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…