The Riders have to win ugly, just like they did last Thursday, in order to have any legitimate shot at getting to Grey Cup 2018. Head Coach Chris Jones has even said that a home playoff game is a must to get there. With Zach Collaros on the shelf until at least close to Labour Day and no better options than Brandon Bridge available, it’s going to be up to Charleston Hughes, Zach Evans, Ed Gainey and the rest of Gang Green on defense to hang the Riders in there long enough for a shot at the end. It happens in the NFL from time to time but it hasn’t happened in our league for at least the past 40 years. This model of a good run game and great defense driving the bus truly goes against the grain of conventional CFL thinking. It's perfect for Chris Jones to show he can win HIS way.
2. SIMPLE PLAYBOOK DANGEROUS FOR WATFORD: Not surprisingly, the Riders have kept it simple for David Watford each time he’s been in. “Check your first read and if you don’t see what you like, tuck it under and run or throw it away” has been the order of the day when Watford has been under centre. It seems like a logical approach to keep a raw rookie from being overwhelmed by too much, too fast. But the KIS (Keep It Simple) method has its risks too. Many a quarterback have been ruined by developing bad habits early on and relying too much on their athletic ability. A perfect example comes from the 1993 NFL draft. Number 1 overall pick Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots struggled to learn the complicated playbook thrown at him by coach Bill Parcells and struggled mightily in his rookie year while the Seattle Seahawks kept it simple for number 2 pick Rick Mirer who put up slightly better numbers in his first year. But from there, Bledsoe blossomed and Mirer tanked. Lesson learned: Give a rookie too many outs and he’ll take them to his own detriment. Make him take a few chances. Push him out of his comfort zone. Keep him on his toes and learning new things.
3. CRITICISM OF CHRIS JONES OVER FRANKLIN WARRANTED: The Riders fight to stay relevant without a strong quarterback can be blamed on their General Manager to some extent. Nobody can blame Chris Jones for Zach Collaros being concussed but the Roughrider boss failed to land a young stud-in-the-making who led the Argos to victory over a pretty good Edmonton team on Saturday. I asked Arash Madani on the Sportscage if Jones is open to criticism for not making a bigger play for Franklin in the offseason to which he said ‘no’. That may be true but there’s no question that if Franklin and the Argos roll from here, that slippage of allowing Franklin to be the “one that got away” will be dissected for many moons to come.
4. MORE THURSDAY GAMES PLEASE: I grew up around farmers and they won’t like this but I think more Thursday night home games in the summer would be terrific. A good number of us have our weekends in July and August booked up with plans and a Thursday night game accommodates all of that brilliantly. I don’t expect to see a lot of it but once or twice a year going forward would be just fine.
5. TIME FOR LULAY IN B.C.: The Leos season turned into a disaster when Travis Lulay got hurt last year and they really haven’t had much glory since he hurt his shoulder all those years ago. Quarterback Jonathon Jennings said in training camp he was hurt last season but things would be better this year. It sure didn’t look that way in Winnipeg Saturday night. Lulay came through for Wally Buono in his first swan song and maybe he can do it again in his last. And besides, does anyone trying to solve the Lions problems have a better idea?
6. REGINA RED SOX CANNOT SOLVE THE BEAVERS: Not withstanding their 2 losses out of 3 games over the weekend, the Sox have been the hottest Saskatchewan team in the Western Major Baseball League since the middle of June. The only problem is the road to the league finals will almost certainly go through Weyburn where the first-place Beavers have beaten the Red Sox in each of their 5 meetings this season and they’ve usually laid a lickin. Even a 500ish record against Weyburn would have Regina within striking distance of the division lead. They’ll get 3 more cracks at it but if Manager Mitch MacDonald and company can’t crack this nut, the Sox will be relying on Swift Current or Moose Jaw to pull a first round upset in order to have any real path to the title. And hoping for other teams to do your dirty work just plain stinks.
7. ACCESS COMMUNICATIONS HITS IT OUTTA THE PARK: Such a treat to have Access Channel 7 broadcast the last 2 Red Sox games live on their Facebook page including Monday night’s game versus the Moose Jaw Miller Express! The Red Sox and I have been inundated with thank yous from fans, players and their friends/families from all over North America. And while the broadcasters (Leo MacDonald and I) have been mediocre at best, the camera and sound production from Graham Condo, Spencer Burridge, Leland, and the entire Access crew has been spot on. Refreshing to have elite local sports in Regina we can watch other than just football or hockey.
8. TO ALL RUNNERS OUT THERE: Spent my weekend in the Rocky Mountains of Blairmore, Alberta with a running crew from Regina who invited/suckered me into doing the final leg of the Sinister 7-person relay race through the mountains. As I learned the hard way, there's nothing like a 10.9 km jog in the middle of the night to remind you of just how fat and out of shape you are. But what really struck me was teammates Derek Anaquod and John Paradowski being crazy enough to want to try and do the entire 161 km journey themselves. Amy Carlson finished the first leg and instead of grabbing a tub and Epsom salts, rushed around to help those 2 cowboys re-fuel at every pit-stop along the way. Once Derek finished the course some 25 hours later, he dropped into a chair and instead of celebrating this amazing feat, looked at me and asked how my first sinister went. Unbelievable. Runners do all the work and get almost none of the glory (so pretty well the opposite of us broadcasters). It’s that insane Mark McMorris-like love of the sport we talked about back in February that keeps them all grinding it out day after day. Runners truly are the elite of the blue-collar athletes.
9. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO...: The Hillbilly Vac Shack Gorilla at the corner of Victoria and Sask Drive? Never see him anymore. Miss that face!
10.BOOK/DOCUMENTARY OF THE WEEK: Now that I’ve come to conclusion we don’t need fighting in hockey at all, I see fit to once again suggest you watch the film “Ice Guardians”. The 2016 Brett Harvey film offers what I would call the only and perhaps last compelling argument to keep fighting in the game. Kelly Chase, Clark Gillies and Jeff Marek offer a very convincing viewpoint as how the game has changed for the worse and how fighting might be the way to fix it.
(Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendanhowardmc)