Winnipeg Blue Bombers: It must really suck to be Lirim Hajrull-oops

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

How bad a day did Lirim Hajrull-oops have on Saturday afternoon at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry? Well, after coughing up a hair ball on four field goal attempts and a convert in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ one-point loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, he was so angry when he got home that he wanted to kick a dog.

Naturally, he missed. Fido is just fine.

It’s no surprise, really, that Lirim Hajrull-oops’s teammates stood by their man and resisted the urge to hurl the much-maligned place-kicker under the team bus. They put on the proper public face. In private, though, we all know what they had to be thinking—he cost them two points in the West Division table and, possibly, admission to the Canadian Football League post-season party. It was the worst kicking performance since Jay Leno gave Conan O’Brien the boot, and he ought to be fired. That’s the reality.

I see where TSN has been doing the promo thing for a feature on the Toronto Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series championship, and Joe Carter, the batsman who struck the decisive blow in the home half of the ninth inning of Game 6, tells us that “everyone knows where they were” when he swatted his three-run homer, and the Jays’ success “changed how we view baseball.” I can assure Mr. Carter that I, for one, do not have a clue where I was or what I was doing when he clouted a Mitch Williams pitch over the fence in left field, nor did that development alter the way I watch rounders. I mean, get a grip, man. It was a baseball game, not the JFK assassination.

Exactly how many people does Raffi Torres have to send to the hospital before the National Hockey League does the right thing and tell him to go away and never come back? Suspended for a fifth time, his most recent trespass being a predatory-type assault on Jacob Silfverberg of the Disney Ducks, it truly is time to toss the book at the San Jose Sharks’ repeat felon.

So, three female reporters were denied access—temporarily—to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ changing room post-game in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon. Not good. Blatant gender discrimination. Should never happen in 2015. A male usher made a serious faux pas. But wait. One of the women, Graham Watson, described the usher as an “old, out-of-touch geezer” and another, Joey Chandler, was only slightly more charitable, referring to him as an “old man.” Way to keep it classy, ladies. Makes it rather difficult to sympathize with you when you’re so insulting.

Okay, let’s put the corks back in the champagne bottles, boys. That is to say, there are far too many champagne celebrations in baseball for my liking. You win a division title, fine. Break out the bubbly. Ditto for an American League or National League pennant and World Series victory. But for earning a wild-card spot? Or a second wild-card spot? Again, get a grip, boys. You haven’t won a thing. What next? A champagne bath for finishing first in the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues in spring?

 

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 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 to her 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.

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers: It’s maddening that these guys don’t seem to get mad

I’m pretty sure the Irish in Mike O’Shea wanted to kick something on Friday night. Maybe even kick a some one. Like a guy wearing a black-and-white striped shirt.

I mean, if not for an official with an itchy flag finger, O’Shea’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers actually might have beaten no less a formidable foe than the Calgary Stampeders at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry. Alas, thoughts of victory were vanquished and a 25-23 loss means the local lads continue to swim against the stream, only now the current is much stronger and considerably faster.

So there stood O’Shea after the fact on Friday, facing the Fourth Estate chorus, and I fully expected his gab session with news scavengers to go something like this: Tick…tick…tick…KABOOM!

No way this guy was going to hold it together. Not Mike O’Shea. Not the guy who, as a menacing and marauding middle linebacker and special teams operative, opened a big, ol’ can of whup-ass on every play and in every game of his 16-season Canadian Football League career with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. His Bombers had just been beaten, in part due to a curious illegal procedure call by a line judge, and everyone from River City to the CFL ivory tower in the Republic of Tranna was going to hear about it.

Seriously. The Bombers, trailing by three, were positioned to put the go-ahead, winning points on the scoreboard or, at the very least, hoof a tying field goal. Snapping the ball on the Calgary 37-yard stripe with 55 ticks remaining on the clock, quarterback Matt Nichols lunged for what looked to be a first down. But wait. Flag on the play. The side judge determined that wideout Darvin Adams wasn’t where he was supposed to be, which is to say on the line of scrimmage, even though, according to the home side’s version of events, he had the zebra’s assurance that he was, indeed, where he was supposed to be. The result: The ball was moved back five yards, Lirim Hajrullahu missed wide right on a 49-yard field goal attempt and the Bombers were saddled with their ninth loss in 13 assignments.

Surely, there would be hell to pay. Somehow, though, the ginger-haired head coach of the Bombers kept his red-hot holstered.

