Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Mid-Season Grades: Running Backs

We are down to the final two positions. Let's concentrate on the boys in the backfield who tote the rock: the Running Backs.

To say that the running game has been a disappointment would be an understatement. Up until the last two games, DeAndra' Cobb could not get anything going. It was a short gain, followed by a short gain, followed by a loss of yards. It was painful to watch.

When Cobb couldn't get anything going, the team started to experiment by putting both Cobb and Marcus Thigpen in the backfield together. It still did not produce any measurable difference.

But these last two games have been like night and day compared to earlier in the season. Cobb seemed to run with purpose. He hit the holes hard and found yards. There are still some issues with him – he tends to dance around too much in the backfield – but he has started to turn it on. Cobb seems to get better the more times he touches the ball. He needs between 15-20 carries to be truly effective. He has rarely been given that many touches. Hopefully that changes and the trend of the last couple of weeks continues for the rest of 2010.

Marcus Thigpen has backed up Cobb since the end of training camp, and he hasn't really done all that much in the running game. The Cats have seldomly used a Fullback, so to even comment on Sam Fournier or Darcy Brown would be useless. I can't accurately measure their contributions to the Offense or the running game because they have hardly ever been called upon in that aspect of the game.

The Running Backs, namely Cobb, have played well the last couple of weeks, but it's not enough to make up for the ineptness that I witnessed during the first month and a half of the season. With the recent success, perhaps good things are on the horizon with the running game.

Mid-Season Grade: D

PREVIOUS: Mid-Season Grades: Receivers

Should the Cats Sign Him?

Former BC Lion, and 2009 Most Outstanding Canadian, Ricky Foley has been cut by the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League.

Now that Foley is likely headed back to the CFL, I need to start the rumours going. Should the Tiger-Cats make a run at signing him?

I know that when any star player (and Foley was a star with BC) becomes available, people like me always ask if their team should sign him. But with Foley, it is worth considering for a number of reasons.

One, Foley is Canadian. He is from Courtice, Ontario (which is near Oshawa), and adding talented Non-Imports is never a bad thing.

Two, while the Defensive Line has been good, adding a player like Foley could make them great.

Three, he's a former BC Lion. If there is one thing Tiger-Cat fans know, it's that Obie loves his ex-Lions.

I'm sure all eight CFL teams will look at Foley. He's a supremely talented individual who could help any team. His being a Canadian is a big bonus. I have no doubt that the front office of the Tiger-Cats are looking into signing Foley. But will they or should they?

I obviously do not know if they will, but I think they should, with one caveat. I don't think Foley should be signed at any price. He is very good, but to break the bank for him would be a mistake. If he's willing to accept a reasonable paycheque, I say bring him in. I can't hurt, can it?

Monday, 30 August 2010

Mid-Season Grades: Receivers

We're down to the final three positions. We have the men that throw the ball, the men that run the ball and the men that catch the ball. We're starting with the men who catch.

Arland Bruce is the best Receiver in the Canadian Football League right now. There, I said it. I don't think there is a player right now who is playing better week in, week out, than Arland Bruce. All he does is make plays. Everyone will point to his game against the Roughriders, where he tied a single-game CFL record with 16 receptions, as the pinnacle of the first half of the season. It was one of the most impressive outputs I have ever witnessed. Lost in the lovefest about that game was the game he had the following week where he tallied 11 catches in a win over Winnipeg. A great first half of the season for the man known as Mr. Bruce.

Dave Stala has picked up right where he left off in 2009. Whether you like to call him "Sticky" or "Second Down Stala" the fact remains that he has been the go-to guy when the team needs to pick up a first down. There hasn't been a player this reliable in a Cats uniform since maybe Mike Morreale.

Marquay McDaniel has quietly put up some pretty impressive numbers. While they don't rival Bruce's, McDaniel has progressed well following his rookie season. He continues to get better week after week.

Matt Carter has also been a revelation. Since taking over for the ineffective Chris Bauman (more on him later), Carter has been very steady and very reliable. His first ever catch was for a TD, and since then he has shown reliable hands and steady play.

That's not to say all has been great with the Receiving corps. Maurice Mann has not acclimated himself well, and he hasn't been the threat many thought he would be playing opposite Arland Bruce. Chris Bauman still has not shown any of the skills that made him the top pick in the 2007 CFL Draft. He drops too many passes and hasn't gotten any better during his time in Hamilton.

Overall, the Receivers have performed very well. Arland Bruce has been a man possessed since the end of July, and his performance bumps the grade up. I look forward to more great things from the Receivers in the second half of the season.

Mid-Season Grade: A-

PREVIOUS: Mid-Season Grades: Offensive Line

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 9)

Thank God we are now over bye weeks. From here on out the only time the Cats might not play is the week of the East Division Semi-Final. I'm alright with that being an off week because that means the Cats are hosting the East Division Final. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but now all the teams go full speed ahead into the second half of the season.
  1. Henry Burris keeps showing week in, week out, that he is one of the best QBs in the CFL. He torched the Lions, and with the exception of his end-of-the-first-half interception-a-thon, he was near unstoppable.
  2. It is any wonder that the Stamps' dominance coincided with the return of Ken-Yon Rambo? Rambo looks to be completely healthy, and that does not bode well for the rest of the CFL.
  3. Something is wrong with Geroy Simon. He still has the abilities to make plays, but perhaps age is starting to catch up with him. Or maybe it's the QB situation in BC. Either way, he has been performing at a high level for such a long time that to see him almost disappear doesn't feel right.
  4. I don't have any answers for the problems in BC. I guess the obvious issue is that the play of the QB hasn't been good enough to win. But in watching the game this week, it seemed abundantly clear that the O-Line isn't giving the QB anywhere near enough time to make plays. Casey Printers seemed to be running for his life as soon as the ball was snapped. Things do not look good in British Columbia right now.
  5. The biggest upset so far this season did not come as much of a surprise, at least to me. I know, I know, it's easy to say that after the fact, and I did think Saskatchewan would win, but when Edmonton did win, it didn't shock me. I don't know why, but it didn't.
  6. This loss might be a good thing for the Roughriders in the long run. It was a humbling experience for the reigning West Division champions, and every team needs to be humbled every now and then. One trend I have noticed that does not bode well for the Riders is that all three of their losses have come on the road (at Calgary, at Montreal, at Edmonton). With it being very likely that they will have to go to McMahon Stadium for the West Final, they will need to solve their road woes if they are to go back to the Grey Cup for the third time in four seasons.
  7. Is there going to be a QB controversy in Edmonton? Jared Zabransky looked good when he replaced Ricky Ray, but I don't know if he is the answer right now for the Eskimos. He showed flashes of what made him a star at Boise State, but he still has a lot to learn about the Canadian game. Ricky Ray still gives the Eskimos the best chance to win, but Edmonton might have found a guy worth keeping in Zabransky.
  8. Keeping with Zabransky, has anyone else noticed the preponderance of red-headed QBs in the CFL? I don't mean just now, where there are Jared Zabransky and Travis Lulay, but also in the past with guys like Jeff Garcia and Dave Dickenson. This just struck me as odd considering you don't see many ginger athletes, let alone professional Quarterbacks.
  9. For those that frequent the CFL forums, you'll know that there was a thread started that asked whether Darian Durant was the next Doug Flutie. The levelheaded amongst us thought it was a ridiculous statement, and following Durant's game against Edmonton, he proved that it was. From now on, can we please refrain from making those types of statements, especially when a player is only in his second season as a starter?
  10. After last week's 2-0 mark, I slipped a little this week, going 1-1. I got the Stamps right, but whiffed on the Riders. But 3-1 over the two bye weeks is nothing to sneeze at, and that puts me at 16-16 going into Labour Day. A .500 mark at the midway point of the season is alright by me.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Mid-Season Grades: Offensive Line

Defense is done. Special Teams is done. Now let's move on to the Offense, starting with the biggest boys in the locker room: the Offensive Linemen.

I do not think there was a worse way to start the season for the O-Line than what occurred to start 2010. First, the team losses prized free agent Jason Jimenez to injury (which he still has yet to return from), and then they get absolutely decimated in the Week 1 loss to Winnipeg. Simeon Rottier replace Jimenez and was abused by the Winnipeg Defensive Line. The Cats gave up seven sacks in that first game, and people were calling for heads to roll.

