About the ‘what ifs’ of a CFL quarterback carousel…East, West or North, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers still lose…Roberta Flack and the Bombers…and 68 candles

And now for something different, a Tuesday morning smorgas-bored…

Let’s begin with a series of what ifs. Such as…

  • Mike Reilly

    What if Bo Levi Mitchell takes his football and skedaddles south?

If that’s the case, a quarterback crisis will have officially arrived in the Canadian Football League. Maybe it already has.

At the close of business on Sunday, there were four elite QBs in the three-down game—Mitchell, Mike Reilly, Jeremiah Masoli and Trevor Harris. Matt Nichols would fit in as a Tier 2 guy who appears to be growing old in a hurry. After that, it’s a wasteland (ignore what the Cult Of Johnny at TSN would have you believe about their favorite lousy quarterback). There’s no one you would call a true No. 1 in Montreal, the Republic of Tranna, Saskatchewan and B.C. Add Calgary to the list if Bo Levi bolts.

  • Ricky Ray: Mugged again.

    What if there’s a fierce bidding war for Reilly?

If Reilly puts himself on the market, I can see the B.C. Lions making a pitch for their one-time backup. Hard to imagine Chris Jones not preferring Reilly behind centre in Saskatchewan, rather than the brittle Zach Collaros or the erratic Brandon Bridge. Assuming Ricky Ray isn’t interested in any more muggings, he’ll wave the white flag and surrender to Father Time, creating an opportunity with the Argonauts. But, really, why would Reilly want to perform in front of 9,000 people at BMO Field? (I’d suggest the arrival of Reilly would provide much-needed oomph to the box office in Tranna, but selling three-down football to folks in The ROT is like trying to sell six-inch stilettos to an elephant.)

  • Anthony Calvillo

    What if the Montreal Alouettes dump Johnny Manziel?

I believe the Alouettes are sold on Johnny Rotten, so good luck with that. An audience of 17,000 soon will be 12,000 or fewer. Call the undertaker. If they were to pursue and land Reilly, he would provide les Larks with their best quarterbacking since Anthony Calvillo and would also make them immediately competitive in a weak East Division, thus wooing customers back to Percival Molson Stadium.

  • Matt Nichols, still No. 1.

    What if the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were to go after Reilly?

I think Mike O’Shea would lose his mind. He and Matt Nichols are attached at the hip. It would take the jaws of life to pry them apart. But if GM Kyle Walters has the opportunity to upgrade from a Tier 2 QB to an elite QB, he has to consider it.

  • What if Reilly found a home in Calgary?

Now there’s a radical thought. Imagine the main man from the main enemy camp joining the Stampeders. They wouldn’t miss a beat. Probably repeat as Grey Cup champions.

  • Trevor Harris

    What if Reilly stays in Edmonton with the Eskimos?

It’s my guess that’s how it’ll shake down. But if I’m John Hufnagel in Calgary and I lose Mitchell to the National Football League, I’m making a serious pitch for Reilly. I’m just spitballing here, but do you really expect Hufnagel to go into a CFL season without a QB? Next year we could have Reilly in Calgary, Harris in Bytown, Masoli in the Hammer, Nichols in River City and five QB-challenged outfits. And another Calgary-Bytown Grey Cup game. Yawn.

Okay, it’s agreed: The path to a Grey Cup championship is less of a challenge for East Division outfits, because a .500 or sub-.500 record usually earns you a home playoff date. Sometimes it gets you first place and a bye. So perhaps it’s unfair to compare the Bombers’ failures to the Bytown RedBlacks’ successes in the past five years (one Grey Cup title, three appearances).

However…let’s not lose sight of the fact Winnipeg FC spent 21 seasons in the East. The Bombers brought the Grey Cup home twice in the first four of those 21 years. After that, nada.

Now, I don’t often get into number crunching, because I find it boring and it’s too easy to pick and choose figures to create false narratives. But here are some simple numbers that support the notion that it doesn’t matter where the Bombers hang their helmets—they’ve lost West, East and North since winning the Cup in 1990.

If all those Sad Sack numbers aren’t enough to put a Big Blue loyalist off her or his breakfast, consider this: Roberta Flack had the top Billboard song of 1972 with the hauntingly beautiful The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and that’s the last time the Bombers ever saw first place in the West Division. That’s correct. Do not adjust your computer screen. It’s been 46 years. Ouch. Don Jonas was the Winnipeg FC quarterback back then. Trigger Spavital the head coach. Steve Juba was mayor of Good Ol’ Hometown and Ed Schreyer the premier of Manitoba. It would be another eight years before the Winnipeg Tribune shut down. Paul Henderson scored a big goal in Russia less than two months earlier, and the Winnipeg Jets were just one month into their inaugural World Hockey Association crusade. So, yes, it’s been a while.