“I can tell you exactly what happened,” O’Shea began in a matter-of-fact, calm cadence. “Darvin Adams is walking to the far sideline official, the usual routine is the on-the-line receiver points to the official to ask him if he’s on the line. The video shows the official points back, which means, yes, he’s on the line. Darvin Adams confirms that when he asks, ‘Am I on the line?’ He says, ‘Yes, sir.’ The video shows he checked with the official and the official pointed back, meaning ‘Ya.’

“The simple answer (from the CFL) is going to be ‘We’re sorry.’ That’s OK. We made enough mistakes in other parts of that game that contribute to (the loss), too.”

This is where a sympathizer chimed in.

“Mike, that’s gotta stink, though…that’s happened before and…critical game,” he suggested

“Yup, critical game, ya,” O’Shea agreed, with a quick, resigned shrug of his broad shoulders.

I could be wrong, but I swear that’s when I saw steaming streams of volcanic lava belching from the coach’s nostrils and ear holes. Then again, perhaps I was seeing things that weren’t really there. You know, like a line judge saying something and seeing something else.

“You cannot rely on the officials,” emphasized O’Shea, resisting any urge to go all Mount St. Helens. “You have to win games in spite of that. You really can’t, you can’t make an excuse like this. This type of outcome has been happening since officials were involved in any sport, from the beginning of history of sport with officials. It just happens. Human error. Whatever.”

So pragmatic of O’Shea. So problematic for the Bombers.

I mean, don’t these guys ever get angry? Not even when they believe they’ve been screwed?

I suppose it’s likely too late to get a good mad-on going now, though, because this defeat leaves the locals with five skirmishes remaining in their 2015 crusade and, although just two points in arrears of the Montreal Alouettes, chasing down that final playoff spot in the West Division will take a Herculean effort.

All the same, I’d like to hear more growl from the Bombers and less aw shucks.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 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 to her 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.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Now that was just stupid

You don’t want to hang all of this one on Brian Brohm. Or the hogs in front of him. Or the defence. Or the special teams.

This was an equal-opportunity screwup. Share and share alike.

But the main reason the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were given a 37-19 wedgie by the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday? Just blame it on stupid.

Stupid is Mike Willie running into punter Ray Early to breathe fresh life into a stalled Saskatchewan drive.

Stupid is an illegal contact penalty on Johnny Adams on the same drive.

Stupid is an unecessary roughness penalty on Johnny Adams on the very next play on the very same drive that ended in a touchdown for Gang Green.

Stupid is an unecessary roughness penalty on Lin-J Shell.

Stupid is an unecessary roughness penalty on Bruce Johnson.

Stupid is Lirim Hajrullahu hoofing the football out of bounds on a short kickoff attempt with one minute and 27 ticks remaining on the clock and the score 30-19 for the ‘Riders.

Stupid is a Marcel Bellefeuille game plan that did not include a pass attempt of more than 10 yards until the skirmish was 28 and a half minutes old. That’s almost an entire half without flinging the football far enough for a first down! And that’s the offensive scheme that we were told was much too complicated for newby quarterback Matt Nichols to master in three days? Five-yard sideline passes? Doesn’t say much for his smarts, does it.

Which brings me to one final stupid: Stupid is the Bombers filmaholic head coach, Mike O’Shea, not starting Nichols despite the fact he hadn’t been in town long enough to sample his first Salisbury House cheese nip.

Oh, yes, stupid ruled the day on many levels for the Blue and Gold, losers to a previously inept Roughriders outfit which, at 0-9 entering the fray, had been the free space on the 2015 Canadian Football League bingo card. The Green People gave the Bombers a proper paddywhacking before an SRO audience on a wind-swept afternoon in that ugly excuse of a ball yard on Piffles Taylor Way in Regina, and I doubt very much that Winnipeg’s filmaholic head coach needs to watch video evidence to confirm how ugly stupid his crew was and is.

I mean, what’s there to see, other than a pathetic parade of penalties and further evidence that Brohm is not a CFL-quality quarterback?

The best you could say about Brohm’s work on Sunday is this: He didn’t implode. There were no picks. Actually, there wasn’t much of anything. No touchdowns. No energy. No excitement. Just blah…and some garbage yards and a few garbage points once the debate had been decided in the ‘Riders’ favor.

Mind you, Brohm is working with an extreme handicap, and this time I’m not talking about his throwing arm. He has Bellefeuille for an offensive coordinator.