Since then, it's been pretty smooth sailing. Rottier played a few more games at Tackle before moving to guard to make room for Belton Johnson. Since then, the line has played great.

Aside from the debacle against Winnipeg in Week 1, the Cats have only allowed eight sacks, four of which came in one game. So aside from two terrible games, the Cats have surrendered four sacks in six games. That's phenomenal!

The one area that the team has struggled in is run blocking. Where the pass blocking has been tremendous for most of the season, the running game has failed to get going until the last two weeks. Maybe this is a sign that the hogs will start imposing their will on people, but for the time being this is still a concern.

The O-Line has come together nicely over the course of the year, and bringing back Jimenez will be a major addition. As always, there is room for improvement, but I can't say I've been disappointed in the O-Line's play.

Mid-Season Grade: B

PREVIOUS: Mid-Season Grades: Special Teams

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 9

Last week the West Division took a week off to rest, this week it is the East Division's turn to relax. The only problem with that is I don't think that there could be two more lopsided contests than the ones on the Week 9 slate.

Calgary (6-1) at British Columbia (1-6)

A mismatch of epic proportions. I think the week off will allow for a closer contest, but Calgary is better than BC in every aspect of the game. Closer than many expect, but Calgary still gets the win.

Winner: Calgary, 31-20

Saskatchewan (5-2) at Edmonton (1-6)

Not much difference with the above game. Edmonton is in complete disarray and Saskatchewan looks to be clicking on all cylinders. Also like above, I expect a closer game than most people, but the Riders still win.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 32-23

I'm really tempted to take one of the home teams, but I just can't. Also, if I can go perfect again this week, that would put me above .500 for the first time all season.

Recap
Calgary, Saskatchewan

Season Record: 15-15

Mid-Season Grades: Special Teams

There are three phases to football: Offense, Defense and Special Teams.

I've graded the entire Defense, but before I head to the offensive side of the ball, I take a sojourn down Special Teams Lane.

Just like football has three phases, so to does Special Teams. We have kicking, punting and returning. Each phase has had its ups and its downs in 2010.

Sandro DeAngelis was signed by the Tiger-Cats with the hopes that he would stabilize a kicking game that had been erratic at best inf 2009. DeAngelis replaced fan favourite – or at least Blogskee Wee Wee favourite – Nick Setta, and much was expected of DeAngelis as he came to Hamilton as the most accurate kicker in CFL history.

He hasn't quite lived up to those expectations. DeAngelis's tenure so far in Hamilton has been mired by the same inconsistencies that saw Setta released in the winter. He has hit two uprights, while missing more than a couple clutch kicks (namely in the Week 2 loss to Calgary). In recent weeks, DeAngelis has seemed to conquer the problems that plagued him in July, having missed only one field goal in the month of August.

The punting game was in shambles during the first month of the season. Rookie Punter Justin Palardy was an unmitigated disaster. He had three punts blocked in the first five games, which led to his release and the signing of Eric Wilbur. It's almost like night and day with Wilbur as the Punter.  He has great hang time, great placement and he has been more than willing to put his body on the line to make a tackle. Wilbur has been excellent.

The signing of Marcus Thigpen just before the season opened has proven to be a blessing. Thigpen has electrified the return game, and set a CFL single-season record for scoring a touchdown in more ways (five) than anyone else ever has. The last couple of weeks has seen Thigpen's return abilities kept in check, but it's only a matter of time before he gets back on track.

Still in the return game, but on the opposite end, the coverage teams have been phenomenal so far this season. They have been able to keep noted returnmen Chad Owens (Toronto), Jovan Johnson (Winnipeg), Tim Maypray (Montreal) and Dominique Dorsey (Saskatchewan) in check.  The coverage team, which is usually unheralded or heavily scrutinized, deserves a hand for doing what they've done in the first half of the season.

Special Teams plays an important role in the success of any football club. Hamilton's Special Team unit has been very streaky so far in 2010, but with DeAngelis seemingly over his yips and Wilbur proving to be a game changer, the Ti-Cats do not have to worry about this aspect of the team, even if there is, as always, room for improvement.

Mid-Season Grade: B

PREVIOUS: Mid-Season Grades: Defensive Line

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Mid-Season Grades: Defensive Line

Might as well finish off the Defense by grading the performance of the Defensive Line.

Going into this season, many had high hopes that the D-Line would be a force. The unit is, for the most part, young and the belief was that they would not be dealing with the same growing pains and inconsistencies in 2010 that hampered them in 2009.

I'd say that they have passed with flying colours in 2010. Garrett McIntyre has been an absolute beast almost every game. His nickname is "Motor" for a reason. The guy just does not give up on any play.

Justin Hickman has probably been the biggest surprise for me on the entire team. He has wheels on him for a big man, and he has a motor like McIntyre. Hickman impresses me more and more every week.

Demonte' Bolden and Matt Kirk have been excellent in the middle. They have plugged holes with efficiency and have taken on blockers allowing for the Cats' Linebackers to have the most tackles of any unit in the CFL.

The man I pegged to have the best season out of all the Tiger-Cats' Linemen has been the one who has had the least impact so far. Khari Long has battled injuries for most of the season, which has kept him from being the force I, and many others, predicted he would be. He hasn't been a disappointment, but injuries seem to have derailed the breakout season it was believed he was on the cusp of having.

The Defensive Line has been strong, and looks to be getting stronger each and every week. There is still room for improvement, but they have been very impressive during the first half of the season.

Mid-Season Grade: B+

PREVIOUS: Mid-Season Grades: Linebackers

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Mid-Season Grades: Linebackers

Yesterday it was the heavily criticized Secondary. Today, it's the highly praised Linebackers.

Johnson's Sack Dance
Jamall Johnson, Otis Floyd and Markeith Knowlton form the most fearsome Linebacking corps in Canadian football. No team trots out three more vicious players than the Ti-Cats. All three are currently in the top 10 in tackles for 2010, and all could garner serious consideration for All-Star nods. (Johnson and Knowlton were All-Stars in 2009.)

From what I've seen this season, Jamall Johnson is the front runner for Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He is all over the field. His 50 tackles is second in the league (behind the 53 racked up by Toronto Argonaut Kevin Eiben), and he has made big plays in almost every game, the standout play being his stuff of Steven Jyles on a 3rd-and-one gamble against Winnipeg on August 13th.

Knowlton has been quieter than last season, but I think that has more to do with Johnson's emergence than any falloff in Knowlton's skills. He's still third in the league in tackles, with 40, and he has performed when needed. He's no longer the team's best Linebacker, but he is still better than most.

Floyd Sacks Lemon
Otis Floyd, admittedly one of my three favourite players on the current team, seems to defy age. He plays with reckless abandon. He sits ninth on the tackle list with 37, and he is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Defense. Floyd is getting a little long in the tooth, but he still makes plays and contributes on a weekly basis.

For my money, no team has a better starting Linebacking group than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and they have shown in 2010 that 2009 was just the beginning.

Mid-Season Grade: A

PREVIOUS: Mid-Season Grades: Secondary

Monday, 23 August 2010

Mid-Season Grades: Secondary

I know, I know, it's not technically the midway point of the season, but close enough, and since we are in the midst of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' bye week, and I have nothing else to write about, I figured now would be as good a time as any to grade the performances of each unit so far this season.

Over the next week or so, I'll grade one of the eight different position groups on the team – Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Receivers, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Secondary and Kickers/Special Teams.

Today, I'll look at probably the most maligned group on the team so far in 2010: the Secondary.

The one area where the Tiger-Cats were hoping for a leaps-and-bounds improvement heading into 2010 was the Secondary. The team added former Argonauts Jason Shivers and Will Poole (since released), traded for Jerome Dennis, traded away former All-Star Chris Thompson, and watched as Bo Smith left to sign with the NFL's New York Jets. Turnover, it seemed, was the name of the game.

