Everyone else in cyberspace on both sides of the border is talking about it, so why not us? The elephant in the room that CFL and NFL brain trusts appear powerlessness to address and barely able to address this season is low viewership ratings.
Now, the South doesn’t know exactly what CFL it is that Canadian (and devoted Americans) aren’t watching this season, but we must be tuned in to something completely different. I mean, just look at the possibilities for what’s set to be an intense playoff run to the Grey Cup this year; with two weeks to go, just one of the six playoff spots is set, and all but one of the remaining games on the slate – this week’s Calgary at Montreal game – has playoff implications. We literally likely will not know a single first-round playoff matchup until the final seconds tick off the clock in BC on Saturday after next. How can any football fan not be on the edge of his/her seat?
For those who, I don’t know, were watching the Blue Jays all autumn, all you’ve missed is the amazing resurgence of the surprisingly never-say-die Winnipeg Blue Bombers; a pair of titanic October battles between the Ottawa RedBlacks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats; BC Lions fielding perhaps the most dominating defensive twosome the CFL has ever seen; the Edmonton Eskimos running a gauntlet of competition on the way to defended their title; and the continuing evolution of a future champion-in-the-making in Saskatchewan.
Oh, and then there’s the historically great Calgary Stampeders, who’ve produced four stirring victories of the sort that are making NFL execs saddled with a long line of Thursday night and Sunday night duds positively Riders Green with envy.
Folks, you don’t know what you’re missing in the 2016 CFL season.
And here’s what went down last week.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 39, Ottawa RedBlacks 36. After happily proclaiming last week’s Ottawa-Hamilton game an instant highlight clip, the East division winners somehow produced a rollicking 60 minutes of fun and fascinating football.
With torrents of rain falling nearly horizontally on kickoff, The South reckoned the under in an over/under of 50.5 or so was lock. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s why The South doesn’t gamble like i used to…
What we got instead of a slogfest similar to last season’s November meeting in which Henry Burris’s charges grinded out a 12-6 win was a pair of offenses seemingly impervious to climate – well, except for the understandable turnovers (seven altogether) which sometimes made this game resemble human ping pong.
This was the kind of game in which one might get a pick at the goal line, run it back 50 yards or so and get injured after getting tackled by the quarterback; the kind of game in which a deadshot kicker misses a 37-yarder but nails it when it counts; the kind of game that inspires lists beginning with “It was the kind of game in which…”
In short, the Ticats earned a much-needed win to snap a frustrating four-game losing streak to the RedBlacks in games played in October/November. Ottawa meanwhile has future opponents at least slightly intimidated by its scoreboard-spinning potential.
This game also featured the CFL’s Play of the Week; you gotta love the DT interception. Also, if the weather hadn’t been so crummy, this becomes a touchdown. Who’s gonna stop a rumbling 312-pounder with a full head of steam that close to the goal line?
Calgary Stampeders 31, Toronto Argonauts 13 might also have been called the “Ricky Ray Plays For A Job Bowl.” The 37-year-old veteran once again returned from a spate of injuries this season only to face a monster; the only justification for such a decision (even in the short-term because, let’s face it, the Argos had a snowball’s chance of stealing a win in this one) was to allow Mr. Ray to build an audition reel for the likes of Montreal and Saskatchewan next season – or maybe it was a birthday gift for his 37th, which was Saturday.
The thinking goes that, even should head coach Scott Milanovich survive the chopping block this offseason, the shelling out of cash for Drew Willy (Why, guys, why?) indicates that he is the immediate future in Toronto.
So Ray started, produced a stat line of 28-for-42 for 311 yards and one TD against two interceptions; maybe not impressive, but the wily vet beautifully threaded the needle on a couple of passes, reminding all as to what he can’t do (and, to some extent, what Willy can’t. Sorry, Argos backers.)
On the other side of the field, potentially bad news for the Stampders. An injury to Pierre Lavertu resulted in the 10th Calgary player to contribute time on the historically great offensive line. Once again, said OL allowed zero sacks of Bo Levi Mitchell, but this weekend the same Montreal D who held Bo & Co. to just eight points in the first half two weeks ago come to test this latest iteration of that line.
Official TheGruelingTruth.net dogma insists that these Stampeders are the CFL’s answer to the New England Patriots; the Lavertu injury will trigger the truest test of that postulation.
Montreal Alouettes 19, Saskatchewan Roughriders 14. The less said on this game the better, so let’s just give kudos to Nic Lewis for his excellent Eddie Lacy impression – without the injury! Start the official CFL-produced highlight clip at about 3:20 for a taste.
Canadians in the NFL. You know which players don’t get enough props? Long snappers, that’s who. So check out this very nice interview with/profile of Montreal-born, Cal-schooled L. P. Ladouceur, an 11-year veteran of the Dallas Cowboys who has never missed a game nor botched a snap.
BC Lions 32, Edmonton Eskimos 25. The South isn’t sure who needed their respective result more last weekend, the Ticats or BC Lions. Probably the Ticats, all things considered, but head coach Wally Buono is certainly happy for a win against a West team; going into this one, his Lions had managed a weak 2-5 mark against their own division, with the last such win coming against the then-lowly Riders in week five.
Better yet for the Lions, the BCers scored first and never relinquished the lead – the only time they’ve done so against a contender all season. Particularly high marks go to the defense (fitting for a game during which the awesome Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill became the first-ever CFL teammates to amass 100 tackles in a single season), which contained Esks QB Mike Reilly and his all-star receiving tandem of Bowman & Walker – not to mention new weapon Brandon Zylstra; who knew? While Reilly was as accurate as ever, completing 24 of 32 passes and bagging one TD strike with zero picks, Buono had his defense eschewing heavy passes to drop everyone into coverage to limit the damage. The result was that Reilly’s longest completion went for just 21 yards in a field position-first game that BC’s happy to play.