And, finally, allow me close on a personal note this morning. I begin my 69th year on the third rock from the sun today. Never thought I’d see 68 candles on my birthday cake, but here I am. Still. Please don’t send cards, flowers or money. Save them for the funeral.

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CFL: Zero tolerance for voyeurism but a green light for a guy who beats up women

Those who occupy the ivory tower of the Canadian Football League have this peculiar knack for doing the right thing and the wrong thing at the same time. And, it must be said, they’ve totally lost the plot.

I mean, voyeurism is a firing offence and kicking the crap out of a woman isn’t?

Jerome Messam

Jerome Messam has been dismissed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and barred from the CFL and, at the same time, the league and its boot-licking, lap-dog accomplices at TSN celebrate in full throat and pomp the expected arrival of Johnny Manziel as starting quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes.

Just to refresh: Johnny Manziel beat the hell out of, and offered to end the life of, his former girlfriend. He was indicted by a grand jury in Texas. She applied for, and was granted, a restraining order.

Serious stuff.

Now we have Messam, who apparently took video evidence of a roll in the hay while a member of the Calgary Stampeders two years ago. Disgusting? If done without consent, absolutely. That’s total perv territory. The emotional damage to the victim can be immeasurable. Which is why Messam has been charged with voyeurism.

And it’s fine for the CFL to punt him. No argument.

Randy Ambrosie

“The Canadian Football League is aware that Jerome Messam has been charged with Voyeurism, a Criminal Code offence,” the league said in a statement. “He has been released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has informed all member clubs that the league will not register a contract for Messam should any team attempt to sign him.”

Ah but…they allow the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to sign Manziel and permit the Alouettes to pick up his contract.

Again, what part of its own policy of violence against women does the CFL not understand?

What does commissioner Randy Ambrosie require? Film at 11? Maybe of Johnny Rotten dragging Colleen Crawley by her hair? Or slamming her head into a car window? Or whacking her on the side of the head, rendering her deaf in one ear? Perhaps sound bites of him offering to commit homicide/suicide?

No way Manziel should be prepping for a date vs. the Tiger-Cats on Friday at Timbits Field in the Hammer.

Johnny Manziel

But, hey, Johnny Frat Boy is a Heisman Trophy winner, don’t you know. He’ll make for boffo box office and have the cash registers humming in the gift shop.

Messam on the other hand…he couldn’t sell a raffle ticket for a free lifetime supply of Pioneer canola seed to a Saskatchewan farmer. Head coach Chris Jones had already reduced the big, burly running back to a bit part in the Gang Green offensive scheme, so anything more disturbing than an agreed-upon French kiss and the Riders—also the league—were prepared to give Messam the ultimate kiss-off. They rode him out of Dodge faster than you can say Marshal Dillon fancies Miss Kitty.

Now, no one has ever accused me of being a scholar (I had the poor grades to confirm it), but surely I’m not the only one who recognizes the contradiction here. Messam, the alleged voyeur, was put out of work on the same day that Manziel, the guy who beat up a woman, was taking first-team reps in advance of the Montreal-Hamilton skirmish.

What astonishes me is that no one in mainstream media has called out Ambrosie on this glaring and obscene miscalculation, one that mocks the CFL’s domestic violence policy.

Art Briles

Where is the great hue and cry we heard from news snoops, opinionists and fans last year when the Ticats sought to bring Art Briles on board as an assistant coach? The considerable and justified noise forced the Tabbies and Ambrosie to do a rethink, and Briles never crossed the border.

That’s where Johnny Manziel should have been stopped, too.

But, hey, there’s a set of rules for guys with a Heisman trinket in their trophy case and a set of rules for regular working stiffs like Messam and Briles. So damn straight they’re gonna cut Johnny Rotten some slack. He’s good to go, and TSN’s ratings will shoot through the roof on Friday night.

More’s the pity.

Are you ready for some three-down football?

It’s time to grab grass and growl, kids, which is to say the Canadian Football League season is upon us, and my two Gridiron Girls are here to discuss the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and other things pigskin.

The Bombers, of course, engage the Edmonton Eskimos in their season-opening frolic on Thursday night at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, and they do so with their starting quarterback, Matt Nichols, in the repair shop and greenhorn Chris Streveler behind centre.