So far in 2010, these changes haven't paid the type of dividends that was hoped for. For one, Shivers has had a very up-and-down season, with there being more down than up. He has become the fans' favourite whipping boy, and probably for good reason. Shivers has, to put it nicely, underachieved so far in 2010. I understand that he plays against the opposing team's top Receiver, but that's no excuse. That's not to say he hasn't made some nice plays, but his overall play has been lackluster so far.

Dylan Barker was finally able to assume the role as the team's starting Safety following the abrupt retirement of Sandy Beveridge in July. Barker has shown flashes of what made him the first overall selection in the 2008 CFL Draft. He's made some mistakes – and he really needs to work on his hands – but the talent is clearly there.

The one revelation has been the play of Will Heyward. He filled in more than admirably for Jykine Bradley when Bradley was injured for two games. Bradley has since retained his position as a starter, but Heyward looks to be the real deal and will be a staple of the Tiger-Cats secondary if he continues on the route he is headed on.

The rest of the Secondary is pretty much doing what is expected of them. Geoff Tisdale continues his solid, but unspectacular, play. Jykine Bradley still goes for the big hit too much. Jerome Dennis lays out big hits and mostly stays anonymous.

This is the weakest aspect of the Defense, if not the team. That doesn't mean they are terrible, just that they have a lot of room for improvement.

Mid-Season Grade: C+

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Singing the Bye Week Blues

Bye weeks suck.

This isn't the first time I've said it, and it won't be the last time either. I hate the fact that it's two weeks Monday until the Tiger-Cats take the field again. I mean, let's look at what happened in the month of August.

The Cats began the month at 1-4 following a crushing loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Heads were being called for. Kevin Glenn needed to make way for Quinton Porter; Marcel Bellefeuille needed to be relieved of his duties as Head Coach; DeAndra' Cobb needed to be replaced permanently by Marcus Thigpen; the Cats needed to clean house and hope for the best.

Fast forward three short weeks and look what we have. The team is 4-4 following two wins against Winnipeg – one at home and one on the road – and a win on the road in Toronto. They sit a mere two points back of the second-place Argonauts heading into their clash on Labour Day, and four points behind first-place Montreal, who are now vulnerable following the injury to Anthony Calvillo. They own the season series against Winnipeg – meaning the Bombers need to finish one game ahead of the Tiger-Cats to usurp their position in the standings – and need to win one of two remaining against the Argos to claim that season series.

Optimism reigns supreme in Steeltown. Momentum is behind the Cats.

But now we hit the pause button because of the bloody bye week.

There are some positives to a week off, as it will allow everyone to look back as well as look forward, but it still sucks that all we'll get to enjoy this week in the CFL is watching the Stamps and Riders pound the Lions and Eskimos, respectively.

Man, bye weeks suck.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Morning Afternoon-After Thoughts (Week 8)

Bye weeks suck. There, I said it. I understand why they have them. For the players, they get some much-deserved rest for their bruised and battered bodies. For the league, they get an extra week of television revenue. For fans like me who can't get enough of the CFL, it just sucks.
  1. I think every CFL fan would agree that the biggest news this weekend came out of Montreal. Anthony Calvillo, from most reports, has a bruised sternum and will miss anywhere from two to four weeks. While I never wish injury on any player, Calvillo's being sidelined does open up the East Division to both the Argonauts and the Tiger-Cats. This could make the East Division the most interesting it has been for some time.
  2. When it was announced that Avon Cobourne would miss this week's game, little-known Brandon Whittaker was thrust into a meaningful role. He scored TDs in the fourth quarter to seal the win, and played well when needed after Calvillo went down.
  3. Each week, S.J. Green continues to impress me. It all started with his one-handed beauty in the season opener in Regina, and every week he continues to improve. He scored two TDs this week on three catches. If this guy isn't a star yet, he will be very soon.
  4. I think a lot of the blame for what has gone wrong for Winnipeg can be placed on injuries. As much as I like Steven Jyles, Buck Pierce was pegged as the starting Blue Bomber QB from the day he signed, so his loss has been significant because it changes what the offense does. Rookie sensation Terrence Jeffers-Harris was well on his way to being named Most Outstanding Rookie, but injuries have forced him out of the lineup. Those are just two of the key players that Winnipeg needs to get this season back on track.
  5. It seems that every week there is a Receiver on one of the eight teams that forgets how to catch the football. This week it was Adarius Bowman. Those two drops were huge, especially the first one, which probably would have gone for a TD.
  6. After what he did to Agustin Barrenechea, I have lost all respect for Lin-J Shell. To spit in another man's face is absolutely disgusting. Shell should be fined and suspended for it. Despicable.
  7. Jim Barker has had a very good second tour of duty as the Argonauts Head Coach, but what the heck was he thinking when he challenged the spot on what would have been 3rd and inches? Not only does he know that it was non-reviewable, but picking up half a yard in the CFL is almost a gimme. The call cost the Argos ten yards, and on the ensuing FG attempt, Argo Kicker Grant Shaw hoofed the ball into the butt of the Centre. From 3rd and inches to nothing, all because Barker didn't like the spot. Terrible.
  8. I don't know about you, but I wasn't sure if the game was being played in Toronto or Hamilton. After the Cats scored to take the lead, the stadium formerly known as the SkyDome was the loudest I have heard since Hulk Hogan fought The Rock at WrestleMania X-8. It felt like a Tiger-Cat home game. It was phenomenal. Kudos to all those who made the trek down the QEW.
  9. I like Dylan Barker; it's a point that I have made abundantly clear. For the second time this season (the first came against Saskatchewan) Barker dropped an easy INT. He will never get a gift like he got when Lemon tossed one up to no one. I guess that's why Barker plays Safety and not Receiver.
  10. UN-DE-FEAT-ED! OK, so it was only two games, but I was 2 for 2 in my picks this week, winning with both Montreal and Hamilton. That puts my season mark at 15-15. I have climbed up to .500 for the season, with a chance next week to get above the hump for the first time this season.

Hamilton 16, Toronto 12

Sometimes, you just gotta win ugly. That's exactly what the Tiger-Cats accomplished against the Argonauts. Things looked bleak throughout most of the game, and both teams seemed like they didn't even want to win, but in the end, a win is a win is a win. The Cats have now clawed their way back to .500 and enter the bye week on a three-game winning streak.


Positives
All season everyone has been wondering when we'd see the DeAndra' Cobb we came to love last season. While that question has not been emphatically answered, Cobb has strung together two impressive games. He seems to be running the ball with purpose, and he looked hungry and ready to go tonight. Cobb was easily the offense's best weapon tonight, as Toronto succeeded in taking away the passing game. Cobb needed to step up and he did, especially in the latter stages of the game when he was most needed.

I don't think a word exists in the English language for me to describe how great the Tiger-Cat Defense played tonight. The Argos scored 12 points, but they got one on a missed FG and two on a safety the Cats conceded, so the Defense really only gave up nine points. To hold a CFL offense, any CFL offense, to zero touchdowns is remarkable. They held the league's leading rusher, Cory Boyd, in check for most of the game. Just a straight up masterful job by the Tiger-Cat Defense.

I know that no one usually cares about kickers, but I would like to say that I am thrilled that the Cats finally have a Punter in Eric Wilbur. This kid does everything right, and he's a big reason why the Tiger-Cats have consistently won the field-position battle since his arrival three games ago.

I also have to give it up to the Tiger-Cat fans who made the trek to the Rogers Centre SkyDome for the game. When we got loud, we got LOUD! It felt like a home game at the end. I won't say there were more Tiger-Cat fans that Argo fans in attendance, but it sure did feel like it for the final five minutes.

Negatives
The passing game today was not good. I think this was more of the Argos doing everything they could to take away the passing game and forcing the Cats to run with Cobb, but the passing game still left a lot to be desired.

Maurice Mann needs, desperately, to learn how to block. He seems to be afraid of contact, and he needs to correct that or he'll never make it in Steeltown.

Final Thoughts
There are still some chinks in the armour, but a win against the hated Argonauts... in Toronto no less... heading into the bye week... with the rematch set for Labour Day... will make for a happy two weeks.

