The Cats and the Hats

I’m going to interrupt my own fishing story here to mention two unrelated things.

First, the Ticats lost to the Roughriders on Saturday afternoon, but miracle of miracles, the Tabbies were in the game right up until the end against the Grey Cup Champs. Games in which the hometown side meaningfully participates have been kind of rare around here for the last few years, and especially so in the early months of the season. As this highlight package shows, the ‘Cats battled back after being down by more than a touchdown on a couple of occasions, and they actually had the lead with a minute and a half to go. The visiting champs, though, had luck on their side – a first quarter field goal that followed a glide path designed by M.C. Escher, a critical second quarter fumble in the so-called “red zone” by the hometown monster-back Jesse Lumsden, a series of ill-timed penalties that got the visitors a major late in the first half, and finally, an incredibly obvious blown call by the officials that sealed the Ticats’ fate. Jykine Bradley‘s hustle and effort to chase down the ‘Rider player from behind (the guy who was seemingly on his way in to the end zone unchallenged for the winning score), punching the ball out to cause a fumble – that was an amazing feat of determination. It’s a shame that the official who was standing right there blew the call so badly. That guy’s buddies should get a refrigerator-sized enlargement of a picture showing him with his arms upraised and signalling “touchdown”, with the ball clearly being fumbled by the Saskatchewan ball carrier – and post it on a wall across from the guy’s house for the next six years, just to remind him what a colossal fuck-up he committed. Although there were reasons for concern – one might legitimately point out that the Ticats could have won the game if they were simply able to make another first down, and that it might have been possible to choose a more inventive play than “Lumsden up the middle” on second and four with the game on the line and everybody in the building expecting Jesse to get the ball. One might also point out that the ‘Riders might have had the winning touchdown if their slotback hadn’t tripped and fallen when he was wide open on the second-last set of downs run by the Green Riders’ offence, or that a six-yard completion on second down with a minute and a half left should NOT be permitted by the Ticats’ defence to turn in to a sixty yard pass and run touchdown play in that situation.

It says here though that – all things considered – these criticisms would be nothing more than nitpicking right now. Instead, there are a great many positives to be taken from Saturday’s game: the play of Lyle C. “Tre” Smith (his kick returns alone were a major factor in the game, consistently giving the Steeltowners excellent starting field position), the determination of a defence that rose to the occasion on several key series to derail the ‘Riders’ offence, create two-and-outs and give the offence a short field to work on, and little things like (in addition to Bradley’s play) the play of DB Chris Thompson, who in addition to hustling back to force a Saskatchewan receiver to drop a sure touchdown in the endzone, made a timely interception on the play immediately following a Ticats turnover. The bottom line is that the game was thoroughly entertaining, and Spouse and I haven’t felt so engaged by a Hamilton team in the three years we’ve been going to games together; these guys are hustling and playing like they believe they can win. Let’s hope they do win a few, but I will gladly go back to watch another game like the one Spouse and I saw on Saturday, win or lose.

A couple of quick photos – here’s one of Jesse taking the ball off tackle right.

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Here’s my favourite picture of the day; a nice-enough looking lady, likely somebody’s grandma, decked out in her proper finery – including yellow hat with a giant “Argos Suck” button affixed to the brim:

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Second, it was my birthday today and I have an update for you on this post. You may recall that I whined somewhat about the fact that I was destined to be operating the new tractor without a suitable chapeau. Well, Spouse is apparently many things, including an attentive reader: she came through in flying colours and when I awoke to her dulcet tones imploring me to have a Happy Birthday this morning, the accompanying bag o’ gifts included (amongst other tractor-related swag) one green ball cap emblazoned with the J.D. logo. I was almost sorry I had cut the lawn yesterday, denying me the chance to saddle up immediately with my new haberdashery.

Spouse headed off to the barn to ride Ralph, and Popeye and I headed down to the road to pick up the mail from the box. When I reached in and retrieved the day’s delivery, there was a letter from the tractor manufacturer.  It was a letter of thanks for purchasing a JD, and enclosing a little coupon redeemable for a fitting token expression of the gratitude of the John Deere company of Moline, Illinois.

The coupon may be exchanged for a free green and yellow “John Deere” ball cap.

Roughies Poetry Contest, v. 2.0 (or is that Roughies Poetry Contest ME ?)

