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Monthly Archives: June 2008


I’m sitting here, watching the 3rd quarter of Saturday’s game and my Dad is telling me I need to get a life. *Sigh* So supportive…

While reviewing Saturday’s game, I heard the words that may bring sweet music to my ears…

Ken Miller: “We’ve held them on first down and let them get out of it on second down. So we have to do a better job of containing them on second down.”

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOMEBODY IS LISTENING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The guy who was sitting beside me kept bugging me about those second and long situations. I had been talking about them so much that we started talking about it. I think he was rather impressed with my knowledge. At one point I yelled, “Give it to Fantuz!!” and guess what? The Riders called his number – 1st down Riders. I love football…

Anyway, here at my thoughts on Saturday’s contest:

  • The Riders’ run defence is still intact; it held Edmonton to a whole 59 yards.
  • Love the 2-man defensive front formation. You wouldn’t think it works, but it does.
  • The officiating wasn’t bad; definitely seen worse. Glad to see they’ve lightened up on the roughing the passer calls. No penalties in the first quarter. But two bad, bad, bad, BAD calls. 1. The illegal contact on a receiver call in the 2nd quarter. They didn’t name the culprit, and I didn’t see anything that resembled illegal contact. Must have been a ghost. 2. No facemasking call on the Wes Cates 33-yard over-the-shoulder highlight reel catch. HOW DO YOU MISS THAT??
  • Pass rush is intact. Ricky Ray was feeling the heat a lot – especially in the second half.
  • The Riders’ offence looked like it wasn’t quite together in the first half. Luckily they corrected it in time for the second half.
  • I loved how the Riders incorporated ALL of their receivers into the game.
  • Glenn January completely neutralized Fred Perry. Mwah ha ha ha!!
  • James Johnson is picking up right where he left off in the Grey Cup game. He timed that 1st pick perfectly!
  • Adarius Bowman’s move on Jordan Younger was a beauty! And the way he cradled that ball – like it was a baby. And he was GONE! Loved the shot he gave to the DB on his tail.
  • Give the ball more to Andy Fantuz!!
  • I’d like to see more screen passes and crossing routes from the Riders…
  • And the defence needs to learn to STOP screens and crossing routes.
  • There was some real shoddy tackling at times.
  • Great special teams coverage. The Esks’ are calling their guy the second coming of Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams. Our guys made him look ordinary.
  • DJ Flick is THE MAN! He’s so fast, and despite his size he’s not afraid to go and grab the ball across the middle.
  • Great performance from the re-tooled offensive line. And what depth. Wayne Smith went down, Belton Johnson came in and no one missed a beat.
  • Anton McKenzie had a GREAT start at linebacker with 8 tackles. Reggie who??
  • Maurice Lloyd and Kitwana Jones were flying all over the place! They were ALWAYS near the ball.
  • Welcome back, Omarr Morgan!!
  • All Crandell needs to do is get the ball to our talented receivers and running backs. His job is relatively simple.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever been to a football game where the weather was as gorgeous as it was on Saturday. Sunny, warm, and just the right amount of wind. You’ve got to love the Prairies in June!

And now it’s time for my 3 stars of the game!

OFFENSIVE STAR: #20 – WES CATES, RUNNING BACK

He showed complete leadership on the field. He was a force all night, whether pounding the ball up the middle or blocking. He made a key block on the DJ Flick TD and helped protect Crandell all night. He actually GRABBED the ball out of Crandell’s hands on his 1st TD because he saw a seam. Had 86 yards on the ground, 45 through the air and 2 TDs. And that catch he made over his shoulder while being face-masked – what a thing of BEAUTY!! After the game Glen Suitor remarked Cates could be a MOP candidate someday. I totally agree. Could become the Riders’ franchise player.

Honorable mention(s): #12 – Adarius Bowman, Wide Receiver – 112 yards receiving and 1 TD. Made an awesome move on Esks’ veteran DB Jordan Younger on a 73-yard catch and run TD. This kid’s going to be a star. #8 – Marcus Crandell, Quarterback – 278 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Why is Crandell getting some kudos? Because he finished strong. He came back from those 2 interceptions and played the way he can. He survived and thrived in the pressure from the home opener.