This is (a) the Cats' first win not against Winnipeg; (b) a second consecutive road victory; (c) a win that puts them two points back of the Argos. This was a big win. I said three weeks ago following the Saskatchewan loss, when the Cats were sitting in last place at 1-4, that for this team to get back in it, they needed to win three of the next five. After three games, they accomplished that mission. Now it's on to grander things. Second place, winning the season series and winning on Labour Day can all be accomplished with the next victory. That would give them the tiebreaker over the Argonauts, which could be handy come November.

But that's getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let's just sit back and savour what my compadres and I call a "Double Win." It's a double win because it is a win for the Tiger-Cats and a loss for the Argonauts.

I think saying that this was a terrible game with a great ending, and fantastic outcome, would be the best way to describe what went down in Toronto on Friday evening.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Preview: Tiger-Cats (3-4) at Argonauts (5-2)





vs.





When the 2010 CFL schedule was unveiled this past February, I marked August 20th on my calendar. That was the date of the first regular-season matchup between the Cats and Argos.

As I wrote earlier today and back in May, this is the rivalry to end all rivalries.

Well, August 20th is nearly here, and for a mid-season game, it couldn't be much bigger. The Cats, currently sitting at 3-4 and in third place in the East, have won two straight. The Argos, currently sitting at 5-2 and tied for first in the East, are coming off a huge win over the Alouettes last week. Something's got to give this Friday.

This should be one of the best games this heated rivalry has seen in years. I cannot remember the last time these two teams met where the outcome actually mattered for both teams. As much as I hate the Argonauts, having both them and the Tiger-Cats be competitive is great for this rivalry and for the entire CFL.

The key for Hamilton is whether their vaunted front seven can stop the Argos' best player, Running Back Cory Boyd. If that happens, then the Argos will be forced to rely on their passing game, which has improved recently, but still is hardly a juggernaut. Cleo Lemon is still new to the Canadian game, and he can be forced into more than his fair share of mistakes if need be.

For Toronto, the key will be to get Quarterback Kevin Glenn off his rhythm. Glenn has been on fire recently, and if the Argos are to have any hope of winning, they will have to force Glenn to make some mistakes. If DeAndra' Cobb can get going like he did at the end of the game last week, the passing game will open up even more.

It should be noted that this won't be easy. Not only are the Argos 5-2, but they are undefeated at home so far this season. The Cats won their first game on the road last week in Winnipeg, so it's not like the Cats are Hawk and Animal. (For those not inclined to wrestling vernacular, that means Road Warriors.)

There are so many different storylines heading into this game that I cannot wait to sit in my seat in the Rogers Centre SkyDome to cheer the Cats on to victory. This should be awesome.

If you cannot make it to Toronto for the game (which is too bad) then, as always, you can follow the action on the radio by tuning into AM900 CHML or Y108, and on television on TSN and TSN HD.

Why I Hate the Argos

Packers-Bears. Yankees-Red Sox. Leafs-Habs. Lakers-Celtics.

Each league, be it professional or otherwise, has their classic rivalries. They span generations. The hatred between the fan bases is palpable. Just like in The Lord the of the Rings, where there is "one ring to rule them all," when it comes to sports rivalries, there is one that rules them all...

Argos-Ti-Cats

For as long as I can remember, I have hated the Toronto Argonauts. Whenever I am asked which sports team I hate the most, without hesitation the answers is always, "The Argos."

Many will say it's jealousy. That Toronto has what Hamilton wants.

Poppycock. Yes, poppycock. I have lived in Toronto, and it's not much different than Hamilton. Just bigger.

But the idea that us Hamiltonians would be jealous of those that live in Toronto is part of the reason I dislike the Argonauts so much.

It's that smugness, that arrogance, that belief that everyone wants to be Toronto, that makes my blood boil. I have met many a nice person during my time living, working and schooling in Toronto. I will not paint everyone with the same brush. Heck, I've had Argo fans post comments on here. I had a great time chiding Argo fans during a game in Toronto last season. I'd say the vast majority of Torontonians that I have interacted with are not the type of people who smugly proclaim Toronto to be the centre of the universe.

But the stigma, the belief, is still there. The idea that there is even one person that thinks that – that's what gets me going. The disdain I have for everything Toronto is one of the reasons I so enjoy when the Cats beat the tar out of the Argos, especially when it occurs in Toronto. I also like that I have made friends with Argonaut fans, and now this can be a more friendly rivalry.

Who am I kidding? I hate the Argos! Argo Week is a week when those friends are no longer friends! I can't wait until the Tiger-Cats go into the Rogers Centre SkyDome on Friday and sink the Boatmen.

Like I've been saying all week, when push comes to shove...

NOBODY BLOWS LIKE THE ARGOS!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Smitty's Selections: Week 8

After finishing with a 3-1 record in two consecutive weeks, I am ever so close to the .500 mark. To get there this week I'll have to do something I have never done: go undefeated. This is the first of two weeks where there are only two games. The West Division gets this week off, and the East Division will be off next week.

Winnipeg (2-5) at Montreal (5-2)

Winnipeg is sliding fast, and Montreal is coming off a humiliating loss to the Argonauts last week. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who will win this one.

Winner: Montreal, 41-17

Hamilton (3-4) at Toronto (5-2)

Hamilton looks like their 2009 selves, and Toronto is vastly improved and coming off a huge win against Montreal. Hamilton has only beaten Winnipeg, and Toronto is undefeated at home. This is the first of back-to-back games that should both be doozies. As much as I think Toronto will win this one and the Cats will take the rematch on Labour Day, there is absolutely no way that I can pick the Argonauts over the Tiger-Cats. I will never pick the Argonauts over the Tiger-Cats. Ever.

Winner: Hamilton, 34-31


Recap
Montreal, Hamilton

Season Record: 13-15

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Argo Week, Part 2

There are two things that are needed to make every Argo Week a success. First and foremost is a Hamilton victory at the Rogers Centre SkyDome. Second is me getting heckled on the street when wearing my Tiger-Cats merchandise.

The second criterion was met today.

As I was walking across Bloor Street atSt. George Street, heading to my job at Robarts Library at the University of Toronto, I heard a familiar refrain from a car window:

"TI-CATS SUCK!"

What wonderful words to hear when in enemy territory. You know they're scared when they have to heckle from a car.

With the public heckling out of the way, now all that needs to be met is criterion number one. Only the Cats can get that one done.

Oh, and before I forget...

Matt Kirk Named Week's Top Canadian

Another week, another Player of the Week award for a Tiger-Cat. This week, it's Matt Kirk who gets the honour of being named the Canadian of the Week.

Kirk, who was thrust into the starting lineup when injuries forced some Defensive Linemen to miss Friday's game, recorded two sacks and three tackles in Hamilton's 39-38 win over Winnipeg.

Kirk is the second Tiger-Cat to win Top Canadian (Dave Stala has already won the award twice this season), and he becomes the fifth different Tiger-Cat to win a Player of the Week award. Kirk joins Kevin Glenn (Offensive, Week 3), Arland Bruce (Offensive, Week 5), Dave Stala (Canadian, Week 3 and Week 6) and Marcus Thigpen (Special Teams, Week 1).