That might sound like a recipe for disaster, but the Gridiron Gals don’t think so.

Take it away, ladies…

Chris Streveler

Lady Blue: Well, here we are, ready for another football season. I haven’t been this excited since we went all-in at that big sale on summer shoes at the Bay last month.

Lady Gold: Shoes is the operative word, because that nice, young man Chris Streveler has totally huge shoes to fill as the Bombers starting quarterback. I don’t know if I should be excited for him or feel sorry for him. True rookies—and by that I mean a kid with more wet behind his ears than Michael Phelps—seldom start at QB in the CFL. It’s as rare as Chris Walby passing on free burgers and beers. I’m told Anthony Calvillo was the last one. That was in 1994.

Lady Blue: Has it really been that long?

Lady Gold: Yup. You know who the Bombers starting QB was back then? Matt Dunigan. One of the other QBs that season was Sammy Garza, aka Slingin’ Sammy Son-in-Law. He had journeyman talent, but he also had the good sense to marry one of head coach Cal Murphy’s daughters.

Lady Blue: Did Kindly Cal still have his first heart in ’94, or was he operating with heart No. 2 by then?

Lady Gold: No. 2. Cal’s heart transplant surgery was in ’92. Bless his soul. Wonderful guy. Lots of laughs. And a football legend.

Lady Blue: Did you Google this stuff, or did you know it off the top of your head?

Lady Gold: Hey, I’m pushing 68. Google was invented for cobwebbed people like me. The mind might not be the first thing to go, but it’s running a close second.

Lady Blue: Well, we digress. What were you saying about Chris Streveler?

Lady Gold: Just that it might be leading a lamb to slaughter. As I said, not since Calvillo with the Las Vegas Posse in 1994 has a kid fresh out of a college classroom—or wherever it is that American college football players hide when they’re supposed to be in class—started a season behind centre in the CFL. It’s a tough gig.

Lady Blue: What’s the best-case scenario?

Lady Gold: That he has a career like Calvillo.

Lady Blue: What’s the worst-case scenario?

Lady Gold: That he has a career like Sammy Garza and doesn’t marry one of Cal Murphy’s granddaughters.

Lady Blue: They say Streveler has a good set of wheels.

Matt Nichols, still No. 1.

Lady Gold: He’ll need them. I’m guessing the Eskimos will be bringing more heat than the Earp boys and Doc Holliday at the OK Corral. You think there isn’t some serious chop-licking going on with the Edmonton defensive dozen right now, knowing there’ll be fresh meat on the other side of the line of scrimmage Thursday night?

Lady Blue: Does the entire 2018 season come down to the four-to-six week window when Streveler is subbing for Matt Nichols?

Lady Gold: Not at all. Think back to 2016. The Bombers came out of the gate at 1-4, largely because Drew Willy kept bouncing the ball to his receivers. Head coach Mike O’Shea—or someone above him—finally had seen enough of that Sad Sack show, so he handed the ball to Nichols, albeit grudgingly, and the lads went 10-3 the rest of the way. Going 1-4 in the CFL in June or July isn’t a death sentence, not even in the West Division. But you don’t want to do it once the frost is on the pumpkin.

Lady Blue: So you’re telling me that if the Bombers stumble out of the chute like Johnny Depp at closing time, I shouldn’t fret.

Adam Bighill

Lady Gold: Exactly. And I’ll give you two names why—Adam and Bighill. I cannot emphasize how significant a signing this was for the Bombers. I mean, are you kidding me? Bighill is Studly Linebacker. Essentially, he replaces Sam Hurl. That’s like going from Barry Manilow to Led Zeppelin. We haven’t seen that kind of an upgrade in River City since Sam Katz vacated the mayor’s office.

Lady Blue: Ouch. That was a cheap shot.

Lady Gold: I suppose it was. But I like to toss a cheap shot in every now and then just to see if anyone is paying attention. Anyway, as Doug Brown scribbled in the Drab Slab—that’s what I call the Winnipeg Free Press—the Bombers will have a beastly D dozen this year, and Bighill’s finger prints will be all over it. They could steal a game or two to ease Streveler’s burden.

Lady Blue: What else is critical to a successful crusade?

