About the great escape of CFL stars to the NFL…Mexico, Commish Randy and Martha Stewart…chasing Mr. Reilly…lady power in the NFL playoffs…backup goalies and backup QBs…and so long to Jim Taylor

Monday morning coming down in 3, 2, 1…and I wonder how many Corona CFL execs sucked back during their dog-and-pony show in Mexico…

Will the last all-star to leave the Canadian Football League please turn out the lights.

Already among the dearly departed are Alex Singleton, Bryant Mitchell, Duke Williams, Marken Michel, Diontae Spencer, Jameer Thurman, James Vaughters and Samuel Eguavoen. Most oustanding player Bo Levi Mitchell soon may follow.

I swear, we haven’t seen this many good men flee since the disciples abandoned Christ.

At least those guys had a legit excuse. It was either leave Christ to fend for himself or become a starving lion’s lunch. That’s kind of a no-brainer.

This southbound exodus of quality CFL talent is another matter. The large lads are skipping town because they want to compete with the best of the best, plus they’re tired of bashing their brains for chump change. And collecting it in Canadian coin. Up here, signing bonuses are paid in Canuck Tire money and wages in Monopoly money. At least that’s how the American import might see it.

Randy Ambrosie

But, hey, make a National Football League roster and he collects Dead Presidents and Founding Fathers. Scads of them.

A practice squad shlep, for example, earns $7,600 per week in four-down football. That’s $129,200 per season. For doing squat. Minimum wage for an NFL freshman in 2019 will be $495,000. A two-year guy can’t earn less than $645,000, even if he does nothing more than spend an entire Sunday afternoon standing on the sideline staring at a Microsoft tablet.

In comparison, the CFL minimum last season was $54,000. That isn’t a typo. Do not add a zero. And it’s only $40,559.40 on the U.S. exchange. That makes staying home in Alabama to offer Big Macs and large fries to drive-thru customers a viable option. Especially if it means you don’t have to leave a bride and kids behind.

Bo Levi Mitchell, MOP.

We won’t know the 2019 CFL salary structure until the league and the Players Association agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but we do know the bottom feeders won’t see more than five figures on their pay stubs.

So, ya, head south young man.

What puzzles me is that CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie is cool with the high volume of defectors.

“The NFL thing is just evidence of how fundamentally close the talent level in our league is to the talent level in the NFL,” he told news snoops last week at the winter meetings in Mont-Tremblant, Que. “That’s been a long and important story as it relates to our football. Our guys are world-class athletes and I’m always happy for them when they get a chance to take a shot at the NFL.”

Dave Dickenson

Oh, sure, let’s all paste on our happy faces like Commish Randy. Losing quality people to the NFL is a meh issue. Why, we can replace all those lost all-stars with any scrawny Mexican who can crawl under, climb over, or run around Donald Trump’s wall and make his way to Canada. So not to worry.

“Wonderful, young players,” Commish Randy said of Mexican talent while laying out his global scheme during a fireside chat with Dave Naylor of TSN. “It’s a brand new world, a brave new world out there.”

Sure is. But if Bo Levi Mitchell bolts to the NFL, I doubt John Hufnagel and Dave Dickenson of the Calgary Stampeders will be “brave” enough to replace their starting quarterback with Juan Valdez.

Sorry, but the CFL climbing into bed with Liga de Futbol Ay Chihuahua isn’t the feel-good story Commish Randy makes it out to be. Not when we’re witnessing the football equivalent of a jail break by our premier performers.

Seems to me his time would be better spent working on a CBA that doesn’t pay in Canuck Tire money.

Martha Stewart

In another fireside chat at the CFL winter meetings, Commish Randy channeled his inner Betty Crocker and advised Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun that he wants to “build the mother of all pies. We want to build a big pie.” Terrific. Martha Stewart can succeed him as commissioner when his world vision falls flatter than a sad soufflé.

Commish Randy began building his pie at Estadio Azul in Mexico City on Sunday, with cooks and bottle washers from the nine CFL teams assembling for the inaugural Look Under Every Rock Talent Tour. After observing 50 aspirants run, jump, pass, catch and kick, the consensus seemed to be there were a “couple of guys” who “wouldn’t embarrass themselves” at a training camp. I say we let the Tranna Argonauts have all 50 players. If they fail to make the team, maybe they’ll stay and buy season tickets. That would double attendance at BMO Field from last season.

According to Commish Randy and others, this Mexico’s Got Talent dog-and-pony show is all about growing the game globally. How about growing the game in the Republic of Tranna, Montreal and B.C. first.

Sarah Thomas

The CFL prides itself on diversity, but the NFL one-upped our league this weekend when Sarah Thomas and Terri Valenti worked playoff matches. Thomas became the first woman to officiate a post-season game, serving as the down judge in the American Football Conference division skirmish between the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Brady-Belichicks, while Valenti was the replay official for the Kansas City Chiefs-Indianapolis Colts joust. Awesome.

Moving to a more seasonal topic, I don’t understand why so many people are saying and writing that Rink Rat Scheifele is the engine that drives the Winnipeg Jets. Seems to me that it’s captain Blake Wheeler. Still.

In my next life I want to be a backup goalie or a backup quarterback. They’re always the most popular player with the rabble. A case in point would be Laurent Brossoit, currently Connor Hellebuyck’s caddie with les Jets. Listening to the faithful, Brossoit is boffo and Hellebuyck sucks. And the numbers suggest that. But, no, you don’t want to turn the blue paint over to Brossoit. It’s that old nugget about not fixing what ain’t broke. The Jets sit atop the National Hockey League Central Division leaderboard. They ain’t broke.

Jim Taylor

The West Coast said goodbye to one of Canada’s jock journo legends when Jim Taylor cashed out at age 82 last week on Vancouver Island. There was much to admire about Skull’s scribblings, but what I liked most was his approach to writing sports: Taylor recognized that the games people play aren’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things—hence the term ‘toy department’—so he went about it with a wink and a nod. Taylor used wit and sarcasm, irreverence and cheek to deliver his message of the day to Vancouver Sun and Province readers for 30 years. Sometimes he did it with the bite of a bulldog, other times the purr of a kitten. The main ingredient, however, was humor. He was a funny guy who poked fun and had fun. If there were any sacred cows in his world, no one noticed it in his writing. That’s why he was among my favorites.

Taylor had a quirk: He would run his one-liners by you before he’d ship his copy off to his editors. It was his idea of a test drive. He didn’t have to do that, though. They were all funny and made you laugh. Out loud. And you’d laugh again the next morning when you saw the same line in print.

Taylor’s passing provided pause for ponder on the state of sports writing in our vast nation. There are some fine wordsmiths, people who can spin a yarn and turn a phrase, but I don’t find much cheekiness and humor in most scribblings. The scribes all seem to take themselves so bloody seriously, and I often wonder what some of them are so angry about. It’s probably why I rag on guys like Steve Simmons and Damien Cox so much. They just don’t appear to be having any fun with the gig.

And, finally, is the Drab Slab known as the Winnipeg Free Press ever going to hire a sports columnist? It’s been more than three months since the last guy left the building. Get on with it already.

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.

About Bo’s next move…why not the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?…MVP by default…Milt Stegall’s bowel movements…PM Trudeau The 1st getting his kicks…the CFL’s Mexican cruise…empty words from the commish on domestic violence…and other Grey Cup things on my mind

Monday morning coming down in 3, 2, 1…and, no, I didn’t do the couch potato thing all day Sunday because TSN’s pre-joust blah, blah, blah is too much for moi…

It’s all about Bo.

If Bo Levi Mitchell chooses to exit the Canadian Football League stage south, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers become a better team. Perhaps even a championship outfit.

If, however, Mitchell keeps his horse hitched in Calgary, we can expect same old, same old.

Bo Levi Mitchell, MVP.

Yes, I realize the Stampeders are Grey Cup champions this morning largely due to the stingiest defensive dozen in the land, but this is a quarterback league. Mitchell is either QB No. 1 or 1A, give or take a Mike Reilly. He’s to the Stampeders what Sam Malone was to Cheers. What Simon was to Garfunkel. Remove him and you’re left with meh.

And meh would work for the Bombers, not to mention every other outfit in the western precinct of the CFL.

Kyle Walters

Naturally, Winnipeg FC general manager Kyle Walters will do some tinkering of his own between now and the opening kickoff next summer, but the most significant impact on the Bombers’ future fortunes hinges on what Mitchell does if a National Football League outfit comes pitching woo.

Consider the landscape should he try his luck in Trumpville: An elite QB in Edmonton, a Tier 2 QB in Winnipeg, no QB in Calgary, no QB in B.C., no QB in Saskatchewan.

I can feel the earth shifting under my feet, and it isn’t because I live in a high-risk earthquake zone.

Mitchell’s iffy status is the main storyline now that we’ve tucked another CFL season into the archives. The rabble in Calgary will be understandably antsy, but there are folks in four other western outposts who would be delighted to see him pack his bags.

The Canadian Mafia: Mike O’Shea, Kyle Walters, Wade Miller.

So, if you’re a Blue Bombers loyalist, go ahead and ask “Why not us?” I mean, the Bytown RedBlacks came into existence five years ago, same as The Canadian Mafia that oversees all things Blue and Gold. Yet the RedBlacks have been to the Grey Cup game three times, winning once. The Bombers have done diddly. Meanwhile, in those same five years, the Stampeders have been to the large game four times, winning twice. The Bombers still have squat. The main difference? Behind centre. The RedBlacks had an elite QB in 2016, when Smilin’ Hank Burris led them to their CFL title, and Trevor Harris emerged as a top-drawer QB this season. And, of course, the Stampeders have Bo Levi. So talk all you like about coaching and management, but it still comes down to the quarterback.

I think Mitchell was anointed most valuable player in the Grey Cup game by default. He did nothing extraordinary in the Stampeders’ 27-16 victory over the RedBlacks on Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, but that was in keeping with the 106th edition of our national football championship. It was an unremarkable, drama-free skirmish that featured just one pulse-racing moment—a 97-yard TD sprint by Terry Williams of the Stampeders. It didn’t help, of course, that the large lads were playing on an ice-skating rink.

PM Trudeau the 1st

Snippets from the 106th GC game: Well, Team Blah Blah Blah on TSN got off to a crappy start, thanks to Milt Stegall. After Matt Dunigan mentioned how much he enjoyed sampling the liquid refreshments available during the week in E-Town, Stegall thought it would be a swell idea to share his experiences with pre-game bowel movements (defecate is the word he used) back in the day…Shortly thereafter, Hank Burris made a bizarre analogy about getting a kiss from a girl on a first date, and Dunigan insisted that he got a lot more than that. I think Stegall had another bowel movement on the spot…I assume TSN will bring back Davis Sanchez as one of the gab guys next season. Hopefully someone will have removed the bag of marbles from his mouth by then…My goodness. Micah Johnson of the Stampeders is a scary physical specimen. Sara Orlesky looks like tiny figurine beside him…Nice to see Brian Williams join the gab-a-thon. He’s a very good broadcaster and a very nice man…When the politicos came onto the field for the coin toss, I couldn’t help but wonder whatever became of the ceremonial kickoff. As I recall, Prime Minister Trudeau The 1st was quite adept at kicking a football…It figures. The first dude to make an impact play is Jonathan Rose, the one guy who ought not be on the field. The RedBlacks defender gooned a game official in the East Division final and his appeal of a one-game suspension should have been heard long before kickoff time on Sunday. It’s an obscenity that he was available to pick off a Bo Levi Mitchell pass…Okay, who stole Trevor Harris and what did you do with him? Did he get stuck in an elevator back at the hotel?…I kept waiting for John Hufnagal’s yappy, little lap dog, Dave Dickenson, to start squawking, but Coach Chihuahua was on his best behaviour all day. Bummer. I was hoping for some comic relief…I know Bo Levi comes across as cocky, arrogant and uppity, but I like the Calgary QB…Milt Stegall started the day by talking about bowel movements. Maybe it’s fitting that this game was kind of crappy, too…That was quite the celebration in the Stampeders’ changing room. I swear, they were acting like a bunch of drunken curlers.

Randy Ambrosie

I’d wager that every male news snoop who lent an ear to Randy Ambrosie during Grey Cup week in E-Town knows a woman who has been abused—physically, emotionally, sexually.

Yet they ignored the hot air the CFL commish spewed about domestic violence.

“In every case when we’re in possession of information that makes it absolutely clear that something terrible has happened, that is absolutely in contravention of our philosophy and policy on violence against women, we’re compelled to act,” he said.

Such hypocritical tripe. Those words are as empty as a hobo’s bank account.

Johnny Rotten

What, Johnny Manziel smacking his former girlfriend in the head wasn’t terrible enough? Tossing her about like a rag doll wasn’t terrible enough? Dragging her by the hair wasn’t terrible enough? Threatening to kill her wasn’t terrible enough?

Apparently not.

The man who had Colleen Crowley “scared for my life” was welcomed by Ambrosie’s CFL. Open arms. TSN’s blah-blah-blah boys created a Cult of Johnny that glorified him to the point of constant nausea.

Well, let’s for a moment forget that Manziel is a lousy quarterback on a lousy Montreal Alouettes outfit. Instead consider this possibility: This woman-beater could one day be the starting QB in the Grey Cup game. Is that the optic Ambrosie is looking for in his phony quest to “end violence against women?”

Better question: Would news snoops actually challenge him on his BS in that scenario? Probably not, because they’re 99 per cent men.

Crisis lines in Calgary and E-Town will be on overload in the wake of the Grey Cup game. We know this because a University of Calgary study advises us that reports of domestic violence in Cowtown hike 40 per cent when the Stampeders are in the large match. In the host city, meanwhile, Mary Jane James of the Sexual Assault Centre says there’s always an increase in sexual violence after a major sports event, “most particularly against women.” Maybe they can get Ambrosie to help out on the switchboard.

Hard for me to accept that the Winnipeg Sun didn’t have feet on the ground in E-Town. Time was when the tabloid would dispatch two scribes to Grey Cup city. This time around, the puppeteers at Postmedia told Paul Friesen and Ted Wyman to stay home, so it was left for Edmonton scribes to handle big individual award wins for Beastmo Bighill and Stanley Bryant of the Blue Bombers. That simply won’t do. If you have a team in the league, you must be at the most significant event. But, hey, this is just another example of Postmedia treating the Sun like the red-headed, freckle-face stepchild. They aren’t allowed to work the Brier, Scotties or world curling championships anymore, so why would Postmedia send them to the Grey Cup?

The Winnipeg Free Press, of course, did the right thing and dispatched young Jeff Hamilton to the Saudi Alberta capital, and he delivered with a boffo piece on Bighill, the Bombers linebacker named top defensive player in the land.

Would have been nice if the Freep also had a columnist on site, but it doesn’t appear that the Drab Slab is in any hurry to replace the now-retired Paul Wiecek. Must be a cost-cutting thing. But, hey, now that newspapers soon will be feeding at the public trough (expect Freep publisher Bob Cox to be at the front of the welfare queue), perhaps a fresh voice is on the way.

Really good piece from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna about Grey Cup week. He delivers some wonderful anecdotes that speak to the CFL’s appeal and its every-man vibe. The yarn about Ricky Ray wearing a tux and riding a bus to the awards banquet is boffo.

Alas, Simmons had to go and spoil it by shouting and waving his fist at clouds the very next day. He wants hotel lobbies to be declared horse-free zones, and let’s have no more talk of sex.

“The horse in the lobby thing was terrific theatre and excitement when it began in 1948,” writes the Debbie Downer of the Postmedia chain. “It was kind of fun, occasionally, over the years. It represented the crazy, wild spirit of those who attended the event. Now it’s staged and boring and unnecessary. I watched on Friday as the horse was paraded by bagpipers and surrounded by cellphone photographers in the lobby of the Chateau Lacombe hotel in Edmonton. If a horse can look either confused or frightened, this one did. There was no joy in any of this. It was just theatre of the absurd. And we should stop doing this. It has no meaning or spontaneity anymore.

“The same thing has happened to the annual Jim Hunt Grey Cup question. It used to be funny when the late great Shaky Hunt would ask at the coach’s news conference about their policy regarding players having sex on the week of the game. It isn’t funny or unique anymore, especially to the coaches who know it’s coming and have a staged answer of sorts. Jim Hunt passed away 12 years ago. His question has lived on until now. It’s time to put the question to rest.”

If you’re interested in contacting Simmons, you can find him at grumpyoldcoot.com.

And, finally, I think it’s great that the CFL has established a foothold in the United Mexican States. Now if they can only do that in the Republic of Tranna.

About Mike O’Shea’s job status with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers…will Sunday’s loss cost Coach LaPo a head man’s job?…Coach Chihuahua of the Stamps is yapping again…this Rose stinks…a parade of rasslers…and more

Monday morning coming down in 3, 2, 1…and as Peter Warren used to say when his voice was the loudest on local radio, “Let’s get right down to business…”

So what’s your definition of progress? Winning one playoff game?

Mike O’Shea

If so, you don’t dismiss Mike O’Shea. You bring him back for the final year of his existing contract as sideline steward with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And I suspect that’s exactly what bulldog CEO Wade Miller and his accomplice, general manager Kyle Walters, will do.

So save your breath if you’re among the rabble inclined to call for Coach Mikey’s ouster.

Unless I miss my guess (that’s been known to happen), here’s what you can expect to hear from Messrs. Miller and Walters in the wake of Winnipeg FC’s elimination from the Canadian Football League fall frolic: They’ll agree that garbage bag day has arrived too early. Yet again. They’ll agree that there’s considerable heavy lifting still to be done, and they’ll vow to keep plugging away until they get it right. But, while acknowledging that the local lads have been found wanting for a 28th consecutive crusade, they’ll point to a big W in the West Division semifinal. In Saskatchewan no less. Surely that must count for something, right?

The Blue Bombers’ three wise men: Mike O’Shea, Kyle Walters, Wade Miller.

Well, no, it doesn’t. Not if your definition of progress considers the larger picture.

A year ago, the Bombers were 12-6 in regular-season skirmishing. That earned them second place and a playoff date at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, which O’Shea frittered away with dopey coaching.

This year, they were 10-8 and required to hit the road for the entirety of their Grey Cup chase, which featured the win over the Green People in Regina and concluded with Sunday’s tank-on-empty, 22-14 loss to the Stampeders in the West Division title joust at McMahon Stadium in Cowtown.

Is that one step forward or one step back? Is it the spinning of wheels?

Marc Trestman

O’Shea has had the head-coaching gig for five years. He’s 45-45, 1-3 in the games that matter. That’s hardly grounds for dismissal. Unless it is. I mean, the Argonauts just told Marc Trestman to get lost, less than a year after a happily-ever-after ending in the Republic of Tranna. The guy brings the Grey Cup to The ROT, then goes 4-14 because his quarterback had the bad manners to grow old and fragile, and they kick him to the curb faster than you can say “Popp is the weasel.” But that’s Tranna, where folks are too busy worrying about Auston Matthews’ shoulder and William Nylander’s contract standoff to notice there’s a football team in town.

In River City, the rabble notices. They know the only three men to bring the Grey Cup to Good Ol’ Hometown since the 1950s are named Grant, Murphy and Riley. There are statues of two of them on Chancellor Matheson Road.

Does O’Shea’s record warrant another opportunity to join that select company?

I say, sure, let him stay. If, however, garbage bag day arrives before the final Sunday in November next year, it’ll be time to move on.

Paul LaPolice

While watching the Bombers’ inept offence vs. the Stampeders’ stout defensive dozen, I couldn’t help but wonder if this result will cost O-coordinator Paul LaPolice a head-coaching gig. There are openings in the Republic of Tranna and B.C., but do the Argos or Lions want the overseer of a group that failed to get the ball into the end zone in a playoff game?

Anyone out there still want to fire D-coordinator Richie Hall? The defence gave Winnipeg FC a chance to win on Sunday. The offence didn’t.

Dave Dickenson

TSN has its turning point during a game, I have my WTF moment, and Calgary coach Dave Dickenson wins first prize in WTF-ism for his bizarre anti-Canada rant when his universe wasn’t unfolding as it should on Sunday. No Stampeders’ game is complete, of course, without Dickenson pitching a pathetic hissy fit aimed at the zebras. And, sure enough, TSN’s mics caught John Hufnagel’s yappy, little lap dog barking angrily after one of his choir boys had been flagged for a foul. “Why are all the penalties in front of Mike O’Shea? Fucking Canadians!” shouted Coach Chihuahua. WTF is that supposed to mean? Is he calling us a nation of fornicators? If so, he’s correct. After all, there are 37 million of us, so we’ve definitely been bumping uglies. But what we really like to do is screw American coaches who can’t find work in the U.S. It doesn’t do much for our population growth, but that’s okay. Dickenson is proof that we already have one too many buttheads up here.

If Jonathan Rose of the Bytown RedBlacks is allowed to participate in the Grey Cup game, CFL commish Randy Ambrosie has totally lost the plot. Rose gooned a game official in the East Division final and was instructed to take the remainder of the day off. But it can’t end there. He must be suspended.

The cardboard Ric Flair.

Snippets from another day on the couch watching three-down football: TSN chin-waggers Rod Black and Duane Forde copped out in describing Rose’s assault. Black called it an “emotional mistake” while his sidekick Forde said the Bytown defender “kinda lost it.” Kinda? He totally lost it. It was left for Milt Stegall to tell the truth. Turtle Man called it flat-out “dumb.”…Is there anyone in Canadian sports broadcasting as good at his/her craft as TSN gab guy James Duthie? I can think of only two—Ron MacLean and Scott Oake…Did I hear some of the rabble shout “true north!” during the singing of O Canada at McMahon Stadium? Good grief…What’s up with CFL teams and rasslers? The Hamilton Tiger-Cats trotted out Nature Boy Ric Flair to arouse the rabble for their East Division semifinal a week ago, and they propped up a cardboard cutout of the Nature Boy outside their changing room in Bytown on Sunday. Not to be outdone, the Stampeders dredged up Bret (The Hitman) Hart as a motivational tool in advance of their skirmish with Winnipeg FC. Can we expect to see Sweet Daddy Siki at the Grey Cup?…Saw a commercial for a new Rocky movie. How many is that now? Ten? Twelve? And will I be missing something if I give it a pass?…Head coach Rick Campbell and his Bytown RedBlacks refused to touch the East Division championship trophy following their 46-27 rag-dolling of the Ticats. “Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it!” players cautioned one another, as if the thing had cooties. Not so with the West-winning Stampeders, who hoisted their trinket and passed it around, albeit tentatively. I’ve always believed the “no touching the trophy” thing to be a silly superstition in sports, but whatever floats your boat…Brad Sinopoli of the RedBlacks or Andrew Harris of the Bombers for top homebrew this season? Tough call…Good thing the votes for most outstanding player were in and tabulated before Sunday’s skirmishes, otherwise QB Jeremiah Masoli of the Tabbies would have no hope.

And, finally, I like Bytown over Calgary in the Grey Cup game. I think every one of us 37 million effing Canadians ought to root, root, root for the RedBlacks.

About Mike O’Shea’s stubborn streak…clothes don’t make the coach…Kent Austin still has a job?…strange brew from a Postmedia scribe…and Genie’s charisma

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

Mike O’Shea and Bill Belichick: Clothes don’t make the coach.

For the record, I think Mike O’Shea is a seriously flawed head coach.

His most notable wart would be his mule-like refusal to acknowledge blatant blunders. I mean, when a man makes a mistake and then tells the rabble that, yes, given the opportunity for a do-over he would make the same stupid gaffe again, he’s not someone who should have the nuclear codes.

But that’s O’Shea.

Did he learn from an ill-advised 61-yard field goal attempt that fell seven yards short of the target and ended the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ season last November at B.C. Place Stadium? Nope. Three days after the fact, O’Shea advised news snoops that, “Yup, absolutely,” he’d ignore logic and again put his faith in Justin Medlock’s left leg.

Did he learn from an ill-advised faux punt that turned potential victory into defeat a little more than a week ago vs. the B.C. Lions? Nope. “We’d do it again,” he confirmed.

They say hindsight is 20/20 vision. I suppose it is. Unless your name is Mike O’Shea.

I swear, if it were up to O’Shea he’d have the Edsel back on the road. He’d say the guy at Decca records who rejected the Beatles made the right call. He’d let Custer have another go at all those Indians at the Little Big Horn.

So, ya, he’s stubborn like a Winnipeg winter is cold. It’s a flaw that, at some point, will likely cost him his job.

Until then, he’ll continue to keep us scratching our heads, and I’m guessing that he’ll keep doing it in a pair of short pants that somehow keep popping up as a talking point.

I’m sorry, but the significance of O’Shea’s pant legs escapes me. So the guy dresses like some shlub squatting on a street corner in Osborne Village, begging for nickels and dimes. Bill Belichick does, too. Even worse. He’s a hobo in a hoodie. But he’s also the best head coach in professional football. He’s just never let success go to his clothes, is all.

Jeff Reinebold: What a goof.

I can think of just one example of a coach’s wardrobe possibly impacting on team performance—Jeff Reinebold. He looked like a guy who got lost on his way to a beach volleyball game. He was a total goof-off. So were the Bombers under his watch. It was party time in flip-flops with Bob Marley until someone finally shot the sheriff, 32 games and 26 losses too late.

Calgary Stampeders 60, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats 0-5. Only win-free outfit in the Canadian Football League. Fewest points scored, most points allowed. And head coach Kent Austin still has a job? How is this possible?

Pet peeve: Broadcasters and reporters who describe a short kickoff as an “onside kick.” All kickoffs are onside. They have to be, otherwise there’d be a five-yard penalty. Is that picky of me? Ya, about as picky as people who talk about O’Shea’s short pants.

So, here are the head counts at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry for the Bombers this crusade: 30,165 (Calgary), 25,085 (Toronto Argonauts), 25,931 (Montreal Alouettes). Average attendance: 27,060. Only the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos play to larger audiences. This is a problem how?

In the D’oh! Department: Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press refers to John Hufnagel and Wally Buono as “former coaches.” When last seen, Buono was standing on the B.C. Lions sideline and he wasn’t there as window dressing. He’s the Leos’ current, not former, head coach.

Some strange brew from Steve Simmons in his weekly three-dot column for Postmedia. Let me count the ways:

  1. He describes Ted Williams as baseball’s “greatest hitter ever.” Well, let’s see. The Postmedia columnist was born in 1957. He was barely out of the cradle the day Williams last swatted a baseball in 1960, hitting a dinger in his final Major League at-bat. I hardly think someone who was a three-year-old boy at the time and never once watched Williams play with the Boston Red Sox is qualified to determine anything about the Splendid Splinter.
  2. He writes this of three-down football: “I really wish the CFL faithful would stop telling people how many great games there are” Huh? You have a boffo product and you shouldn’t—repeat, should not—brag about it? And I thought Mike O’Shea said strange things.
  3. He writes this of women’s tennis: “The top tennis player in the world, according to the WTA, is Karolina Pliskova. The No. 5 player is Elina Svitolina. If either of those women knocked on your door and said hello, would have any idea who they were?” Well, Stevie, you’re supposedly the most-read sports columnist in Canada. If you knocked on my neighbor’s door and said hello, would she have any idea who you are?
Genie Bouchard

In the world according to Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail, tennis player Genie Bouchard is “this country’s most charismatic athlete.” Well, I’ve never met our girl Genie. Probably never will. So I can only go by what I’ve seen/heard/read on TV and the Internet, and she strikes me as sullen, guarded and totally lacking in charm. I can’t help but cheer for terrific young Canadian athletes like golfer Brooke Henderson and swimmer Penny Oleksiak, but I struggle mightily to root, root, root for our Genie. Henderson and Oleksiak are far more charismatic. So, too, is P.K. Subban. Henry Burris was charismatic. Pinball Clemons was the very definition of charismatic. Still is. Hey, I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer, because I’m sure little girls flock to Genie. Just like they flock to Justin Bieber. It’s just that I find both her and him disagreeable.

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.

About Marko Dano moving to Glitter Gulch…silence from the Winnipeg Jets…no whining from the Pittsburgh Penguins…Mike O’Shea calling Drew Willy to have him come back…empty seats in the Republic of Tranna…best CFL coach ever…lack of star power in golf…and gays in pro sports board rooms but not in dressing rooms

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

So, Marko Dano’s new mailing address might be Glitter Gulch, and this is a problem for the Winnipeg Jets how?

Seriously, all the teeth-gnashing and angst about which player the Vegas Golden Knights plan to pluck from a Jets roster not good enough to qualify for the recently concluded Stanley Cup tournament is so much ado about nil.

Marko Dano

Does anyone truly believe that the local hockey heroes can’t get along without Marko Dano? Or Michael Hutchinson? Or any of the lads available to Vegas in the National Hockey League expansion draft?

Exposing Dano to the whims of the new kid on the block is not a deal-breaker. If his name is called when the players selected by Vegas are revealed on Wednesday, it will have zero impact on the Jets. Zero. They missed the postseason with Dano, they can miss it without Dano.

Having said that, I don’t get the Jets’ infatuation with Andrew Copp. I see him as a fringe NHLer. A fourth-line forward who shouldn’t get more than 10 minutes of ice a night. If it was a choice to protect Copp or Dano from the Vegas vultures, I’m keeping the latter.

The Dallas Stars need a goaltender, they get one. The Carolina Hurricanes need a goaltender, they get one. The Calgary Flames need a goaltender, they get one. The Montreal Canadiens need scoring, they get some. The Golden Knights need draft picks, they’re collecting them like a squirrel stashing away acorns. The Jets need…well, apparently nothing. Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and his valet, Kevin Cheveldayoff, will lay claim to a whack of freshly scrubbed teenagers later this month at the NHL entry draft, then hit the snooze button for the rest of the summer (except perhaps to gift Chris Thorburn with a fresh three-year contract).

It’s about Paul Maurice. Remember all that “oh, woe are we” whining about the schedule we heard from the Jets head coach when his outfit was required to play 32 games in 60 days at the start of the 2016-17 crusade? Well, the Pittsburgh Penguins just played 25 games in 61 days. I think we can agree that playoff hockey is a different animal than shinny in October, November and December. It’s much more intense, demanding, draining and flat-out brutal. It’s sort of like dog years, but not quite. That is, I’d say one playoff game is equal to three regular-season assignments, so the Penguins actually played 75 games in 60 days en route to their second successive Stanley Cup title. Yet not once did I hear their head coach, Mike Sullivan, sniveling about the schedule.

Drew Willy

What does Marc Trestman know about quarterbacks that Mike O’Shea doesn’t. Plenty apparently. I mean, it took O’Shea two complete Canadian Football League seasons and five games into a third crusade to realize Drew Willy wasn’t the answer at quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It took Marc Trestman less than one half of one exhibition game to arrive at the same conclusion for his Toronto Argonauts, thus he pink-slipped the former Bombers starting QB on Saturday. You don’t suppose O’Shea has already placed a call to Willy’s agent, do you? Talk about a frightening prospect.

Donald Trump will stop using Twitter before I part with money to watch exhibition football, and it seems that 99.9999 per cent of folks in the Republic of Tranna are of a similar mindset. The announced head count for the Argos’ one dress rehearsal at BMO Field was 5,532. I once saw that many clowns squeeze into a Volkswagen Beetle at the Shrine Circus when I was a kid.

I’ve heard and read a lot of “Don Matthews is the greatest head coach in Canadian Football League history” since the Coach of Many Teams died last week. Well, I beg to differ. I mean, what’s the measuring stick? Total victories? Wally Buono beats him. Winning percentage? Hugh Campbell, John Hufnagel, Marc Trestman, Bud Grant, Ralph Sazio and Buono beat him. CFL titles? Campbell, Buono and Frank Clair have as many, and Campbell did it in six seasons compared to Matthews’ 22. The best head coach ever? I’ll take Hugh Campbell or Bud Grant over The Don any time.

Once upon a time—and not so long ago—the first question you’d ask during one of golf’s major tournaments was “What did Tiger shoot?” and you’d expect to hear that Tiger Woods was at, or very near, the top of the leaderboard. The second question would be “What about Phil?” and you’d likely be told that Phil Mickelson was in striking distance of the lead. Those two were the heartbeat of the men’s pro tour. They were the latter-day version of Arnie and Jack. Now? The men’s tour is a mosh pit, with an assortment of players alternating as flavor of the month. It was Rory McIlroy, then Jordan Spieth, then Jason Day, then Dustin Johnson. Trouble is, there isn’t a swashbuckler among them. None has polarizing or riveting appeal. I wouldn’t say the PGA Tour has become a bore, but it ceased being must-see TV about the same time Woods got caught with his pants down and drove his car into a tree.

Quiz me this, kids: Why was the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s a good thing and the Golden State Warriors’ dominance the past few years a bad thing for the National Basketball Association?

Laura Ricketts

The president and chief operating officer of the NBA-champion Warriors, Rick Welts, is openly gay. One of the co-owners and a board member of Major League Baseball’s reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs, Laura Ricketts, is an out lesbian. Two openly gay people in power positions with championship teams and yet gay players are still afraid to come out of hiding. I’d say that tells us all we need to know about the 1950s culture that still exists in the dressing rooms of the top four major sports leagues in North America.

I sometimes subscribe to the old bromide that our mothers often delivered: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I’m not going to say anything about the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather dust-up.

Add 3-on-3 hoops to Steve Simmons’ growing list of sports he doesn’t fancy. The Postmedia scribe writes this: “Coming to the next Summer Olympics. Three on three basketball. Honest. With a 12-second shot clock. Games are 10 minutes in length or end when the first team has 21 points. Somebody out there in Olympic land—or many IOC members—have lost their minds.” So, if you’re keeping score at home, Simmons wants 3-on-3 hoops, trampoline and women’s hockey eliminated from the Olympics. And he wants the best tennis players in the world to cease participating in mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. The reality that the Summer Olympics now will include mixed relays in athletics and swimming, as well as mixed competition in triathlon, table tennis, judo and archery must keep him awake at night. I mean, the poor sap might have to write about a female ping pong player if a Canadian does well.

I note that Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps plans to race against a great white shark. Man vs. animal is nothing new, though. Jesse Owens raced thoroughbred horses. Former National Football League receiver Dennis Northcutt raced an ostrich. NFLers Chris Johnson and Devin Hester raced a cheetah. And, of course, numerous men fought Mike Tyson.

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

 

Winnipeg Jets never had a five-year plan…smoking weed…rewarding failure…and a lame-duck coach

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

When, oh when, will people stop prattling on about the Winnipeg Jets’ five-year plan?

The latest to trot out this mouthful of mystical misinformation is Winnipeg Free Press sports columnist Paul Wiecek, who writes: “What was originally a five-year plan now looks more like a 10-year plan…”

fish wrapI challenge Wiecek, or anyone for that matter, to produce a documented sound bite from either Jets co-bankroll Mark Chipman or his right-hand man, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, that confirms they had a self-imposed mandate of five years to develop a roster that would qualify for the Stanley Cup derby on an annual basis.

Sorry, but said sound bite does not exist. It is as fictional as Peter Pan, Harry Potter and Ondrej Pavelec’s Vezina Trophy-winning season (bet you never thought you’d see the names Ondrej Pavelec and Vezina Trophy in the same sentence).

Here’s what Chipman told Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun in September 2013, scant seconds after he had bestowed a two-year contract extension on his GM, one year for each of Chevy’s first two failed seasons as steward of the National Hockey League club:

We will have success. I’m convinced of that. I wish I could give you a date and a definition of what that is exactly, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

That was then. This is what he told Tim Campbell of the Freep on Friday:

I believe the path we’re on is the correct one. It’s difficult but I’m more than happy to be patient.”

So there. Don’t hold your breath, because Chipman isn’t.

As for Cheveldayoff, the best anyone has gotten out of him is, “We have a plan. It’s a process. We’re on the right path.”

So here’s the Jets’ plan in its simplest form: They will draft and develop, all the while hoping they draft and develop better than 29 other NHL outfits. They will arrive as a bonifide contender when they arrive, not a moment sooner.

It would, of course, be folly for Cheveldayoff to start his own clock, because he would be setting himself up for failure. That aside, though, this ongoing belief that there was a five-year plan is nothing but pink ponies and flying pigs, and a quality jock journalist like Wiecek ought to know better than to perpetuate the myth.

A fixation for Chris Thorburn.
A fixation for Chris Thorburn.

I suppose some found the chin-wag between the Official Paper of the Winnipeg Jets and Chipman interesting, but I thought it to be an exercise in blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda. That’s because Tim Campbell of the Freep was playing lob ball instead of hard ball. Why he didn’t ask His Holy Hockeyness to articulate the depth of his involvement in roster decisions (trades, contract negotiations, team captaincy, etc.) is as much a mystery as Paul Maurice’s fixation for Chris Thorburn. Campbell didn’t have to go all Mike Wallace on Chipman, because they were, after all, talking hockey not ISIS, but it isn’t a provocative question. It’s a fair question. So ask it already.

I’ll say this for Paul Wiecek: He doesn’t shy from adopting an unpopular posture. It’s one of the reasons he’s among my favorite sports scribes. But to submit that Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea warrant rewards as GM and head coach, respectively, of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is, shall I say, ballsy in the extreme. As a tandem, they are 12-24 over two Canadian Football League seasons. It is a results-driven business, the sole measuring stick being wins-losses. You win, you stay. You lose, you get a new postal code. Yet here’s Wiecek on the not-so-dynamic duo: “The Bombers should also extend the contracts of general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea—and they should do it before the new season begins. (You read that right: a duo who missed the playoffs in their first two seasons should get contract extensions before we even get to see what they’ve put together for 2016. Yes, marijuana is basically legal at this point. No, I’m not smoking it by the bale.)” He might not be smoking weed by the bale, but Wiecek’s advocating that the Bombers reward colossal failure suggests he is, at the very least, sprinkling something more mind adjusting than sugar on his Corn Flakes.

Cal Murphy
Cal Murphy

In supporting his argument, Wiecek directs our attention to “long-term academic studies of college football, the NHL, and Italian soccer” that conclude switching coaches “does not measurably improve a team’s performance, it frequently makes it worse.” Really? Well, let’s see:

  • In 1957, the Bombers changed coaches (Bud Grant) and went to the Grey Cup game that year, then won the CFL title four of the next five seasons.
  • In 1983, the Bombers changed coaches (Cal Murphy) and won the Grey Cup in ’84.
  • In 1987, the Bombers changed coaches (Mike Riley) and won the Grey Cup in ’88 and ’90.
  • In 2007, the Saskatchewan Roughriders changed coaches (Kent Austin) and won the Grey Cup.
  • In 2008, the Calgary Stampeders changed coaches (John Hufnagel) and won the Grey Cup.
  • In 2008, the Montreal Alouettes changed coaches (Marc Trestman) and went to the Grey Cup game, then won the title in ’09 and ’10.
  • In 2012, the Toronto Argonauts changed coaches (Scott Milanovich) and won the Grey Cup.
  • In 2012, the Roughriders changed coaches (Corey Chamblin) and won the Grey Cup in 2013.
  • In 2013, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats changed coaches (Kent Austin) and advanced to the Grey Cup game that season and the next two.
  • In 2014, the Edmonton Eskimos changed coaches (Chris Jones) and reached the West Division final that year, then won the Grey Cup in 2015.

What does it all mean? Constantly changing coaches isn’t the reason the Bombers haven’t held a Grey Cup parade since 1990. It’s due to the fact they’re constantly hiring the wrong person.

Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun did the chin-wag thing with Kyle Walters, who, among other things, said: “I believe in Mike (O’Shea) wholeheartedly.” Apparently, wholeheartedly means letting O’Shea walk into the 2016 CFL season as a lame-duck coach.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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.