Kirk is a high-effort player who never seems to give up on a play. It's hard not to like a guy like Matt Kirk. It's good to see a guy like Kirk come in, have an impact and get rewarded for it. Hopefully he can keep it up for the remainder of the season.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 7)

Canadian Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010
The CFL conducted two Retro Weeks in 2010, one in Week 6, the other in Week 7. There would seem to be no better time than during Retro Week to honour the newest members of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Up top, four of the five Hall of Fame inductees for 2010 (pictured from L-R: Joe Pistilli, Don Narcisse, Bob Cameron and Tracy Ham; missing is Elfrid Payton) were in Regina last night for the CFL's annual Hall of Fame Game. I always love when players from the past are recognized because it allows newer fans who may never have seen them play learn a little about the history of this great game. Congratulations to the five newest members of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
  1. American expansion was one of the worst ideas in CFL history, but watching the retrospective on the Baltimore Stallions was pretty awesome. Is it any wonder that the Als, who as we all know were the relocated Stallions, are as good as they are? If you add the Stallions' two dominant years in, that franchise has been the class of the CFL for almost two decades.
  2. Glen Suitor made an interesting comment about a face masking call in the BC-Saskatchewan game. He said something to the effect of, "You can never put your hands on someone's face mask." That brings up the question of why a stiff arm is allowed. If hands to the face is never allowed, why do offensive players get away with it? Seems like an odd double standard.
  3. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that BC is in a lot of trouble. They sit at 1-6 and with games against Calgary, Montreal and Toronto coming up, the Lions could very easily start the season 1-9. It's not looking good in BC these days.
  4. People can blame the QBs all they want, but BC's O-Line looks like an absolute sieve out there. It seems like they really miss Jason Jimenez and Rob Murphy.
  5. Brock Ralph might be the stupidest football player on the planet. He catches the ball beyond the first-down marker on second down and proceeds to run backwards to lose yards and force a third-down gamble. That has to be a nominee for Bonehead Play of the Year.
  6. How about Albert Smith of the Tiger-Cats? Very first CFL play, he gets a sack. He disappeared for most of the rest of the game, but that is one heck of a way to introduce yourself to the league.
  7. Let the QB controversy in Winnipeg begin. Based on recent performance, Steven Jyles should be the starter going forward. Buck Pierce is too fragile and Jyles has looked very good since he has been given the reins. He only won one contest, but he looked very good in the two other games he started and in mop-up duty against the Tiger-Cats this week.
  8. My hat goes off to Marcus Thigpen who became the only player in CFL history to score a touchdown in five different ways. He now has a rushing TD, a receiving TD, a kickoff return TD, a punt return TD and a missed field goal return TD.
  9. Speaking of hats, what the hell was that on Arland Bruce's head? He looked like former WWE star The Godfather.
  10. Jamall Johnson's stuff of Steven Jyles on third and inches made me jump out of my seat. My lord, did he fire into Jyles like a rocket. Johnson, who leads the league in tackles, might just be the best Linebacker in the CFL.
  11. Just like BC, Winnipeg could be in some serious trouble. Sitting at 2-5 and in the basement of the CFL's East Division, and with the Tiger-Cats having won the season series three games to one, the Bombers now have to face Montreal, and then a home-and-home with Saskatchewan. There is little doubt in my mind that the Bombers will be 2-8 in mid-September.
  12. No word yet on the injury to Jeremaine Copeland, but it doesn't look good. He has his arm in a sling during the end of the Als-Argos game. The rest of the team picked it up nicely after he left, namely Chad Owens, but the young Argos are really going to miss Copeland's veteran presence if he misses any substantial amount of time.
  13. The Argos left it all out on the field in their game against the Als. They went deep into the playbook for a Running Back Pass and Direct Snap on a punt. Both plays worked out fantastically for the Argos.
  14. As much as it pains me to say it, the Argos are the real deal. They are unbeaten at home and now have their second quality win. Excuses were made when they beat Calgary (short week, playing at home), but there can be no excuses here. They just plain whooped Montreal. For the first time in a long time a Hamilton-Toronto game will have meaning. I can't wait for next week.
  15. Looking back, Montreal was ripe for a stinker. They finished very poorly against the Riders, and started very poorly this week. The early INT and fumble really hurt. They put Montreal in a hole that they never got out of. The late-game drops sealed the deal. Montreal gets a mulligan, but it seems like they may have taken Toronto lightly. I don't expect this will happen again, and I feel really bad for Winnipeg, who will now have to deal with Montreal's wrath.
  16. When a team is losing like the Eskimos are, they tend to try different things. The offensive formation with only a centre on the line can either be seen as genius or desperation. With the Esks being 1-6, I don't have to tell you what I think it is.
  17. With Ricky Ray, the Eskimos were a 1-5 team. I don't even want to fathom what they will be without him. If Ray misses any extended period of time, the Eskimos are in even more trouble than they were already. Jared Zabransky looked like he hadn't played much (not his fault), and Jason Maas looked just as bad as he did the last time he started in the CFL with Hamilton (entirely his fault). It could get much worse in Edmonton before it gets better.
  18. With Fred Stamps out with an injury, Kelly Campbell became Mr. Everything for Edmonton. He played phenomenally well, even in a losing effort.
  19. I know the Eskimos are reeling, but the Stamps deserve a ton of credit. They absolutely pounded Edmonton. Add this in to the drubbing they gave the Riders, and Calgary is, in my mind at least, the best team in the CFL. They have the best record, they have overcome their early season struggles, and now they have kicked it into high gear. Calgary is going to be a tough team to beat from here on out.
  20. Pop the champagne, because your noble scribe has once again posted a winning record on his weekly picks. Another week with a 3-1 record, and if I had told you before the week that the only blemish would be the Alouettes, you'd have called me crazy. I have now upped my season mark to 13-15. Since the next two weeks only have two games each, I have a realistic shot at a perfect week.

New Countdown Clock


A friend of mine – who is also one of my most frequent readers – told me that he did not like the Countdown Clock that I had been using, since it only counted down to midnight of game day, and not to the actual kickoff of the game.

I agreed with him.

The previous clock was just the best I could find at the time. But after spending some time searching the Internet, I finally found one that I have deemed worthy of being the official Blogskee Wee Wee Countdown to Kickoff Clock.

This is first of many changes that will be coming to Blogskee Wee Wee over the next couple of weeks. If you have any ideas as to what you'd like to see, do not hesitate to drop a comment in the comment section. After all, as much as I do this for myself, I also do it for you, the faithful readers.

Anyway, enjoy the new clock (if you care) and be on the lookout for more new changes coming soon.

Argo Week

One of Life's Unalterable Truths
Consider this the first shot across the bow as what I like to call "Argo Week" begins.

Whenever the Cats play the Argos, and especially when they play in Toronto I dub the week, "Argo Week." Since I travel into Toronto for work, I get a lot of pleasure out of promoting the Tiger-Cats. During Argo Week, I will be wearing at least one piece of Tiger-Cat merchandise when I go to work at the University of Toronto. Nothing like getting the battle started early.

People say that death and taxes are life's only certainties. Well, there is actually one more, and that is...

NOBODY BLOWS LIKE THE ARGOS!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

What the Tiger-Cats Mean to Hamilton

The thought of losing the Tiger-Cats has stirred a lot of emotions inside me. I have been a fan of this team for as long as I can remember. I have walked the streets of Toronto with an Arland Bruce jersey on; I have yelled "GO TI-CATS!" while standing at the 40-yard-line of Rogers Centre SkyDome. I bleed Black & Gold. The idea that my soon-to-be-born nephew might never get to experience Hamilton Tiger-Cat football makes me sick to my stomach.

But I'm not the only person who has a visceral connection to the Ti-Cats. Emily Scott, a friend of mine for almost a decade, has the same feelings about the Tiger-Cats that I do. She and I have spent almost every moment together this week talking about the Tiger-Cats, the Pan Am Stadium, and everything in between as it relates to what is going on right now in Hamilton.

When she told me she wanted to say a few things about what the Tiger-Cats mean to her and what she thinks they mean to this city, she said she did not know what to do with the finished product. I told her that if she sent it to me, I would post it.

She took me up on that offer.
__________________________________________________

Across Canada, Hamilton is known for three things: steel, Tim Horton's, and the Tiger-Cats. Not necessarily in that order. For 141 years – nearly as long as our country has existed – our players, be they Tigers, Flying Wildcats or Tiger-Cats, have left everything on the field; they have punished their bodies and pushed themselves to the edge, not for money – few millionaires are made in the CFL – but for love of the game and the city. And in turn, we love them back.

I would wager that no Hamiltonian who has said "Good riddance, Ticats" in recent days has ever been to a game. I cannot imagine that someone who has sat in an Ivor Wynne crowd and watched Earl Winfield or Darren Flutie or Dave Stala catch a touchdown pass, or seen Angelo Mosca or Grover Covington or Joe Montford crush an opposing offense, or witnessed (the incomparable) Paul Osbaldiston kick a last-second field goal to win the game, would leave feeling anything but inspired. In an atmosphere where people once again talk to their neighbours and where strangers, in an instant, become friends, the feeling that is generated – and that every single person in attendance feels – is, in a word, community. And even, dare I say it, pride.