Mike O’Shea

Lady Gold: O’Shea has to stay out of his own way. No more glaring brain cramps or goofy gimmicks at the most inopportune times, like when you’re deep in your own half of the field and holding a comfy lead. Seriously. Punters passing to phantom receivers on third down in your own zone? Hey, I’m all for derring-do and a bit of hocus-pocus—and O’Shea can be quite creative on special teams—but he’s got to be more selective when he rolls the dice. You aren’t going to sneak the sun past a rooster by using a couple of hens as a diversion.

Lady Blue: Speaking of animals, is it going to be a zoo in Hamilton this year with Johnny Manziel on board?

Lady Gold: Well, TSN sure thinks he’s the cock of the walk. It’s been total overkill since he arrived in the Hammer, and it’s ridiculous. He’s a backup quarterback, for cripes sake.

Le Coupe de Grey

Lady Blue: I read a piece in the National Post the other day that suggested Manziel will drive attendance at Timbits Field in Hamilton.

Lady Gold: As if. That’s a stupid comment. Who’s going to pay money just to watch him stand on the sidelines? Besides, the Tiger-Cats played to 97.6 per cent capacity last season, third in the league behind Ottawa and Saskatchewan, and they were gawdawful. It’s not like they need him to put rumps in the pews.

Lady Blue: So you’re not a Johnny Football fan.

Lady Gold: Does Sarah Huckabee Sanders tell the truth?

Lady Blue: Any predictions ahead of Thursday’s opening kickoff?

Lady Gold: Ya, the Bombers will beat Hamilton in the Grey Cup game and Matt Nichols will be the MVP, but TSN will cut away from the awards ceremony to show highlights of Johnny Manziel holding a clipboard on the sidelines.

Lady Blue: Okay, it’s game on. Enjoy the season.

Lady Gold: You too.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers-Saskatchewan Roughriders: Hey, spit happens, so let’s not lose our heads here (except maybe Gainer)

I cannot survive in a 140-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Duron Carter: Spit happens.

Duron Carter is spittin’ mad. Gainer the Gopher is losing his head. Rod Pedersen wants to call the cops. And Doug Brown is so PO’d that he almost forgot his thesaurus at home.

Where to begin?

Well, let’s start with Carter, a Canadian Football League pass-catching marvel whose strings are sometimes pulled a tad too tight and apt to snap at any second. Seems Chris Carter’s lad was engaged in some post-joust schmoozing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders faithful on Saturday afternoon at Taylor Field in Regina, scant seconds after Gang Green had rag-dolled the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 38-24, when out of the blue (and gold) someone launched a loogie.

Splat!

A trash ass Bombers fan spit on me…worst fans in the league…can’t wait to kick y’all ass again!” griped Carter, who describes himself on his Twitter account as an “expert level troll.”

Thus, he continued trolling.

Gainer: Going out of his head.

The worst part about it, he definitely didn’t brush his teeth in about 20 years!!!” Carter ranted. “Who knows what creepy crawlers were hiding in there!!! The old me would have dragged him to the 50 yard line and gave him a beating like his parents failed to do in 1955.”

Whew. That’s a lot to absorb.

First of all, we know Carter must be some kind of ticked off because he used seven exclamation points!!!!!!! That’s a serious mad-on!!!!!!! Second, while some accuse the Riders wideout of fabricating the spitting story, I believe him. Yup, I’m convinced that a Bombers loyalist did, indeed, unload a loogie on Carter because he said the guy hadn’t brushed his “teeth” in 20 years. Had it been a Riders fan, he would have said the guy hadn’t brushed his “tooth” in 20 years.

Meanwhile, Gang Green play-by-play squawker Rod Pedersen, in a classic case of over-the-top hyperbole, went all drama queen in rallying to Carter’s side in Gobgate.

I think spitting on anyone is the most heinous act that anybody can commit, in sports or in society,” Pedersen spat.

Well, yes. There’s something sinful in saliva if used as a weapon. Still, it’s a most curious bit of logic from Pedersen. I mean, most of us in the rest of the country would place crimes like rape, murder, pedophilia and human trafficking higher on the heinous metre than unleashing a loogie. Must be a Saskatchewan thing.

Pederson also lashed out at a Bomber-ite who, in a shocking display of bad manners from a house guest, attempted to yank the head off the Riders prairie dog mascot, Gainer the Gopher. Gab guy Rod described the incident as a “disturbing act of violence” and, when asked if the long arm of the law ought to reach out and charge the cad with assault, he replied, “absolutely.”

Which brings us to Doug Brown, a former Bombers defensive lineman who sits in the CJOB booth during broadcasts and also scribbles a weekly column for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Chris Jones: A cheater, cheater pumpkin eater?