DEFENSIVE STAR: #97 – JOHN CHICK, DEFENSIVE END

To use a term of TSN hockey analyst Pierre McGuire, Chick was a MONSTER!! He was in Ricky Ray’s face all day, and caused the 1st James Johnson interception that resulted in the Wes Cates TD. He is picking up right where he left off last year, becoming a dominant force on the Riders’ defensive line. He doesn’t give up and he keeps putting on the pressure all night. He also forced a fumble. He’s becoming a leader on the Rider defense.

Honorable mention(s): #19 – James Johnson, Defensive Back: Two interceptions. Enough said. #42 – Anton McKenzie – Linebacker: 8 tackles in his first ‘real’ start. He was in the middle of everything all night. Continues to impress.

SPECIAL TEAMS STAR: #30 – JAMIE BOREHAM, PUNTER/KICKER

His kickoffs were towering, and his punts had enough air to allow the coverage to get downfield. And the one mistake he made he atoned for with a perfect, perfect punt that put the Eskimos on their 14. Needs a little more depth on his punts, but a solid start to the season.

Honorable mention(s): #25 – Leron Mitchell, Defensive Back: The Riders picked him up from the Argos for his special teams prowess, and it showed. Had a number of tackles tonight. #7 – Weston Dressler – The Eskimos didn’t give him a lot to work with, but the one return in the second half where he dodged at least 4 Eskimos showed the guy has skills. Given time to develop, he could be something else.

NEXT GAME: FRIDAY, JULY 4TH VS. BC, 8:00 PM AT BC PLACE

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I’m going to dissect the Riders’ season-opening win over the next couple of days, but right now I want to focus on all of the pregame commentary.

Now, I have a love/hate relationship with TSN. I despise the fact will now play the HNIC theme. I don’t like that it constantly tries to take more and more hockey coverage away from CBC. Some things are sacred. Plus, TSN is the network that tried to make a commentator our of Tie freaking Domi. But then again, TSN has done wonders for the CFL. Every year its coverage gets better and better, and I’ve been more than impressed with its coverage this year – and we’re only a week in. This year TSN will broadcast each and every CFL game, including the playoffs AND the Grey Cup. Their support is part of the reason the CFL continues to grow and strengthen with each and every passing year.

But as much as I love TSN’s CFL coverage, they piss me off on a consistent basis when it comes to the Riders. None of the commentators (Climie, Dunigan and Schultz) ever played for the Riders, so I’m not surprised that they just don’t get it. They’ve never been fans, and I don’t expect them to be. But today I am rathern incredulous at some of their coverage.

The first, and most prominent, incident occurs early in the pregame telecast. They show two clips: one of Marcus Crandell and one of Eskimo DE (and former Rider) Fred Perry. Perry makes the following statement about Crandell’s QB abilities:

Perry: He doesn’t have a strong arm, he’s not fast, he’s gonna try and run…I just think he’s a second-string quarterback myself. I don’t think he’s a starter.

I have no problem with the statement. Perry is entitled to say what he wants. It’s what colour commentator Glen Suitor says AFTER Perry’s video clip that’s the problem.

Suitor informs the audience that there is no love lost between Perry and Crandell because of a failed business venture. Okay. I can understand that. It’s an interesting side note, but, whatever. Does it have any bearing on the game? No. Should it have been reported? Probably not. But Randorf and Co. then infer that Crandell OWES Perry money, which takes the story to another level. Now I have no idea whether it’s true or not, but the panel continues to make jokes about Crandell owing Perry money throughout the telecast. My problem with it is that fact that the panel has no proof, does not offer any proof and is, in effect, slandering our starting QB. They could probably be sued for libel if Crandell wanted to take the matter that far. It was unprofessional and unethical. It smeared Crandell’s reputation before he even took the field.

My next problem with the telecast was the panel’s defence of their ranking of the Riders. I don’t have a problem with the panel putting the Riders lower on the ranking sheet. Whatever. But I sure as hell do have a problem with them not affording respect to those players WHO ARE STILL HERE. We lost a total of FOUR starting players and ONE coach this off-season. There are FORTY-TWO guys on the roster. What is not being talked about is the fact the Riders have promoted players from WITHIN the organization to fill the vacated roster spots. That creates continuity within the team as you have players who understand the system. And they sure as hell wouldn’t still be with the Riders if they couldn’t step up and fill those roles. I hate to bring up Kent Austin, but he said time and time again last year that even though a lot of the Riders’ starters were hurt, they weren’t going to make any excuses based on the performance of the 2nd stringers. They expected to win with those people, second stringers or not. The fact is, the Riders aren’t getting any respect. But that’s nothing new.

Then there was Brian Williams’ interview with Rider GM Eric Tillman. I had watched Williams’ interview with Kerry Joseph and was appalled at the lack of intense questioning by Williams; he basically painted the Riders as the enemy and KJ as the victim. He also said KJ was forced to take a pay cut of $200 grand, though that figure is incorrect. Not exactly balanced (or good/decent) reporting. Then Williams goes on the air with Tillman and says to him, “You are either a genius, an idiot or a bum,” in relation to the KJ trade. Nice, Brian. Then Tillman (nicely) laid into Williams about KJ. From what Tillman said, the Riders could have done without KJ in 2007. Tillman waived Joseph prior to the 2007. Any team could have picked him up. At that point in time his salary was around $375,000, a contract made by the infamous Gliebermans who sunk the Ottawa Renegades franchise. So no team claimed KJ at the contract he was under. Uh, duh. The guy had no real credentials and was 34 at the time. The Riders then offered him a contract with $225,000 for 2007 and $240,000 for 2008. He signed; Tillman says KJ signed was because it was the highest offer on the table. Take that comment for what it’s worth.

Then Williams pointedly asks Tillman, “Yeah, well why didn’t you give him the money he deserved?” Let me ask you this, Brian. Does Henry Burris deserve the $400 grand he is being paid by the Calgary Stampeders? Especially when they haven’t been in the Western Final for years? And what about the fact that Burris’ game heads south every time the playoffs come calling?

Brian – you’re not a GM. And you sure as hell aren’t the GM of the Roughriders. Does one good season, albeit an MVP season and a Grey Cup-winning season, make a QB elite? Marcus Crandell won the 2001 Grey Cup and was the MVP of that same game. Is he ‘elite’? Should we be paying him $400 grand based on his history? I don’t think so. He’s struggled in the past number of years.

Next thing: Matt Dunigan’s inability to understand what people are saying. He misquotes Tillman, who said that a factor in the trade was Joseph AND Crandell’s ages; they’re both around 34 years old. Dunigan thought Tillman meant that he wanted to get rid of Joseph because of HIS age alone. No, no, no, no. The problem was he had TWO QBs who were around the 35 years old mark. He said he knew they needed to get younger at QB and prepare for the future.

And then yet another inference by the all-knowledgeable team. Climie infers from Tillman’s statements that he let KJ go because he’d be unhappy with his contract. TILLMAN DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING LIKE THAT IN THE INTERVIEW. Ugh. It’s like watching Fox News. These guys don’t get anything… Tillman traded KJ because he was worth more at this point than at any other point in his career. Grey Cup champion, League MOP – he could get a lot in return for him. Players are commodities or stocks in the sports; you have to know when to trade them before their value goes down. And that’s what Tillman did. Joseph would have come back and played for the Riders. He would have played well, he would have been classy and respectful. But Tillman looked down the road and saw that he needed to bring in youth at the QB position. I’m not going to even begin discussing the rest of what Climie said because it’s just stupid. It’s as if he didn’t even listen to Tillman’s interview and drew his own conclusions. But one part of what he said is true: Tillman wouldn’t have traded KJ if he didn’t think Crandell could do the job.

The only person who makes a lick of sense on the panel from time to time is Chris Schultz. He says that because of the salary cap, contracts are like playing chess. You have to decide when a player is going up or going down and make moves based on your instincts.

And then Matt Dunigan backs up Tillman and says his track record speaks for itself. Well why the hell didn’t you say that earlier?

*Sigh* The panel on TSN. An exercise in futility…


All I want to do is…

See some FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALL!!!!

Oh my goodness gracious. I am sooooooo so very, very, very nervous about this evening’s game. As I’ve been reading and watching all of the season previews, I’ve noticed two very different attitudes about the Riders. Those inside the province believe the team can win again – and expect it. THAT’S why I’m nervous. I expect us to win. It’s a bit of a new feeling, one filled with so much anticipation and maybe a little too much expectation. The second attitude is that of everyone outside the province. They’ve basically stripped us of our title as ‘Grey Cup Champions’ before 1 damn down of football has even been played!! NOBODY expects the Riders to repeat as champions. Except for their fans.

I so very badly want us to prove them wrong. To show them that we can lose our coach, quarterback, linebacker and defensive end and be just fine. In the world of football, everyone is expendable and replaceable. I believe in the talent of Eric Tillman and the leadership of Ken Miller. I guess I’m frustrated at the fact no one is even giving us a chance to prove ourselves.

But enough of the philosophical nonsense. Here are the storylines I’ll be watching for today…

  • Marcus Crandell: If I was him, I’d be having a hell of a hard time sleeping tonight. Say what you want, but the weight of Rider nation is on this guy’s shoulders, and that ain’t easy coming off a Grey Cup-winning season. Marcus needs to remember that he is not KJ, and nor should he be. We fans need to remember that Marcus is a very different QB than KJ and to not expect him to be KJ.
  • Offensive line: How does Gene Makowsky adjust to being in the middle? How is Jeremy O’Day’s ankle? How does Glenn January fit into things? Lots of questions about these front five.
  • Receivers: Can Adarius Bowman step up? Will Andy Fantuz get off to a slow start like last year? Can DJ Flick repeat his 1000+ yard form?
  • Running backs: I just want Wes Cates and Neal Hughes to survive the game unscathed.
  • Defensive line: Who takes the open spot – Ronald Flemons or Kitwana Jones? Does John Chick pick up where he left off? Will Marcus Adams and Scott Schultz be even better now that they’re a little lighter?
  • Linebackers: Does Anton McKenzie start? Does Maurice Lloyd continue to develop well?
  • Defensive backs/corners: Who the hell starts?? There were only a billion DBs in camp…
  • Kicking: Does Luca Congi continue his consistency? Can Jamie Boreham get his punts a little deeper?
  • Special teams: For the love of all things Green and White, will SOMEONE please find us a freaking punt return guy???????? Please, Weston Dressler, show us some flash today…

I have been waiting for this day ever since November 26th. It’s finally here.

GO RIDERS GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A little disclaimer before I begin. This post is NOT, I repeat, NOT the result of, nor a response to, any poor treatment of myself by a member of the opposite sex. It’s simply something I’ve discovered and has been in the forefront of my mind over the past few days due to overheard conversations, a newspaper article and some inner conflict.

So here goes…

I was in Starbucks one night last week, quickly picking up my favourite drink, a strawberries and creme frappuccino, during my hour break from work. I was quietly and patiently waiting for my drink to be made but couldn’t help eavesdropping on the conversation of the baristas. They were two girls, probably 19 or 20, who were carelessly gossiping about someone they knew. That’s nothing new. We all gossip. But it was these lines that made my ears perk up:

“I CANNOT work with her another minute knowing that she’s never had a boyfriend, never been in a relationship, never been kissed, never had a drink, never – you know… We have to fix this. Someone needs to take one for the team and fix this. It’s just…wrong.”

Well, damn. I probably blushed, even though I knew they weren’t talking about me; I didn’t know them. But they might as well have been talking about me. I got my drink shortly after my eavesdropping, muttered a ‘thanks’ and went back to work. I didn’t really think about their conversation much more as I went back to work as soon as I returned from my Starbucks run.

But it came back this weekend when I was browsing the books on a shelf at work. I noticed one entitled, “How to Be Single,” and was rather amused. After coming home from work that night, I sat down to browse The Globe and Mail and found Leah McLaren’s article about the same book: “Why are you single?”

I hate that question. I really, really do. But I didn’t realize WHY I hate it until all of the above happened and I began to think about my singledom.

I’ll admit that I’ve had moments where I’ve had pity parties and wondered, “When?? When will Prince Charming come and save me from my loneliness??” Those moments have been few and far between – thank God. But as my friends and siblings move in together, get married, have kids and pass all those relationship milestones I can only dream of, my continuing singledom has come to occupy more and more of my thoughts, becoming a source of frustration.

Why am I single? There are many reasons, some matter-of-fact, some deeply personal. Part of the reason is because I don’t believe in dating for the sake of dating. For me, relationships are long-term journeys, not short-term hook-ups. Another reason is the fact that I haven’t felt settled enough with myself or my life to be in a frame of mind where I’ve been ready to meet someone until the last two or three years. There are others, but I’m not going to discuss them. Ultimately, being single has really been my choice to this point, though I only realized that very, very recently.

But apparently I’m some sort of oddity for making this choice. Apparently there’s something ‘wrong’ with me. And THAT’S what pisses me off about the ‘why are you single?’ question. It’s assumed there’s something wrong with you if you are perpetually single: you aren’t pretty enough, you can’t please a guy, you’re too much like a guy, and on and on and on. In other words, you’re broken in some way. And you’re less of a woman because of it.

Society has been spinning this sh*t view of women for thousands of years. Women aren’t anything without a man. Men were the ticket to survival for centuries. It’s only in the past two or three decades that women have begun to prove they can survive on their own. The sad part, though, is that WOMEN THEMSELVES spout this crap.

I hate the idea that I’m only worth something as a woman, or a ‘complete’ woman, when I’m attached to a man. Sadly, I’d bought into the idea without even thinking. Until now.

So to those girls at Starbucks, the writer at The Globe, all those who have asked if there’s a ‘man’ in my life, I say: I’m single BECAUSE I WANT TO BE. Singledom is A CHOICE. And I, myself, will damn well choose when, and if, I want to end it. I am in a relationship with myself right now, and it sure as hell is more fulfilling than having some guy not return my phone calls while I pine for him, crying on my couching, wondering what in God’s name is so wrong with me that I’m not even worth dating to the bastard who won’t call me.

I’d never have thought it before, but I’m happy I’ve been single this long. It’s given me the chance to create my own identity, reinvent it umpteen times, become comfortable with myself and focus on me alone. In fact, I think I’m rather lucky to have had all this time with me. I’m pretty damn special.

And because I’ve had all this time to get to know myself (though it is a continual process that doesn’t stop ’til you’re dead), I will only involve myself in healthy relationships with men. I will know what I want, what I can live with, what I can’t and be all the more prepared to commit myself to someone and have children.

So that’s why I’m single. For my own good. It’s my choice. So quit assuming I’m broken. Quit feeling sorry for me. Quit trying to ‘fix me.’ Focus on you and ask yourself why my single status matters. You might be surprised by the answer.

As for me, I’ve got me. I’ll be quite alright.

Bear with me, folks. A little 2 am philosophy session is coming your way…

One of the questions I am asked the most often is, “Why, Nicole, WHY do you love the Riders so much?” People just don’t seem to grasp my love and affection for my Green and White heroes. Some don’t understand it because, well, I’m a girl. And girls sure ain’t supposed to like sports, let alone FOOTBALL. Some think I’m completely confused and try to persuade me that the NFL is a better league, game – better EVERYTHING. Some think I’m attracted to the strategy. Others see me in my jersey, shrug and shake their heads and think, “She’s just nuts.”

To be perfectly honest, my undying devotion to MY Riders is just that: they’re MINE. It’s simply a matter of patriotism. I’m a provincialist. I believe in my heart and soul that Saskatchewan is the best place in the whole world, and the Riders are a metaphor of the province we call home.

The Riders are the only professional sports team our small but vibrant province has. For me, they’re a symbol of the province’s people and its pride. There is nothing that can compare to standing with 30,000+ people in green and white the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and singing ‘Oh Canada.’

When I lived in Vancouver, I found the Saskatchewan girl in me terribly lost. There’s no pride there. I finally realized that I needed to go home, to the province and the people I love. And to my favourite football team.