It isn't easy to be from Hamilton. The unpleasant reality is that stepping outside the city limits means having to defend our hometown to virtually everyone we meet. I had the misfortune of living in Toronto for most of the last seven years, and I took a lot of flak from people who felt my city was a laughingstock. But there were a few bright spots: one of my favourite memories from that time is watching the Tiger-Cats play the Argos at the SkyDome. After the Ticats won the game (a fairly rare occurrence at the time), to walk down Front Street screaming "Oskee Wee Wee" and being met with the boos of the Argonaut faithful was the ultimate expression of my roots. A Tiger-Cats victory gives every citizen of Hamilton, a city with a persistent inferiority complex, license to look our supposed betters in the eye.

Tiger-Cat football is vicious and beautiful – yes, beautiful. The men who play it are heroes and martyrs – and may be lucky enough to get a free beer after a win. And the city that supports them has – every week – a chance at glory. I have heard it said repeatedly that no other private enterprise would be given such consideration, and that supposedly justifies Council's treatment of the Ticats, but to write off the team as just another business would be doing a disservice not just to the legacy of the players, many of whom continue to make Hamilton their home, but to the city as a whole. From the flags flying on Concession Street and from car windows, to the our yellow HSR buses, to the location of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, signs are everywhere that the Tiger-Cats are part of the soul of this city, and if that part is ripped away, all of us will be poorer as a result.
__________________________________________________

I think I can safely say that she sums up the feelings of many in Tigertown. It would be absolutely devastating if the Cats packed up and moved from the one city they have called home for over 140 years.

The Tiger-Cats have meant so much to my family, Emily's family and your family. I want to preserve the Tiger-Cats, not for myself, but for everyone. I want my nephew to be able to take his nephew to a game. I want Emily's niece to be able to take her niece to a game.

We cannot lose the Tiger-Cats; not now, not ever. They mean too much to too many people to see this all end.

Thank you, Emily. Thank you for letting me post what you wrote.

Thank you for doing your part to show that the Tiger-Cats are more than just a football team.

Thank you for showing all of us that the Tiger-Cats are worth saving.

Simply put, thank you.

Hamilton 39, Winnipeg 28

With everything that has gone on this week, I think I speak for all Tiger-Cat fans when I say: we really needed this. This fan base has been in the dumps all week, and I felt that a win against the Bombers would help alleviate all the stress and worry in the hearts and souls of the fans.

Mission: Accomplished!

The Cats went into Winnipeg and simply manhandled the Bombers. At one point or another, every facet of the offense, defense and special teams was clicking on all cylinders. This was as dominating a performance as I have seen. The final score actually flatters the Bombers. This was not an 11-point game.

Positives
Where to start. Well, why not with a guy who has been among the most vilified in the city recently: Mr. DeAndra' Cobb. Great game by Cobb. His rushing average wasn't great, but he ran with purpose, especially at the end of the game, and showed flashes of his 2009 self. Big round of applause for Cobb tonight.

The Defense, once again, was lights out. They still gave up some big plays, but they harassed both Buck Pierce and Steven Jyles. The pressure was relentless. Garrett McIntyre is starting to show that he can be a star in this league. A great game by the Defense all around.

Kevin Glenn continues to put up great numbers. To think that just a few short weeks ago people were wondering if he should still even be the starter. After the past three weeks, I hope that talk is put to bed. This wasn't even a particularly good week for Glenn, but he did what he needed to do. He's a big part of why the Cats have climbed out of the East Division basement.

The passing game was very diverse this week. Arland Bruce had a quiet day by his recent standards, but other guys picked it up. Marquay McDaniel led the team in yards, while Matt Carter showed why he should be a starter. It's nice to know that if Bruce or Stala is being covered, there are others that can pick up the slack.

Negatives
Not many this week, but Jason Shivers needs to be singled out once again. He wasn't the typical terrible tonight, but he was hot and cold. Hot: great INT (though it was questionable). Cold: giving up a big TD catch. He's just not consistent enough play in, play out.

As well as Glenn played, those two INTs were bad. These might have been the first two all season that were actually on him. I hope this is what Bomber fans call "the typical Glenn 'crap game.'"

Is it just me, or does it seem that every week the Cats come out flat to start the second half? I know they had a huge lead, but it seemed like they weren't even playing for the entire third quarter. A better team would have capitalized on that, like Saskatchewan did three games ago. In fairness, the Cats had a much bigger lead this week, but they needed to go for the jugular; instead, they eased up.

Final Thoughts
Thank Christ, we are finally done with Winnipeg. At the start of the season, I predicted that the Cats would win at least three of the four against the Bombers. Well, now that they have, they hold the playoff tiebreaker against them should it come into play at the end of the season.

I was very happy with how the Cats came out and took it to Winnipeg. Hamilton dictated the play and went for the throat right away. They didn't sit back and wait for the game to come to them. They went out and took it.

With two wins in a row, the Cats have clawed (pardon the pun) their way back into the thick of the East Division race. Next up, a date with the Argos in Toronto, followed by... LABOUR DAY! Nothing gets the blood boiling more than the Battle of Ontario. With both teams in the thick of things in the East Division, these games should be intense. Oh, and with the upcoming game, I'll once again be instituting "Ti-Cats Week," which will see me wear at least one piece of Ti-Cats merchandise every day that I go to Toronto next week.

But that's next week. This week, we can bask in the glory of a job well done.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Online Petition

When there is nothing more you can do, you still try to do more. I don't know if that makes any sense, but it's what came into my head as I put finger to keyboard.

A poster on the Tiger-Cats forum who goes by the name of Chewbaca1973 has started an online petition to reopen debate about where to put the Pan Am Stadium.

I applaud him (or her) for doing something. Too often, people get angry, scream and yell, and yet in the end, do nothing. This is an issue that is too important to just stand pat.

I have signed the petition and I urge you to do so as well. Whether or not anything will come of it is immaterial. We as fans and, more importantly, as citizens, need to have our voices heard more than just by placing an 'X' on a ballot every four years.

Click the link to sign your name: Hamilton Stadium Petition

Let's show the people at City Hall that we will not lose our Tiger-Cats without a fight.

Buck Pierce to Start Friday

We can put the rumours to rest; Buck Pierce is back behind Centre.

Rumours swirled during the week that this was possible, but I thought they'd let him rest one more week and give Jyles another crack at the Cats.

Guess not.

If Pierce isn't fully healthy, he could be in for some trouble. The Tiger-Cats' pass rush is unrelenting, and if they apply the same pressure in Week 7 as they have in the previous few weeks, Pierce might not make it out of Canad Inns in one piece.

Smitty's Selections: Week 7

For the first time, I'm entering a week after having posted a winning record the week before. I finished Week 6 with a 3-1 record and was an Edmonton Eskimos collapse away from being 4-0. But last week was last week; I can only hope to carry the momentum over into this week.

British Columbia (1-5) at Saskatchewan (4-2)

Um, I feel like I'd be wasting my time and yours by telling you my reasons for picking the Riders. Summed up simply: BC sucks; Saskatchewan doesn't.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 43-14

Hamilton (2-4) at Winnipeg (2-4)

The second half of a back-to-back series always has that little extra something. The teams still have some pent-up anger from the week before, which usually leads to a game that has a bit of ferociousness involved. This will also be the final matchup between these two teams in 2010, barring a playoff matchup, and with the Cats leading the series two games to one, the outcome could have a major impact on any tiebreaker scenario at the end of the season. I think the Cats, who have shown a little more 'oomph' the last couple of weeks, will squeak this one out.

Winner: Hamilton, 24-19

Montreal (5-1) at Toronto (4-2)

The last time these two teams met, the Argos held on early (even taking the lead at one point) only to get pasted in the end. The Argos have been the pleasant surprise of the CFL season. Cory Boyd has put his name in the discussion for MOP, and Cleo Lemon finally looked like a CFL QB last week. While I expect this one to be a bit closer, the Als will carry the day.

Winner: Montreal, 37-24

Edmonton (1-5) at Calgary (5-1)

Just as much of a mismatch as the other game in the West Division this week. The only reason the Esks are more of a match for the Stamps than the Lions are for the Riders is because these two teams always play better when they play each other. That said, this one won't be close. Stamps by a bunch.