You may recall when I did this:

Announcing today, the First Annual HiR:tb Saskatchewan Roughriders Poetry Contest. Entries may assume any lyrical or poetic form; your creativity should know no bounds in this matter. Send us your haikus, your limericks, your sonnets and couplets; gather together your spondees, trochees and whatever pentameter you can scrape together, be it iambic or otherwise, and bend all of these elements to your noble purpose: the celebration of anything related to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Difficulty: No rhyming the word “Regina”. I’m trying to keep this place relatively clean-like.

The total number of submissions received so far, according to the crack combined Accounting, Correspondence and Bottle Return Department (3rd floor, past the washroom, in the back behind the photocopier) is, to say the least, rather underwhelming: zero.

Accordingly, I have decided to extend the deadline for the competition; originally, there was a cut-off date of March 10th, 2008. That deadline has been extended to March 31st, 2008. Submissions should be sent here. In the meantime, I thought I’d offer you up a l’il sumpin’ sumpin’ to get the creative juices flowing. I have crafted a limerick.

Ahem. “A po-em”:

There was a young ‘Rider it seems
Who’d satisfied championship dreams
But his grace on the field
To profits must yield,
To the Argos you’re off now, switch teams!

Readers are responsible for dealing with their own tears, be they of joy, sadness or shame.

Update: (March 11, 2008):   I am sworn to secrecy, but verily my limerick has prompted a veritable outporing of creativity.  Okay, maybe not so much an “outporing”, but we do have a submission.  So don’t be shy – you won’t be the first any longer.

WTF, Roughies?

TSN is reporting tonight that the Saskatchewan Roughriders have traded last year’s Most Outstanding Player in the CFL, quarterback Kerry Joseph, to the Toronto Argonauts.

That trade is a little weird from a couple of perspectives. Who trades the reigning Most Outstanding Player? Secondly, the Boatmen just finished resolving a quarterback controversy last year, when Michael Bishop (apparently permanently) inherited the reins of the Argonaut offence from All-Time-All-World-All-Star Damon Allen, who seemed to finally succumb to the laws of the universe and began showing his age. Result? Seems to me that the Boatmen have a logjam in the pivot position again.

Meanwhile, the new Tiger Cats GM Bob O’Billovich has been quietly making a number of signings and trades – receivers, receivers, defensive backs and a running back. So far, I am impressed – but a little disappointed that defensive back Dwight Anderson has been released – Spouse and I bought Ticats jerseys late last year, and Spouse couldn’t decide between Richie Williams’ number and Anderson’s 28. I made the executive decision that it was poor form to purchase the third string quarterback’s jersey, so the order went in for an Anderson. I am convinced the Cats are going to be a better team this year. Whether or not they make the playoffs, I think, has more to do with how improved Montreal is over last year. The improvement in Montreal is probably most highly dependent on Anthony Calvillo’s situation – he left the team late last year because his wife was seriously ill.

The first time Spouse wore it to a game, he promptly got involved in an on-field donnybrook with some Saskatchewan Roughriders, got thrown out of the game and following a confrontation with the Head Coach Charlie Taafe, was let go.

Update:  Spouse points out to me that I’m an idiot – Anderson wore number 20 – Lumsden is #28.  Good thing she’s around to identify my idiocy.

Now soliciting submissions…

I happened to check the stats for the site earlier today, ’cause I’m like that. One area of my little WordPress dashboard stats screen caught my attention, the area showing what terms people were searching on when they landed here at HiR:tb. Here’s a screen cap:

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Announcing today, the First Annual HiR:tb Saskatchewan Roughriders Poetry Contest. Entries may assume any lyrical or poetic form; your creativity should know no bounds in this matter. Send us your haikus, your limericks, your sonnets and couplets; gather together your spondees, trochees and whatever pentameter you can scrape together, be it iambic or otherwise, and bend all of these elements to your noble purpose: the celebration of anything related to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Difficulty: No rhyming the word “Regina”. I’m trying to keep this place relatively clean-like.

I will arbitrarily set a deadline for entries – let’s say entries must be received no later than March 10th, 2008 – and I’ll pick a winner in whatever capricious manner I can dream up. There might even be some kind of a lame prize, if I feel sufficiently moved by your Roughrider Rhapsodies. Email your entries here.

Come on gang, let’s not disappoint the troubled soul searching for a “Saskatchewan Roughriders Poem”.