I’ve never had a peek inside Bellefeuille’s play book, but, judging by the play-calling, it can’t be any more complicated than an Archie or Jughead comic. And it’s certainly less entertaining. I swear, the Bombers would be better served if the QB simply crouched down in the huddle and designed plays in the dirt. You know, like the kids do in sandlot football. That way we might actually see a deep ball thrown on occasion.

Not with a Bellefeuille offence, though. He’s bold and brash like Donald Trump is mousey quiet. His idea of daring is running with a pair of scissors. Plastic scissors.

So, ya, anyone behind centre for the Bombers is playing with one arm tied behind his back.

Who that will be when the same two outfits do it all over again on Saturday at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry remains a mystery, but it’s my guess that Nichols will get the call he should have received on Sunday.

If not…well, that would just be stupid.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 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 to her 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.

Winnipeg sports: These two Jacks were both aces

Matty was a supreme wordsmith who never, ever mailed it in. His copy was pristine and it sang. He was a writer’s writer who worked at his craft.

Media musings and some other stuff…

Nice touch to name the press box at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry in honor of the two Jacks—Matheson and Wells.

Both Jack Matheson, my first sports editor, and Cactus Jack Wells, the lots-of-yuks broadcaster who never met a multi-syllabic name he couldn’t mangle or a day that didn’t turn out nice, were giants of jock journalism, not just in Winnipeg but on a national scale. I wonder, though: Do the names Matty and Cactus Jack carry any weight with the stable of young sports scribes and talking heads who will occupy Two Jacks Press Box going forward?

I hope so, because there are lessons to be learned from both men.

Matty, left, and Cactus Jack.
Matty, left, and Cactus Jack.

Matty, sports columnist at the Winnipeg Tribune, was a supreme wordsmith who never, ever mailed it in. His copy was pristine and it sang. He was a writer’s writer who worked at his craft. Hard. Matty didn’t write every day (his bride Peggy, aka the LGIW, insisted he take vacation once a year), but few wrote as often and as well. Most important, Matty loved his job, because it wasn’t a job to him.

As for Cactus, he went through life with a wink and a nod. He was fun and he had fun. I think that’s what jock journalists can learn most from this broadcasting legend: Take your job seriously, but not yourself.

ODDS ‘N’ SODS: Since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are 4-1 and joint leaders in the western precinct of the Canadian Football League, I guess I should show some respect and stop calling their digs Football Follies Field in Fort Garry. It seems that the Football Follies boarded the same plane out of town as Joe Mack, Gary Crowton and a cast of quarterbacks who now appear to be in witness protection programs…Interesting how things work out. If the Bombers were still in the East Division, they’d already have a playoff spot locked up…This from Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press on July 25: “Don’t be fooled by the (Bombers) 3-1 record. It’s a mirage.” And this tweet from Gary La La exactly one day later: “So I don’t know if the #bombers are for real on the field.” I assume a loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday will reduce the Bombers to “mirage” status again. Last time I saw flip-flops like this, they were on Jeff Reinebold’s feet…How much fun would Cactus Jack be having with the name Lirim Hajrullahu? I think he could handle Lirim without tripping over either syllable, but I’m pretty sure the Bomber kicker’s last name would be Hallelujah or Hoolahoopa or Highroller…Ed Tait continues to do boffo work for the Freep. His piece on former Bombers linebacker and National Football League wannabe Henoc Muamba is first rate…Read Steve Simmons three-dot column in the Winnipeg Sun this morning, and I must say that Little Stevie Blunder sounds like a bitter and angry old man in his rant against fancy stats in hockey. You don’t like fancy stats, Stevie? Well, here’s an unfancy stat for you: The next time you make a statement, put a period at the end of it, not a question mark…Again, I don’t understand why the Sun runs a column by a Toronto-based scribe who basically tells us everything he dislikes in the world. Here’s today’s scoreboard on the Simmons column: Toronto issues 17, Winnipeg issues 0…Is there any rhyme or reason to when sports columnists Paul Friesen (Winnipeg Sun) and Gary Lawless appear in print? The columnist is the most important read in a sports section. Why do we have to guess when they write?…Steven Stamkos says he wants to play hockey where he has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Guess that rules out Canada…If I told you I know someone who’s never smoked pot, never had a tattoo and never taken a selfie, what would you say? I agree. I need to get a life.

WORTH REPEATING: When asked by Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post if Winnipeg deserved a second chance with a National Hockey League franchise, Bobby Hull said

“I don’t think they could afford it. It’s not that they don’t deserve one, but I don’t think they have enough fans, enough corporate businesses, to fund a professional franchise of that magnitude.”

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 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, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.