Winner: Calgary, 33-17

Recap
Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Montreal, Calgary

Season Record: 10-14

Preview: Tiger-Cats (2-4) at Blue Bombers (2-4)





vs.





With the whole stadium debacle and relocation fears dominating the headlines this past week, I think we may have all forgotten that there is a football team preparing to play a football game.

After last week's thisclose-to-a-must-win over Winnipeg in the books, we now move on to this week's thisclose-to-a-must-win game in Winnipeg.

With Arland Bruce and Kevin Glenn clicking like they have been the last couple of games, the Cats have looked like the team many thought they'd be heading into the 2010 season. The Bombers seem to be settling in to what many thought they'd be: a competitive team that is about one year away from true contention. Now, to be fair, they have played the last three games with their backup QB, but that's not really an excuse because Steven Jyles was signed in the off-season to possibly be Winnipeg's starter.

In fairness to Jyles, he has looked very good in his three starts. There are rumours that Buck Pierce may play this week, but with the way Jyles has performed I would think it'd be wise to rest Pierce for one more week and let Jyles play the Tiger-Cats.

Aside from the stadium garbage, the Cats have had a pretty quiet week. It looks like there will be some players out of the lineup this week, most notably D-Lineman Justin Hickman, but for the most part the Cats have escaped the week without incident.

Much like last week, this is an important game. The Cats have yet to win on the road this season, and a victory over the Bombers would thrust them into sole possession of third place and give them the season series over the Bombers, three games to one. With it being likely that the Argos will lose to the Als this week, that would set up a "Showdown for Second" in Week 8, when the Cats travel to Toronto to face the Argos for the first game of their back-to-back, which culminates on Labour Day.

I'm sure this is the part that bores everyone, but once again AM900 CHML and Y108 will broadcast the game via radio, while you can watch the game (as I will) on TSN and TSN HD. Kickoff is at 8:30PM.

The Cats are Back to Ball-in'

No more stadium talk. No more relocation talk. Let's concentrate on the things that are happening that have an actual effect on the on-field product.

The Tiger-Cats announced yesterday that they have re-signed WR David Ball.

I know this isn't the world's biggest acquisition, but if you have been following my writing from the beginning (or if you just read my Winnipeg Blue Bombers preview), you'll know that I'm a huge fan of Ball, going back to his college days.

OK, all I really have to go off is his college days because he has admittedly done nothing during his professional career to engender this much support from your lowly scribe.

But my oh my, what a college career.  He broke some of Jerry Rice's – yes, that Jerry Rice, as in the recently enshrined Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice – records, the most significant one being D-II career TD receptions.

Ball has never really had the chance to show what he can do as a professional in any of his stops in the CFL and NFL. I'm hoping that this stop in Hamilton will be the final stop of his career. I want to see him on the field showing fans around the country what he is capable of doing.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Could the East Finally Crossover to the West?

When you look at the current CFL standings, one thing pops out: the East is currently occupying the crossover spot.

Let me rewind for a second here. For those that do not know, if the last-place team in one division has a better record than the third-place team in the other division, the last-place team will cross over to the other division for the playoffs. Got that? Good.

The CFL adopted this version of the crossover rule in 1997, and it has been used six times:
  • 2009: BC Lions (Won)
  • 2008: Edmonton Eskimos (Won)
  • 2005: Saskatchewan Roughriders (Lost)
  • 2003: BC Lions (Lost)
  • 2002: Saskatchewan Roughriders (Lost)
  • 1997: BC Lions (Lost)
What is the one thing you notice? Yes, there has been a crossover the last two seasons, but that's not it. Yes, the last two seasons the crossover team has won the Division Semi-Final, but that's not it either. Yes! The crossover has only been used to bring a West team to the East. The East Division has never had a crossover team.

Western dominance has been something that commentators have been talking about for a long time. The belief was that the four teams in the West have been, and still are, better than the four teams in the East.

It looks like 2010 could change all that.

The Lions and Eskimos, coincidentally the only two crossover teams to win, are currently 1-5 in the West Division. The Tiger-Cats and the Blue Bombers, coincidentally the only two teams to lose to crossover teams, are currently 2-4 in the East Division. That means that if the playoffs began today, the Bombers (who currently lose the tiebreaker to the Cats based on head-to-head record) would cross over into the West Division to play Saskatchewan in the West Division Semi-Final.

I know it is way too early to be talking about the playoffs, and many things can happen between now and November, but I wouldn't be surprised if the fourth-place East Division team has a better record than the third-place West Division team when the season is over. To put it bluntly, the Esks and Leos have looked like sh*t. They've only beaten each other, and aside from an injury to Lions QB Casey Printers, they have fielded the teams they'll likely field for the rest of the season.

Having said that, the Cats have only beaten the Bombers, and the Bombers have only beaten the Cats and Esks, so it's not like they are world beaters either.

It will be interesting to see if the East can finally get over that hurdle and cross over to the West. After the next twelve games we'll know the answer.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Dave Stala Wins Canadian of the Week Award

For the second time this season, Dave Stala has been recognized as the CFL's top Canadian player.

Dave Stala played a great game last Saturday, hauling in what was the winning TD.

The man that I am beginning to refer to as "Second Down Stala" had one of the biggest catches of the night when he hauled in a 21-yard pass on 2nd and 20. Dave Stala is one of the most fun players to watch.

I'm sorry if this comes off less than happy. Normally I am ecstatic when a Ti-Cat wins an award, but with all the stadium non-sense and the team possibly relocating, I just don't have it in me to be jubilant right now.

Goodbye Ti-Cats

I was going to write this as an obituary, but since the death of the Tiger-Cats isn't certain, I'll abstain from doing that until it is official that the Cats will leave.

City council, in its infinite wisdom, has voted 12 to 3 in favour of the west harbour.

Those that voted in favour in of the harbour site were:

Ward 1 - Brian McHattie
Ward 2 - Bob Bratina
Ward 3 - Bernie Morelli
Ward 5 - Chad Collins
Ward 6 - Tom Jackson
Ward 7 - Scott Duvall
Ward 8 - Terry Whitehead
Ward 10 - Maria Pearson
Ward 12 - Lloyd Ferguson
Ward 13 - Russ Powers
Ward 14 - Robert Pasuta
Mayor - Fred Eisenberger

Those that voted against:

Ward 4 - Sam Merulla
Ward 11 - David L. Mitchell
Ward 15 - Margaret McCarthy

Those that abstained:

Ward 9 - Brad Clark

Now, from my understanding of everything, without a long-term tenant, there will be no Pan Am Game money from the federal or provincial governments. No senior-level money equals no stadium.

I'm sickened by the delusion of city council. They put forth a motion to try to get the Cats on board for the harbour site. That's not going to happen, which means that after 141 years (what will be 142 years after they play out their lease at Ivor Wynne), the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will no longer exist.

This is a sad day not only for Tiger-Cat fans, but for the city of Hamilton.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

I really do not know what to say right now. I come home from a long day's work to Facebook posts, e-mails and my Dad's words:

"The Tiger-Cats are leaving."

I have read Bob Young's letter to the mayor, and while I know it doesn't categorically state that the Tiger-Cats will leave Hamiton, it sure does seem like that is the likely outcome to this whole mess.

An institution that I was hoping my soon-to-be-born nephew could enjoy may very well be taken away from me, you, all of us.

And for what? So the mayor can say he won? So a man so devoid of even the most basic of negotiating skills, a man so inept at his own job, a man so anger-inducing that if he was standing in front me, I would punch him square in the face, so a man, our "mayor," who I wouldn't trust to run a hot dog stand, can revitalize downtown? Well, with the Cats no longer a part of the equation, he can kiss his federal and provincial money goodbye. His revitalization will hit a major roadblock.

I want to be angry at Bob Young, I want to look at him as the Art Modell  (Cleveland Browns' owner who moved them to Baltimore) of the CFL.

But I can't.

From all I've seen, Bob Young has attempted time and time again to make this work. He accepted a facilitator's recommendation of the East Mountain as the site for a stadium, even though that was not his first, second, third, or tenth choice. He committed money to not only build the stadium, but money to bring two Grey Cups to the city, even money to help revitalize downtown for f**k's sake. The mayor's response to those overtures was to spit in his face.