The Riders are a microcosm of Saskatchewan. The province’s good and bad times have, more often than not, been mirrored in the team’s onfield performance. Isn’t it interesting that 2007 was one of the province’s most successful economic years ever and also the year the Riders won their 3rd Grey Cup? It’s MORE than interesting – if you ask me…

In Sunday’s National Post, CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon wrote an op-ed entitled, “Why the CFL Matters.” I publish it in its entirety because I think it bears an important message:

WHY THE CFL MATTERS
By: Mark Cohon

It was Grey Cup 2007 and 53,000 Canadians were on their feet, belting out “O Canada.”

Here was a living, breathing, singing map of the country, formed by people from every corner of it, united in celebration.

The sight was unforgettable. The sound was deafening. And the moment, for me, was defining.

I thought of my parents, immigrants for whom life in Canada was a conscious choice, instead of a happy accident.

I thought how grateful I am they moved here from Chicago when I was just a toddler, how this country embraced us, and how much my Mom and Dad have loved it back.

I reflected on my own decision, after working in New York City and London, England for many years, to come back to Canada, because of its quality of life, its enduring values, most of all, because this is where we wanted to raise a family.

I thought about the Grey Cup, and its magical hold on our nation. How it has always shone.

I considered how many people in the crowd that day gather at each and every Grey Cup, and the bond they share with their fellow travelers, how they are as diverse as their backgrounds and respective home provinces, and yet at that moment, they were one.

I considered the fans I had met that year in our stadiums across Canada, Moms and Dads and kids, in seats the average family can afford, for whom a game is a rite of passion.

I looked at the field, distinctly Canadian in its dimensions, and anticipated the game, uniquely Canadian in its origins, traditions and rules of play.

I took some pride in knowing that those who play it also excel in much quieter forums: in classrooms and children’s hospitals across the country, where they champion causes bigger than football.

And I realized what my seatmate, one of our provincial Premiers, said aloud, that there are so few things like this that truly bring Canadians together, and I thought that’s true, especially in an era of free trade, the internet, and Stanley Cup finals in places like Florida and California.

Having worked for the NBA and Major League Baseball, I was struck by the fact that of all the big sporting events I’ve attended – from the World Series to the NBA Finals to Premiership championships – nothing was as authentic as a Grey Cup and no crowd was as celebratory as this one.

And so I sang like everyone else: loudly and proudly.

And I savoured the simple fact that I was there with my fellow Canadians — folks from Halifax and Victoria, Portage la Prairie and downtown Toronto, on their own ticket, out of love for the game, respect for the Cup and, truth be told, for the sheer joy of it all.

In this space, I could have chosen to detail how strong our league is today, how dedicated our governors are, how TV ratings are higher than ever, and attendance is the strongest it has been in two decades.

But I’ve chosen to write about this one intensely personal experience because I believe it makes a profound point: The Canadian Football League matters.

It matters to Canadians. It matters to Canada. It brings us together. And it brings out our best.

There are those who disagree with me. They will tell you the CFL doesn’t matter, because it’s not the biggest or the flashiest or the wealthiest.

Well, if those were our only yardsticks, Canada itself wouldn’t measure up.

But we know it does. It measured up to my parents’ hopes and dreams, and it measures up to mine, just as it clearly measured up for the 53,000 who stood as one
last Grey Cup Sunday.

This is our country. And this – the Canadian Football League — is our league.

That’s our motto for 2008: This is Our League. You’ll see it on our fields, on your television screen, maybe on a t-shirt.

It’s a celebration of what’s uniquely and distinctly ours.

It’s an invitation, to come out and experience what I did on that Grey Cup Sunday: a thrilling sense of belonging.

I, along with many others, are worried about what the coming of the NFL to Toronto means for the future of the CFL. In fact, former Vancouver mayor-turned Senator Larry Campbell has authored a bill entitled the ‘Canadian Football Act,’ which seeks to ban NFL regular season games in Canada. While I endorse the sentiment, the bill doesn’t have a hope in hell of passing. Ultimately, the CFL is a business, and businesses require profit to remain IN business. But this is a discussion for another day.

What strikes me about Cohon’s op-ed is not the touching story about his Grey Cup experience but the fact that, in his words, “THE CFL MATTERS.” And nowhere in this country does the CFL matter more than in Saskatchewan.