Brown wants you all to know that Chris Jones is a dirty, rotten scoundrel. A cheater, cheater pumpkin-eater. How so? Well, the Riders head coach apparently has a defensive front four that includes Ronaldo, Neymar, Arjen Robben and Luis Suarez, lads notorious for pulling up lame or slipping into their death throes whenever inconvenienced on the soccer pitch. Same thing with the Riders. The moment the Bombers choose to shift into their no-huddle offence, down goes a Gang Green D-man. Gut shot. And laughing.

These clearly are faux fallen foes and Brown describes the tactic as “a B.S. manoeuvre.” Jones has arrived at an “all-time low in coaching malfeasance.” Yes, he actually used the word malfeasance. No sports scribe I know uses the word malfeasance. Ever. Most would write about wrong-doing or hanky-panky or coaching chicanery, but not our Doug. He has a thesaurus.

What does it all add up to? Hey, spit happens. Which ought to make for an interesting week in advance of the Banjo Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Formerly Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, where the Bombers and Riders will do it all over again.

I thought it was awful sporting of game officials and the CFL command centre to basically hand the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, now 1-8, their first win of the season on Monday at Timbits Field. Three absolutely atrocious calls late in the fourth quarter—a fumble that was ruled an incomplete pass; a 15-yard no-yards penalty that never should have drawn a flag; and a pass ruled complete when the ball obviously bounced to Luke Tasker—all went in favor of the Tabbies, who topped the Toronto Argonauts, 24-22, in a dreadful match delayed two hours and eight minutes due to a thunder-and-lightning storm. And we won’t even mention the fact that timekeepers twice were instructed to add time on the clock because they allowed it to run after play had stopped. This was one for the conspiracy theorists.

Say, who was that guy delivering pizza to the press box during the storm stoppage at Timbits? Why, it was CFL commish Randy Ambrosie. Nice touch. Not that sports scribes need an extra injection of pasta and carbs, but still a nice touch.

Well, Jay and Dan made their much-anticipated return to late-night Sports Centre on TSN shortly after the football game. My take: New set, same old silliness. But it works for them and their faithful. Meanwhile, The Reporters with Dave Hodge returns to TSN’s air on Sunday, and I’m assuming the usual suspects—Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber and Steve Simmons—will join Hodge to sit at a table and agree with each other. Just wondering: If those four guys were The Beatles, which one would be Ringo? I’d have to say Simmons.

The Beatles

Which brings me to today’s top five—my five favorite Beatles tunes…
1. A Day In the Life: Totally brilliant.
2. I Am the Walrus: An astonishing psychedelic journey of incredible lyrical imagery. There’s “yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye” and a naughty girl who “let her knickers down” and “man you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.”
3. Hey Bulldog: George and Paul get after it on the guitar.
4. Rocky Raccoon: Her name was Magill and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy.
5. You Know My Name (Look Up the Number): Way, way out there. The lads are having us on.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling mostly about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, which means she’s old and probably should think about getting a life.

Labor Day weekend a non-classic for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Random thoughts during the Winnipeg Blue Bombers annual visit to the Green House in Regina for the Labor Day weekend grab-grass-and-growl with the Saskatchewan Roughriders…

  • Where’s Schultzie?

    I miss Schultzie on the TSN panel. Where’d the big lug go?

  • TSN didn’t show the singing of O Canada, so I’ll have to assume that none of the combatants took a knee.
  • I swear, the Roughriders receivers have been offside on every play since Ray Elgaard was a rookie. And they never get flagged for it.
  • What’s the over/under on how often TSN blabber boy Glen Suitor mentions the silly sound meter they’re using to gauge crowd caterwauling at Mosaic Stadium?
  • I really don’t like the name Mosaic Stadium, so I’m going to call the Riders’ ritzy, new digs Taylor Field.
  • Oops. Nice pass by Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols. Too bad it went to one of the guys in green, Ed Gainey. Not sure what Nichols saw there, but he definitely didn’t see the guy in green.
  • Nic Demski is a University of Manitoba Bisons grad and would look better in blue-and-gold linen than green and white.
  • Geez, who’s the guy wearing Kevin Glenn’s uniform? The Saskatchewan QB is spot on. Normally, he makes the kind of passes that Nichols threw to Ed Gainey.
  • What’s with the candy stripes on the officials’ uniform tops? When did that happen? Did I miss a memo from the Canadian Football League head office? I might have to red flag them for a fashion faux pas.
  • Yikes—24-3 for Gang Green after 15 minutes. This is a serious paddywhacking. Not getting good vibes from the Bombers’ body language.
  • Timothy Flanders scores a TD and tosses the football to a Big Blue loyalist in the pews. Nice. Except one of the candy-stripers saw something no one else saw, so he flips a flag and the touchdown is voided. Not to worry. Nichols and Flanders collaborate again. This time the score stands. Flanders flips the football to another fan in blue-and-gold. Does he realize he has to pay for those things?
  • Hey, Sam Hurl actually makes a play, sacking Glenn. Guess that’s his quota for the month. Won’t hear from him again until Thanksgiving.
  • Weston Dressler

    I thought Weston Dressler was supposed to be back in the Bombers lineup for this game. Somebody should let Nichols in on the secret.

  • Riders have won two in a row and are up 34-16 at the half. Does that mean Chris Jones is a genius again?
  • TSN panel gab guy Jock Climie tells us that Chris Randle was the goat on Naaman Roosevelt’s 53-yard TD catch in the first quarter. Interesting. Suitor had told us that TJ Heath was the guilty party. I’ll take Climie’s word for it.
  • I’m still missing Schultzie.
  • That Trivago Guy has to be the worst dancer in the world. Does he realize how nerdy he looks?
  • Hey, look who’s in the Green House. It’s Jay and Dan. Well, it’s cardboard cutouts of Jay and Dan, who bring their goofy brand of broadcasting back to TSN this week. The buffoonery begins at midnight, which is too late for moi.
  • What’s this? The Roughriders have a punter? Who knew?
  • The great George Reed.

    Nice touch by the Riders to erect statues saluting legends Ronnie Lancaster and George Reed outside Taylor Field. Interesting that they do former players and the Bombers do former coaches. A bronze But Grant is already outside Formerly Football Follies Field in Fort Garry and a Cal Murphy statue will be unveiled later this month.

  • It’s 37-16 at three-quarter time. I don’t sense a comeback today.
  • Are the Riders faking injuries in a bid to stall the Bombers no-huddle offence? Naw. That would be cheating and we all know that Chris Jones would never cheat.
  • I’m not sure why, but I get the feeling that Saskatechewan wideout Duron Carter is about to go off his nut. You know, like he did last season when he bowled over Ottawa RedBlacks head coach Rick Campbell. He always seems to be one bad call away from a major meltdown.
  • Hey, there’s Weston Dressler. Nice to see Nichols finally invited him to the party. We’ll just call it his Labor Day weekend non-classic.
  • Nichols tosses another ball to Ed Gainey. Yo! Matt! That guy’s picked off six passes in two games. You might want to take on someone else in the future.
  • Suitor is still squawking about that stupid sound meter. Don’t know how often he went to that well, but it must have been a dozen.
  • Final score: Roughriders 38, Bombers 24. Guess Chris Jones really is a genius again.
  • Break out the banjos, boys! Let’s do it all over again in a week.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling mostly about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, which means she’s old and probably should think about getting a life.

Meet Mike O’Shea, Coach-for-Life of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have given head coach Mike O’Shea a new set of downs (three years worth) and general manager Kyle Walters is good to go for another four Canadian Football League seasons. To discuss this development, I bring in my two Gridiron Girls who, when last seen, were at the Grey Cup game in the Republic of Tranna but disappeared somewhere into cyberspace.

Take it away, ladies…

gridiron-galsLady Blue: Well, I guess it’ll be a very merry Christmas in the Walters and O’Shea households this year now that they’ve got those spanking, new contracts.

Lady Gold: Nobody should be surprised that the Bombers have re-upped both the head coach and general manager, because the club showed substantial improvement in the final two-thirds of this past season. But giving O’Shea three years instead of two? What’s that all about?

Lady Blue: Beats me. The guy in the short pants is 23-31, so I guess his first two seasons on the sideline were like the tree falling in the forest—it didn’t really happen. It’s like Walters and CEO Wade Miller based everything on the final 13 games of the 2016 crusade, when the Bombers went 10-3. They conveniently ignored the first 41 games of O’Shea’s sideline stewardship, when he was 13-28.

Lady Gold: I’m okay with O’Shea coming back, but if 23-31 and losing your one and only playoff game—after leading by 19 points!—is worth a three-year reward and probably a raise in pay, what do they give him if the Bombers actually accomplish something worth shouting about? You know, like ending a 26-year Grey Cup drought.

Lady Blue: I guess he’ll get a lifetime contract and a statue right beside the bronze Bud Grant outside Football Follies Field in Fort Garry. I wonder if the guy who sculpts the O’Shea statue will have him wearing short pants.

Lady Gold: Wouldn’t they make quite the pair? A bronzed Bud Grant in his trademark trench coat and O’Shea right beside him in a pair of baggy, bronze shorts. I know which one I’d poop on if I was a pigeon.

Lady Blue: Ouch. That’s a low blow.

Lady Gold: I guess it was. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. It’s just that I don’t understand how O’Shea’s record warrants a three-year contract. Seriously, if 23-31 and no playoff victories earns you that kind of security, the guy basically has become the Bombers coach-for-life. I agree with you that Miller and Walters based everything on 13 games and turned a blind eye to O’Shea’s most glaring gaffes.

Lady Blue: Like starting the wrong guy, Drew Willy, at quarterback. Like not starting Taylor Loffler at safety until injuries forced his hand. That’s brutal player evaluation.

Mike O'Shea: A do-over? I don't need no do-over.
Mike O’Shea

Lady Gold: And let’s not forget the lamentable 61-yard field goal attempt that ended the Bombers’ season in Vancouver. And to think, given the same scenario, O’Shea says he wouldn’t do anything different. He’d still put his team’s fate on the left leg of Justin Medlock, knowing full well that no one has ever hoofed a 61-yard field goal in B.C. Place Stadium. He’d do the same dumb thing.

Lady Blue: That decision rated a 10 on the dumb-o-metre. Dumbest call ever. Ever.

Lady Gold: Worse than what Dave Dickenson did in the Grey Cup game? I mean, the Calgary Stampeders were two yards away from winning and he takes the league’s Most Outstanding Player, Bo Levi Mitchell, out of the game and puts the ball in a rookie, third-string quarterback’s hands. And he doesn’t give it to the league’s leading rusher, Jerome Messam. That’s a massive brain fart.

Lady Blue: I still say O’Shea’s decision to attempt a 61-yard field goal rather than gamble on third-and-four was the dumbest coaching decision ever. Except maybe Marc Crawford’s refusal to tap Wayne Gretzky on the shoulder to take part in the shootout at the Nagano Olympic Games.

Lady Gold: Pete Carroll’s call that cost the Seattle Seahawks the 2015 Super Bowl was epicly dumb, too. O’Shea’s not the only coach to ever wear a dunce cap.

Lady Blue: What bothers me most is that O’Shea didn’t learn anything by his mistake. He’d do it again. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Lady Gold: Something like that. But let’s move on to another pertinent issue: Matt Nichols. Do the Bombers bring him back at any cost?

Lady Blue: Did you hear Walters’ answer to a variation of that question at the presser on Friday? It took him half a dozen seconds of silence before he managed to mumble, “Um.” He says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that Nichols will re-up, but he also says there are Plans B-C-D…all the way to Plan Z if Nichols bolts. The head coach has already proven to be quarterback blind, so I shudder to think what Plan B is and I’m horrified at the thought of Plan Z. That might include 81-year-old Kenny Ploen or a Ouija board to summon the spirit of Jack Jacobs.

A couple of Winnipeg scribes believe the Blue Bombers and quarterback Matt Nichols would be better off finishing fourth.
Matt Nichols

Lady Gold: I can’t imagine there’d be much of a market for Nichols.

Lady Blue: Toronto needs a starting quarterback because Ricky Ray has become as brittle as burnt toast and Drew Willy is a washout. Montreal is still looking for the heir to Anthony Calvillo’s throne. But the coaching/management situation in both those towns is iffy. Nobody knows who’ll be minding the store. If Nichols arrives at free agency, those are his likely landing spots. Saskatchewan might need a QB, but I doubt Chris Jones would be interested in him. He didn’t want him in Edmonton, why would he want him on the flatlands?

Lady Gold: What about the cost, though? He’s asking for $450,000. That’s a stiff sticker price for a guy who hasn’t won anything.

Lady Blue: It’s either that or they break out the Ouija board and talk to ghosts. Pick your poison.

Lady Gold: I’m guessing that Nichols re-ups. He’s got a good thing going here. He’d have to reinvent himself all over again in Montreal or Toronto.

Lady Blue: I hope you’re right. Anyway, time to go. Got some last-minute shopping to do.

Lady Gold: Okay. Happy Christmas and merry New Year.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 46 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit. She is most proud of her Q Award, presented in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.

 

About toasting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers…no-fear football…the biggest free-agent catch…the Hamilton Tiger-Cats…and other CFL matters on my mind

I cannot survive in a 140-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Chris Walby had the bad manners to get too old to play football.
Chris Walby had the bad manners to get too old to play football.

Here’s how positively delightful (that’s sarcasm, kids) it has been for me at my watering hole of choice in downtown Victoria during this 21st century of Sad Sackian Winnipeg Blue Bombers football:

You’re from Winnipeg, aren’t you Patti?” one of the regular bar lumps would ask as I entered the room.

That’s right,” I’d reply, knowing full well that the cad already was aware that I had strayed westward 17 years ago from the land of Slurpees, Sal’s cheese nips and skeeters the size of drones.

Shame about your Bombers,” he’d then say as he strode away to see a man about a horse (what does that even mean, boys?) or to duck outdoors for a smoke, leaving an appropriate sprinkling of rude laughter for me to munch on.

I would offer no rebuttal. What was I to say? Tell him “Ya, the Bombers suck but, hey, I hear the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is having a boffo season?”

Both Mike Riley, left, and Bud Grant skipped town.
Both Mike Riley, left, and Bud Grant skipped town.

Didn’t want to go there, of course. I mean, mention ballet in a barroom full of boys and it’s seldom going to end well. Thus, there existed no possibility of me offering a vigorous defence for the Bombers. They had become bums. So I’d sit alone at my table in the corner of the room, detached from the barside banter, and silently curse Kenny Ploen and Leo Lewis and Chris Walby and James Murphy and Stan Mikawos for having the bad manners to grow old. And both Bud Grant and Mike Riley for skipping town. And kindly Cal Murphy’s first heart for failing him.

It got to the point whereby I would only visit my watering hole of choice after Bombers’ victories. Which meant I was on the wagon. Never drank a drop for pretty near two months this season. But just look at those Bombers now. Five successive Ws. And I don’t care if the last one was ugly. They’re in the Canadian Football League playoff conversation. 

Another beer, barkeep! And get one for my favorite bar lump, too!

From where I sit, here’s the difference between the two men who have started five games each at quarterback for the Bombers in this increasingly optimistic crusade: Matt Nichols, currently behind centre, plays like he isn’t afraid to screw up. Willy did. Admittedly, that’s a simplistic analysis, but I believe that’s what basically separates the two. Nichols plays no-fear football.

I suppose there might have been some discussion among the tall foreheads in Bomberville about releasing Willy before the Bombers became obligated to pay their backup QB the remaining $200,000 of his season’s salary, but I like to think it was a brief chin-wag. Very brief.

My goodness, Winnipeg offensive lineman Travis Bond is an extremely large lad, isn’t he? Do the Bombers feed him a pre-game meal, or do they just tie him to a hitching post and let him lick a salt block?

The Bombers have a leg up with Justin Medlock.
The Bombers have a leg up with Justin Medlock doing the kicking.

Quiz me this, kids: Who was general manager Kyle Walters’ trophy catch when he went on his safari at the opening bell of the CFL free-agent hunt in February? All those who said Justin Medlock can move to the head of the class. Yes, running back Andrew Harris has been a major contributor, but the Bombers are in nowheresville without Medlock’s left leg. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Winnipeg offence has skidaddled crossed the enemy goal line twice in their past two assignments. That’s it. Just twice. Medlock, meanwhile, contributed 13 field goals to the cause. That’s 39 points in two games that were decided on, or very close to, the final play. We don’t need Einstein to work out the math. Without Medlock’s limb, the Bombers lose both matches. If Nichols isn’t your team MVP, the place-kicker is.

Since it’s Labour Day, we can begin to pay attention to the crossover standings, even if the league’s website wizards can’t be bothered to post them. Regardless what transpires when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts grab grass and growl this evening at Timbits Field in the Hammer, the Bombers will finish the weekend four points clear of the East Division’s third-place outfit. That’s good enough for a playoff position if their universe doesn’t unfold as it should the rest of the way in the West Division.

I look at the schedule and can’t help but think the Bombers’ post-season aspirations will be determined by two games—the October home-and-home exchange with the B.C. Lions. Win them both and they’re likely in. Lose them both and they’re talking crossover or going home early again.

My pick to come out of the East Division: Hamilton. The Tabbies have been rather dysfunctional this season, but I see them getting to the Grey Cup game as long as quarterback Zach Collaros doesn’t return to the repair shop. And he’ll be the MVP.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 46 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.