Invaluable stuff when essentially the only play that separates your QB’s performance from his counterpart’s is a single 70-yard YAC-supplemented completion. (Nice episode of the Manny Show, by the way, a week after fielding just two targets and earning 14 yards.)
Weird Canadian News Story of The Week. This one was big enough (so to speak) to capture the snarky Tony Kornheiser one-liner kicking off “Pardon the Interruption.”
So, you know that bit in the documentary Bowling for Columbine when director Michael Moore decides he’s going to test the theory that Canadians, even in bigger cities, don’t keep their front doors locked? Well, that sane and safe lifestyle choice may be ending soon, thanks to a single oddball in Vancouver.
Via news release – probably because reporting the incident with a straight face might prove too challenging – Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Laurel Kennedy last week described an incident that began with an unnamed male breaking into a private residence, whereupon he then “removed his shoes and all of his clothing, took eggs out of the fridge, and began making a meal in the kitchen, damaging the stove and microwave in the process.”
Oddly enough, the resident of the house was home at the time, watching television and didn’t hear the activity until the eggs were reaching completion. He wandered into the kitchen and “found the naked man, chased him out of the house and called police.”
Though the writeup on the incident has the writer commenting that “What’s more surprising [is that] this isn’t the first time police have been called about nude intruders cooking eggs” in British Columbia, what’s baffling The South is that this all happened at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. What the hell was ol’ Nudia Child doing making breakfast at that hour?
Now time to get the burners (or, if like Kornheiser you prefer waffles, the waffle iron) fired up for this week’s games.
Edmonton Eskimos at Hamilton Tiger-Cats. If this game feels like a tossup to you, you’re not alone. The pointspread on this game started by making the Ticats a 1½-point favorite; that’s now up to 2. What this suggests to me is that those-in-the-know figure the only difference between these two teams in homefield advantage, but homefield advantage is hardly what it once was for the Ticats, who are a pedestrian 3-4. On top of this, Brandon Banks is still suspended for this game, thereby taking away the one significant advantage, i.e. special teams, the TiCats have over the Eskimos. And if you’re asking whether to side with a Reilly-led offense or a unit with Jeremiah Masoli at the helm, well, you’re overthinking things. Eskimos win.
Ottawa RedBlacks at Winnipeg Blue Bombers. “If I’m Winnipeg,” the lazy, English-disrespecting color commentator might surmise, “I’m terrified of the scoreboard-spinning potential that Henry Burris’s offense has been showing us lately. I’m looking at the 36 points they put up in absolutely brutal anti-football weather conditions, and I’m worried that I just can’t keep up.” The Bombers may use their outstanding proclivity for generating turnovers, but The South just isn’t sure that the RedBlacks care while they believe Burris can lead a touchdown drive from any point on the field with any amount of time remaining. RedBlacks win.
Three things about CFL uniforms. Certain manly-man types here at The Grueling Truth see fit to diss this writer every time he broaches the subject of uniforms. As though fashion is strictly the purview of straight women and gay men! Pshaw!
Look, the Grueling Truth is that team uniforms are present before our eyes for hours on end – might as well have an opinion.
Self-justification over. Here are three things The South thinks about CFL uniforms.
- With those ridiculous orange-and-blacks (seriously, are they somehow getting uglier?), the BC Lions should be forced to play on Halloween night. Maybe in an intrasquad game with the defense wearing those creamsicle-based outfits, which The South quite likes, actually.
- What’s up with the RedBlacks and Stampeders playing in nearly identical black-with-red-accents? It’s been said before, Calgary, but we’ll repeat it here: One team in the CFL is called the “RedBlacks” and it ain’t you.
- Incidentally, Stamps Fashion Consultant Person – and most other CFL teams – the alternate helmets thing is silly. The Stampeders’ white logo-on-red helmets are eye-catching, simple, iconic – in a word, classic. The black version, well, would anyone truly care if we never saw it again? The South believes the football helmet is no mere accessory in the uniform; it’s the team logo, ffs.
BC Lions at Saskatchewan Roughriders. Here’s the case for Saskatchewan: This is the final game at Taylor Field. The Roughriders fanbase – among the most devoted and fanatical in all of North American sports – could well push attendance to 30,000. Plus, they’ll be wanting redemption after last week’s brutal brake-slamming on a beautiful four-game winning streak. Last week showed plainly that as Jonathan Jennings goes, so go the Lions; does the pressure get to the young man? The South can easily visualize a Riders win here, but nevertheless will approach this stoically: BC Lions win. To make it more interesting, we’ll say that’s in overtime.
Toronto Argonauts vs the bye. Here’s to thinking that the Argos still manage to lose the turnover battle – and top their average attendance figure for the season.
Calgary Stampeders at Montreal Alouettes. Probably the best Alouettes fans can hope for here is to see enough of that literally stunning Montreal defense to keep this one close. With one more replacement on the line – Lavertu’s been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain – lotsa pressure from the Als could make it happen – not an upset, mind you, but a Stampeders win that still leaves Montreal with a big of dignity. Of note: The pointspread on this game has Calgary giving 9½, a full touchdown less than they were handicapped last week against the Argos last week.
Nearly Obligatory Statistic of the Week Showing How Good These Stampeders Are. When the Montreal-Calgary game kicks off this week, the Stampeders will have gone 127 days without a loss. (And the following Monday, that number will most likely be 128.)
Next week: An answer to the metaphysical question, “If a team with no fans takes a bye week, does it make a sound?”