"Heartbreak Hotel’

Those of you who know me well are aware of my 72-hour mourning phase that occurs after significant losses by my Riders or Leafs.

It’s almost 72 hours now since the Riders were stunned by the Lions on Saturday night, and I’m still shaking my head. The walk down the umpteen ramps of Mosaic Stadium that night was unbearably quiet. You could tell everyone was thinking, “What just happened?” as if it must have been a dream.

But it wasn’t.

A few points:

1. This loss was NOT Kerry Joseph’s fault! Anytime your team puts up 30+ points, you should be able to win. Andy Fantuz had a fantastic game. And Joseph threw for 350+ yards. Yes KJ overthrew Fantuz late in the game, but we were up by 5 at that point. The defence should have been able to hold the Lions.

2. We have not often talked about the Riders’ special teams this year because they’ve been decent. This was not the case on Saturday. A blocked punt and a huge return by Ian Smart directly led to two TDs the Lions didn’t really have to work for. Minus those two plays and the complexion of the game completely changes.

3. The defence was better. The Lions had approximately 50 yards TOTAL OFFENSE in the first half. But they continue to give up 1st and 20, 3rd and 10 – the plays that have very small conversion percentages. This has been a habitual problem the past number of years, which makes me wonder just what in Richie Hall’s defence have opposing teams found to exploit?

I think Kent Austin’s post-game comments hit the nail on the head: these guys are lacking leadership. The veterans on this team need to step up and show the guys how to get things done. When you need to make a play, you have to make that play. It’s that simple.

Now about the fight at the end of the 1st half…

From my seat in the stadium it was difficult to tell what was going on. You could see Jackson get hit (a hit that reminded me of the one Fred Perry laid on Dave Dickenson earlier in the season) and the ball pop loose. What irritated me was that the referees didn’t blow the whistle right away. They let the players fight for it, which made the on-field action look like a rugby scrum. But without being able to see a replay (and why can’t the MaxTron replay anything?!?!), it was difficult to figure out what happened. I really thought for a second that the fight was going to turn into a brawl as almost the entire Lions bench was on the field for a minute or two. I was happy to see Cory Rodgers ejected, but I didn’t know why.

Since then I’ve been able to view the fight courtesy of CBC’s website (did you know you can watch ENTIRE football broadcasts on their media player? It’s very handy). From viewing that footage, I can honestly say I have no idea why Rodgers was disqualified. Sherko Haji-Rasouli, on the other hand, should have been. His ‘version’ of what happened on the field yesterday was laughable. Rob Murphy should probably have been gone as well, as it looked like he had John Chick down on the ground by the throat. But, it was difficult to tell if that was what actually happened, so I’m willing to let that one go.

The league needs to step up this week and suspend Haji-Rasouli. Punching, kicking, and ripping off a player’s helmet as no-nos on the football field, and Haji-Rasouli knows that. I believe we’ll see him suspended, but will he appeal it as AJ Gass did and not have to sit out at all? I hope not. The Gass incident completely undermined the authority of Commissioner Mark Cohon. Why have a commissioner if he has no power?

Whatever happens, the war of words between Riders GM Eric Tillman and Lions coach Wally Buono will likely escalate as the season continues. I sure hope we meet the Lions in the playoffs, because the soundbites leading up to the game will be worth the price of admission by themselves.

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