The CFL is ‘radically Canadian’ (remember that slogan from the ’90s?). Sure it involves American players. But Americans who come up here not knowing where the hell Regina is or even how to pronounce Saskatchewan come and find a sport that unites a province like nothing else. They meet a population that works together, is full of compassion and desires to be something bigger than it ever dreamed possible.

Call me an idealist, a ‘homer’ or just plain crazy. But I LOVE this place. And this place can lead this country – and the world – if we’d all just BELIEVE we are great. If we would BELIEVE we DESERVE to be great!

I am a Rider fan because I BELIEVE in Saskatchewan.


This is a picture of the Rider jersey ornaments I made for my Christmas, er, RIDER tree. I need a new flag for the Rider-mobile (aka the 4Runner) to replace the tattered and torn flag that currently adorns it. The ‘old’ flag will then become the ‘star’ of my tree.

This is what happens to me when it’s summer and I have nothing better to do. I come up with crazy projects.

Whatever entertains me, I say.

ANYWAY – back to the topic at hand.

IT’S FINALLY GAME DAY!! And even though this game day doesn’t count for anything in the standings, it counts for a hell of a lot for those players trying to make the team. There are some seriously close and heated battles throughout the roster. Here’s what I’ll be watching for during tonight’s game…

  • How will the rookie receivers fare? This is possibly one of the most exciting races on the team. All eyes will be on Weston Dressler (apparently aka ‘the Rabbit’ at his alma mater, UND), Adarius Bowman, Rob Bagg and Co. Everyone is talking about these three. With the continued absence of #88, Matt Dominguez, the Riders are going to need one of these three to step up with a big performance. A possible starting job is on the line.
  • Who will be the Riders’ back up QB? Stephen Jyles and Darian Durant continue to battle it out. Durant has been in the Riders’ system for a couple of years, but Jyles has the arm strength and the leg power. Who will perform best when the lights come on and the ball is snapped?
  • QB Teale Orban is the ONLY Canadian QB in ANY CFL training camp. He will close out tonight’s game. How will he handle the speed of the pro game? Can he handle the pressure of playing ‘at home’?
  • The Riders have what seems like a billion DBs in camp. Can Omarr Morgan regain his starting spot and form from two years ago? Has veteran Eddie Davis lost a step? Can James Johnson play like the Grey Cup MVP he was? How will Airabin Justin, Sean Lucas, Tad Kornegay and Lance Frazier perform? All are talented and have started for the Riders at some point. Who wins a job?
  • Will Wes Cates be as good as advertised? Has he fully recovered from his foot injury? What about those behind him? Quentin Griffin and Reggie Bradshaw need to play well.
  • Apparently Scott Gordon has won the starting safety spot. Where does that leave Tristan Clovis?
  • The linebacker position is also one to be watched. Maurice Lloyd is probably the only linebacker assured of a spot. That leaves the other position to be a battle between Mike McCullough, Kitwana Jones and newcomers Anton McKenzie, Yannick Carter and Renauld Williams.
  • Will Scott Schultz and the rest of the defensive line be speedier with their combined weight loss? Will John Chick experience a sophomore slump? Can Marcus Adams get better? Will Ronald Flemons fill the hole on the end left by the trade of Fred Perry?
  • The offensive line has undergone a massive transformation. How will Gene Makowsky do in his first game inside? Is Glenn January as good as GM Eric Tillman says he is? How will Marc Parenteau fare at center with Jeremy O’Day out with an ankle injury? Can the line give the QBs enough time to throw?
  • Who’s going to step up and become the Riders’ special teams returner? The competition is WIDE open.
  • Will Luca Congi get off to a better start? Can Jamie Boreham better his punting percentage?

I know that’s a lot of things to watch. But the coaches will dissect this game to bits and pieces to evaluate each player’s performance. Trust me – for some players EVERYTHING is riding on this game.

The ‘Friday Night Lights’ go on 7 pm.

CAN’T WAIT!!!!

Columnists the country over will call it an ‘historic’ day. Others will say it’s not enough and never will be. The government believes the path to truth and reconciliation is beginning to be forged. Some ask why it took so long for this to happen.

I was moved by the government’s apology to Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis peoples for the traumatic experiences they encountered in Indian residential schools. The PM’s apology, while hardly poetic nor emotional, was broad and sincere.

