVILLE: There's lots of great pictures online of the naming of a street after Houston Astros legend and Melville’s own Terry Puhl Saturday. Even saw some great looking Astros jerseys that said “Mils” across the front. I remain astonished that a small town the size of Melville dares to compete with the likes of Edmonton, Okotoks or even Regina on any sports level. I came into my broadcasting role with the league thinking it could do without Melville. I have since changed my tune and have fallen in love with the unique brand, history and spirit of the Melville Millionaires. They truly are Western Canada’s answer to the “Moneyball” movie though I’m not sure Brad Pitt will be making any stops there this summer.
8-TROUBLE IN PARADISE/SWIFT CURRENT: What was supposed to be an easy transition to Ryan Smith as the new Head Coach of the Swift Current Broncos didn’t pan out that way and now that a new guy (Dean Brockman) is coming in, Smith is quitting, scouts are quitting and it sounds like a bunch of them are mad. It sure didn’t take long for the milk to go sour over there! I would normally criticize such pettiness but when you build a champion (like that crew did) you deserve to leave on your own terms. They have all earned that right though I’m not sure Ryan Smith is going to find a better job than the one he already had (Associate Coach) in Swift Current.
9-ALLIANCE OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL: This league will cost at least $80/million dollars to run its first year of operations and when news leaked out this week that they would guarantee contracts for up to 3 seasons, my jaw nearly hit the floor. This will present serious problems for the CFL to recruit top American talent, that is if they (The Alliance) ever play a down, or get past their first season. The problem with this crew of football purists running the league is that they think the XFL was ruined by the WWE guys. WRONG! The WWE guys like Vince McMahon were the only thing giving it a fighting chance. Crappier NFL won’t sell to the American public already oversaturated with sports on TV.
10-DOCUMENTARY/BOOK OF THE WEEK: THE PHENOMENON: PRESSURE, THE YIPS, AND THE PITCH THAT CHANGED MY LIFE by Rick Ankiel stories his journey from misfit Major League pitcher to 7 more years in the minors and ultimately starting rightfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Hard to top this one for anyone who has tried to reinvent themselves for a comeback on or off the diamond.
(Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendanhowardmc)