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Canada’s Big Game

Yes, I know hockey is, without a doubt, Canada’s favourite sport.  That being said, this weekend in Calgary our nation comes together to celebrate something exclusively and honestly Canadian.  It is Grey Cup week!  Let the festivities begin!

This year’s edition of the CFL Championship features the Saskatchewan Roughriders taking on the Montreal Alouettes for Lord Grey’s mug.  It should be a good game.  2009 CFL Outstanding Player Anthony Calvillo and the Als are favoured by 9.5 points as of the writing of this blog.  After watching both of these teams playing in recent weeks, I think it will be one hell of a game.  I think it will be physical, fast, hard-hitting and evenly matched.  I expect a close game.  I also expect Saskatchewan will win this game.

I don’t think Montreal’s vaunted passing attack will be enough to top the Roughriders’ balanced team.  With Durant proving he can get the job done in the clutch, time and time again, this somewhat negates Montreal’s advantage at QB.  With Saskatchewan having the advantage in many other aspects of the game, I don’t think Montreal will have the same success with their air attack as they did last week against the banged up BC Lions.

I think it will be close but look for Saskatchewan to win by 4.  31-27

Re-learning the CFL rulebook

September 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Not to sound like I’m making wine with sour grapes…but…last night’s game between the Calgary Stampeders and the BC Lions at McMahon Stadium was, in my humble opinion, not decided by the players.  The referees seemed determined to ensure the home team walked away with the victory.  The interpretation of certain plays by the officials were, at times, laughable and were all in favour of the Stampeders.  Some of the calls the refs made were extremely creative.

Where to start?  Let’s start with the one that seemed to confuse every objective football fan who thinks they know something about the rules of the game, including the TSN play-by-play team of Chris Cuthbert and former CFL star Glen Suitor.  Yes, I am referring to the Nick Lewis “catch” on the 3 yard line with the game tied at 17.  Calgary Stampeders receiver Nick Lewis leapt into the air to catch a Henry Burris pass and was hit while in mid-air by a Lions defender.  Upon coming back to the ground the ball popped out of his grasp and into the hands of Lions safety Barron Miles before hitting the ground.  So, as a former football player, and long -time football fan, I celebrated what appeared to be either a Lions interception or fumble recovery…depending on wether the officials would rule it as an incompletion which was intercepted at it had never hit the ground, or a fumble recovery as the receiver did not survive contact with the ground as clearly stated in the CFL rule book.

The game officials, who set a new standard in incompetency time and time again throughout the game, upon reviewing the play when challenged by Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel, ruled that Nick Lewis had not only caught the ball, but survived contact with the ground, did not fumble the ball, and was ruled down by contact.  This took some serious creativity to come up with an explanation that favoured the Stamps.  There is no way that he was down by contact as the only part of his body that hit the ground after contact was his elbow which caused the ball to come loose, thus, by definition, resulting in Lewis not surviving contact with the ground.  The officials explaanation was inherently self contradicting.  Oh well, no matter…this is the CFL after all…logic, reason and the rulebook should not come into deciding a key play in the game.

On the ensuing play, Henry Burris threw a pass to Jermaine Copeland in the endzone.  Copeland stretched out to make an athletic catch mere inches from the ground hanging out of bounds but with both feet in bounds.  The problem?  His knee was touching the out of bounds line.  No problem says the ref.  After reviewing the play challenged by Lions head coach Wally Buono the head referee declared that the TD would stand because Copeland did in fact have both feet in bounds.  Of course, that was never the question…Buono challenged wether his knee was out of bounds before the catch…which it was.   But that is neither here nor there.

Later in the game, yet another controversial catch by another Stamps receiver saw a catch made in mid-air and the receiver falling to the ground when a Lions DB would strip the ball from the receiver.  Fumble!  BC recovers, right?  No…this is the CFL…and the refs were determined to not allow all of their previous hard work to go to waste.  After another Wally Buono challenge, the referee declared that the Calgary receiver was, again, down by contact.  But…what contact?  The replay clearly showed the Stampeder receiver fell to the ground on his own and was never touched…the only contact coming on the stripping of the football.  Again….Wally Buono was wrong!  I wonder how he became the CFL’s all-time winningest coach…clearly (at least in the referrees minds) this man has no clue about the rules of this game despite having played and coached in the league at the highest level for decades.’

There were several other, albeit smaller, descrepancies throughout the game all of which favoured Calgary.  Holding only called when BC did it, roughing the passer only called once on a borderline soft call against the Lions despite Buck Pierce taking multiple Stampeder head shots, pass interference called only one way, etc.   I know being a ref is hard.  I know they are human and make mistakes…but when there are that many mistakes?  and they ALL favour the same team?  it leaves on to wonder.

It is a shame, really.  There are so many great athletes and coaches in the CFL.  The style of play leads to an exciting brand of football as well…its just too bad the standard of officiating is dismal and greatly affects the outcome of the game again, and again.

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BC Lions start 2009 season 0-2

I know the Lions started last season 0-2.  I know they ended up with quite a respectable record at the end of the year.  I know they won the Western Semi-Final and with a few breaks against Calgary might have gone  to the Grey Cup.  But this year seems different.   This year 0-2 looks like it could easily turn into 0-4…or worse.

Now, I am a HUGE Wally Buono fan, and I agree with 95% of his decisions.  He has clearly made this team a perennial threat to win it all since he has been here.  His penchant for finding talent, especially at quarterback is unrivalled.  I can’t argue with his coaching record either as he is about to pass his friend, colleague, and rival Don Matthews to become the winningest coach in CFL history provided he can win 5 games this season.  However, it looks like that is no longer a slam dunk.

With the departure of stars Cam Wake and Stefan Logan to the NFL, and Rob Murphy to the Toronto Argonauts, it can be argued that the BC Lions lost 3 of their 4 best players, Geroy Simon being the other.  That would cripple any team without question.  But to follow that up with the sending away of multiple-time CFL Outstanding Canadian Jason Clermont to the arch-rival Saskatchewan Roughriders, Otis Floyd who last week ended the Lions comeback attempt with a key interception for the Hamilton Tiger Cats, veteran Canadian lineman Kelly Bates, as well as stalwart defensive lineman Tyrone Williams many questions have been rised as to the direction Wally’s squad will be taking this year.

The above-mentioned names comprise half an all-star team.  They were replaced by….um, well…let’s see here…oh yeah, depth offensive lineman Walter Stith (now released), rookie lineman Dean Valli, previous year send-off and recent Calgary Stampeder cast-away Bobby Singh and a bunch of no-names and previous camp cuts.  The one pleasant surprise, in my opinion, has been import running back Martel Mallet, or as I like to call him “The Hammer”.   From what I have seen he has done a superb job filling in for the departed Stefan Logan.   I just wish they would give him the ball more often.

While it seems as though this article is full of criticism and laced with despair, I am very confident in Wally Buono’s abilities and the abilities of his staff.  I think the team will turn things around and make the playoffs and hopefully by then be firing on all cylinders and make a run at the Grey Cup again.  It is just not the near certainty it has been in recent years.