To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow and we apologize for having done this.

We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you.

Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. the burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country.

There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the indian residential schools system to ever again prevail.

You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.

The government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. We are sorry.

Personally, I was moved by the words of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, who took responsibility for the fact the Liberal party perpetuated the policies of Indian residential schools.

Today, we lay the first stone in building a new monument, a monument dedicated to truth, reconciliation and a better future.

Today, we representatives of the Canadian people apologize to those who survived residential schools and to those who died as a result of the laws enacted by previous governments and parliaments. By speaking directly to survivors and victims today on the floor of the House of Commons, we apologize to those who died waiting for these words to be spoken and these wrongs acknowledged.

Successive Canadian governments and various churches were complicit in the mental, physical and sexual abuse of thousands of aboriginal children through the residential schools system. As the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that was in government for more than 70 years in the 20th century, I acknowledge our role and our shared responsibility in this tragedy. I am deeply sorry. I apologize.

I am sorry that Canada attempted to eradicate your identity and culture by taking you away from your families when you were children and by building a system to punish you for who you were.

To first nations, Inuit and Métis, mothers and fathers, I am so very sorry we took away your children. I am sorry we did not value you as parents. I am sorry we did not trust and respect you.

Today’s apology is about a past that should have been completely different. But it must be also about the future. It must be about collective reconciliation and fundamental changes.

It must be about moving forward together, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, into a future based on respect. It is about trying to find in each of us some of the immense courage that we see in the eyes of those who have survived.

To me, his text was much more specific, his apology more emotional. I thought the most telling line was the following: “I am sorry we did not value you as parents.”

Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe also offered heartfelt apologies and added a political note, as both decried the government’s failure to sign on to the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I admired the speech of Assembly of First Nations leader Phil Fontaine. I publish it just short of its entirety because I think its message was so important.

Therefore, the significance of this day is not just about what has been but, equally important, what is to come. Never again will this House consider us the Indian problem just for being who we are.

We heard the Government of Canada take full responsibility for this dreadful chapter in our shared history. We heard the Prime Minister declare that this will never happen again. Finally, we heard Canada say it is sorry.

Brave survivors, through the telling of their painful stories, have stripped white supremacy of its authority and legitimacy. The irresistibility of speaking truth to power is real.

Today is not the result of a political game. Instead, it is something that shows the righteousness and importance of our struggle. We know we have many difficult issues to handle. There are many fights still to be fought.

What happened today signifies a new dawn in the relationship between us and the rest of Canada. We are and always have been an indispensable part of the Canadian identity.

Our peoples, our history, and our present being are the essence of Canada. The attempts to erase our identities hurt us deeply, but it also hurt all Canadians and impoverished the character of this nation.

We must not falter in our duty now. Emboldened by this spectacle of history, it is possible to end our racial nightmare together. The memories of residential schools sometimes cut like merciless knives at our souls. This day will help us to put that pain behind us.

But it signifies something even more important: a respectful and, therefore, liberating relationship between us and the rest of Canada.

Together we can achieve the greatness our country deserves. The apology today is founded upon, more than anything else, the recognition that we all own our own lives and destinies, the only true foundation for a society where peoples can flourish.

We must now capture a new spirit and vision to meet the challenges of the future.

As a great statesman once said, we are all part of one “garment of destiny”. The differences between us are not blood or colour and “the ties that bind us are deeper than those that separate us”. The “common road of hope” will bring us to reconciliation more than any words, laws or legal claims ever could.

We still have to struggle, but now we are in this together.

I reach out to all Canadians today in this spirit of reconciliation.

What was so profound in Fontaine’s response was his focus on the future.

There are no more excuses now. The ‘I’m sorry’s have been said. The hurt and pain has been acknowledged, the result of Indian residential schools seen in the damaged Aboriginal communities which struggle to survive.

The government must work with Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis peoples to revive their communities, their lives and their purpose. The focus is once more rightfully on Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis peoples rather than on what the government did.

This apology was the first step on the long road to recovery for Canada’s indigenous peoples. All levels of government must make amends by working together to create vibrant indigenous communities, which, when strong, can only make Canada a better country. As Fontaine said,

“Together we can achieve the greatness our country deserves.”

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