The Flame in the Big Smoke

The Flame made an appearance on CBC Sunday this morning! Talk about momentous occasions. It’s a little hard to actually see the plume of flame pouring out of the torch on top of his football helmet, but this is the best I could do with limited video colour correction skillz.

It Isn’t Easy Being Green.

The return of the Grey Cup game to Toronto after a 15 year absence is one of the very strong storylines underlying Sunday’s Winnipeg vs. Saskatchewan match for the CFL championship. 

Stephen Brunt, in his usual excellent fashion, has written a piece on Hogtown’s curious relationship with the Grey Cup game.  In addition to making many salient points concerning Toronto’s persistent ambivalence about the Grey Cup, Brunt captures in a few paragraphs the very essence of the Rider fans:

At its heart, the appeal of spectator sport is a celebration of kith and kin and community. But long ago, because of cargo-cult loyalties built over great distances by television, because of professional athletes being freed to ply their trade where they want, the whole notion of rooting for the home team was often reduced to an abstract.

For the ‘Riders, for their fans in the province, and for the great green diaspora (Saskatchewanians in exile run head-to-head with displaced Newfoundlanders in this country, and both places belong in any discussion of distinct societies), the relationship remains intact, remains as real as any in sport, anywhere.

To be in the company of ‘Rider fans is to be reminded why you ever gave a damn about a team, about a player, about a uniform, in the first place. Not sports marketing or game presentation or brand loyalty, but our guys versus their guys, joy and agony experienced in the company of those who share a place, a background, and a passion.

Brunt has managed to say exactly what I was trying to get at (on the subject of the sheer awesomeness of ‘Rider fans) in my previous post on the game.  I guess that’s why he writes for The Globe and I just hack away at my computer, spewing stuff into the anonymous ether.   

The point is that it is going to be tough for anyone without a direct fan affiliation to either team to root for the Bombers;  yes, they have a compelling “win one for the Glenn-er” kind of angle going for them, and an inexperienced but aw-shucks kind of quarterback desperately and valiantly trying to fill the hole when his teammates need him, but come on.  To root for the Bombers is to root for the disappointment of an entire seething green mass of people to whom this game matters, and to whom it has mattered since long before they ever got here.   I don’t think I can, in good conscience, participate in hoping that all those great fans – a throwback to a mostly bygone era in the world of professional sports today – go home as glum as they are green.

All of that aside, I still think Stephen Brunt’s bit might have been improved by a reference to Gainer the Gopher.

Coupe Grey 2007

Fire in the HOLE!I can’t let the 2007 CFL season pass on without commenting on the upcoming Grey Cup game – next Sunday in Toronto at the Don’t-Call-Me-Skydome-Anymore Rogers Centre.

Obviously, as a Ticats season ticket holder, I would prefer that the Hamiltonians would be present and oski-ing our collective wee wee.  It was fairly obvious, however, following about Game 4 of this illustrious season that there was naught but a chance in hell about that.  My thoughts have subsequently turned to the following monumentally important question:  “For whom shall I root during The Game?” 

I decided pretty early on this summer that I would like to see  the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers play for the Grey Cup, an eventuality that has come to pass as a result of yesterday’s Western Final in Vancouver and the Eastern Final in Toronto.  

Now my choice from the West is undoubtedly completely unsurprising to anyone who knows me, because I confess to an odd fascination over time with our Nation’s wheat basket;  I don’t know if my fondness for the province was preceded by, or in the alternative caused by, my predisposition towards Kelvington’s Wendel Clark.   The exact sequence of events in this regard is perhaps doomed to remain shrouded in mystery by the mists of time.  Even if I weren’t a little loco about our most geometric province, though, Saskatchewan is such an easy team for pretty much anybody to pull for in the West.  How can you not like the Green Riders with:

  • this year’s probable Most Outstanding Player, Kerry Joseph
  • their chronic lack of success in the Big Dance (2-13 in the game all-time);
  • a giant gopher named “Gainer” as their mascot;
  • the level of fan support they enjoy despite playing ONE (1) home playoff game since 1988; and
  • a fan like “The Flame” (pictured above) who used to travel around with the team and from whose homemade incendiary headgear fireworks and flames would emanate on the occasion of every ‘Riders score (how’s THAT for fan devotion, fat guys wearing pig noses in Washington D.C., fat guys wearing dog ears in Cleveland and fat guys in Viking helmets in Minnesota?)