If the Cats decide to move, I wish them luck. If the Cats decide to move, it probably ends my days as a resident of Hamilton. It is inconvenient for me to live here and work where I do. The only reason I stay is to go to Ti-Cat games. With that no longer in the picture, I have no reason to stay here.

The saddest part for me personally, aside from the fact that my favourite professional sports franchise will be no more, is that I will no longer have any reason to keep up this blog. The team moving will likely see my days as a writer come to an end.

I don't know what the future holds, and perhaps this is just one giant bluff, but I don't think it is. Unless something major happens, I think that November 2011 will be the end of Tiger-Cat football in the city of Hamilton.

If this post seems a little scatterbrained and not very coherent, I apologize. I just really don't know what to say, and I just spewed my feelings onto the page.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Palardy Returns to St. Mary's Released

On the heels of the Tiger-Cats signing Punter Eric Wilbur, rookie Punter Justin Palardy has decided to leave the team and head back to St. Mary's to finish his university degree. The Cats have suspended Palardy so they can retain his rights in the future.

While it is surprising that Palardy would leave the team, it's not surprising that the Cats would make a change at Punter. As I said yesterday, I think Palardy, with time, could be a very good Punter in the CFL. He has all the physical tools to do the job; he just needs to work on his mechanics. Hopefully he'll be back in Black & Gold sometime in the future, contributing to a championship team.

For the time being, it looks like Eric Wilbur will be our Punter, which means some more changes will have to come, as Wilbur is an Import filling in for Palardy, who was a Canadian.

UPDATE: According to Drew Edwards, rookie Punter Justin Palardy has been released. He is now free to sign with any CFL team.

Morning Afternoon-After Thoughts (Week 6)

The 1972 Grey Cup Champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Both last season and this season, the CFL has promoted Retro Week. It is a week where teams wear throwback-style uniforms and celebrate the great teams of the past. Last season, it was the 1960s; this season, it is the 1970s. Retro Week, Part One, took place in Week 6. The Alouettes, Eskimos, Tiger-Cats and Lions all wore 1970s-style jerseys for their games. Next week, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Saskatchewan will do the same. There can be many gripes about what goes on in the CFL, but the one thing they seem to be doing right is honouring the men of the past. Not only does it whip up nostalgia for those who were around when these men played, but it allows the new generation of fans to learn about the great history of their favourite teams and of the league. Great stuff, CFL, great stuff.
  1. Can you believe we are already one-third of the way through the 2010 CFL season? It seems like only yesterday that the season began.
  2. What a way to start a game for Montreal. First play: 67-yard catch-and-run by S.J. Green. Second play: Touchdown throw from Anthony Calvillo to Kerry Watkins. Two plays, seven points. Wow!
  3. There are a lot of great Receivers in the CFL. Arland Bruce has had about as good a two-game stretch as I've ever seen, and Weston Dressler continues to impress. But is there anyone who plays as consistently as Montreal's Kerry Watkins?
  4. FINALLY! It's documentable: Andy Fantuz does get called for offside. About bloody time.
  5. Was I the only one who saw the screwup on Luca Congi's jersey? His right sleeve had 01 on it, not 10.
  6. First it was Marcus Thigpen and Chad Owens who stole the Special Teams show. Now it looks like we can add Tim Maypray to the list... but only if he plays Saskatchewan. He has two TD returns against the Riders this year.
  7. Everyone was waiting for Cleo Lemon's breakout game. Well, I think we just witnessed it.
  8. I know I've been slurping him for weeks, but I can't help but heap more praise on Argo RB Cory Boyd. He does everything you want to see a RB do. Much like DeAndra' Cobb last season, Boyd is not eligible for Most Outstanding Rookie because he spent time on an NFL practice roster. Either way, he's having a great season.
  9. What a great catch by Edmonton WR Jason Barnes.
  10. I am not an Eskimo fan, but they got jobbed. They had a non-call go their way on an interception, but two PI calls that were borderline at best and one non-call on them in the dying seconds were brutal. Never doubt that CFL refs can screw things up and cost a team a game.
  11. I think Winnipeg might have a QB controversy. Steven Jyles, even in defeat, looked very good. With Buck Pierce being made of glass, it's good that the Bombers have a capable backup in Jyles.
  12. Special Teams has been all the talk in Hamilton the last few weeks. Sandro DeAngelis went three for three and looks to have come out of his slump. The Cats made a change at Punter as well, and Eric Wilbur ran a little hot and cold, but for the most part was very good. Perhaps the kicking problems in Hamilton have been solved.
  13. In Winnipeg, however, the kicking game is still an issue. Alexis Serna missed two easy field goals. He's having a terrible season, and I can't imagine he'll be around much longer.
  14. How does Dave Stala top last week's hacky sack/soccer celebration? By kicking the damn ball OUT of Ivor Wynne. Not as creative, but still pretty impressive.
  15. It's a day later and I still have no idea why the Cats went for a two-point conversion. I have a theory, but it would take an essay to explain, and I still don't think it makes sense. Any ideas, anyone?
  16. Hopefully Justin Hickman isn't out for long. Along with Garrett McIntyre and Khari Long, he has been an absolute beast on the Tiger-Cats' Defensive Line.
  17. Was it any surprise that the BC Lions DBs would go for the knees on the Stampeders WRs after the Nik Lewis-Kory Banks Twitter spat this past week?
  18. Did Glen Suitor really call out the officials for their PI calls this season?
  19. In John Hufnagel's coaching career he is undefeated against Wally Buono. Buono is the winningest coach in CFL history, yet he's never beaten Hufnagel.
  20. Well, the drought is over. I have finally, after six weeks, posted a winning record on my weekly picks. I came oh so close to going 4-0, but the Eskimos just couldn't hang on to the lead. The Als, Cats and Stamps came through, and I finish up at 3-1. That puts my overall record at 10-14, which I think is respectable, but I still obviously need to improve.

I'm Done

I would have written about this yesterday, but I was busy enjoying the football games: it looks like the federal government (the same ones that the west harbour people took many a shot at) will let the city decide where to put the Pan Am Games stadium.

That's it, I'm done. I was sick to death of all this stadium stuff two days ago, and now I'm really irritated. It seems like no one knows what the hell they are doing, and this whole thing is turning into an even bigger debacle than it already was.

I don't care what the city says; I don't care what the Ti-Cats want; I just don't care. The vote on where to put the stadium will take place this Tuesday, August 10th. I'll write about that, but don't come here looking for stadium updates anymore because you won't find them. I simply don't care about this topic anymore. This whole thing is a farce.

Hamilton 29, Winnipeg 22

Hey, Doug Brown, you couldn't get the win, so go back to that great metropolis known as Winnipeg. Oh, and SUCK IT! OK, with that out of the way, I have to say this was a very competitive game. Both teams looked equally good and equally bad at times, and next week's game in Winnipeg should be a doozy.

Positives
Once again, Arland Bruce will lead this off. It looks like the Saskatchewan game was the beginning. While he still dropped a few catchable passes, Bruce went off for another stellar game. Bruce is clearly the Cats' biggest playmaker, and with the ball in his hands, Bruce does good things. And is it just me, or does it seem that no matter what coverage the defense plays, Bruce finds a way to get open? Bruce, right now, is on fire.

Any talk of pulling Kevin Glenn was premature and, quite frankly, ridiculous. He had what is becoming a typical day for him. He passed for 371 yards and three TDs, and was hitting players all over the field. His completion percentage wasn't great, but his WRs didn't help by dropping some very catchable passes.

Matt Carter and Adam Nicolson did what their predecessor Chris Bauman could not do: they held onto the football. Neither had eye-popping stats, but when the ball went their way, they hauled it in. That's all you can really ask for.

Another very good game from the Defense. They are still playing that bend-but-don't-break style, and tonight it worked. The Linebackers played great, as usual. I expect nothing less than excellence out of Knowlton, Floyd and Johnson. But the D-Line needs to be shown some love as well. Justin Hickman, Khari Long and Garrett McIntyre made Steven Jyles's life miserable. They were getting constant pressure, and McIntyre made the game-winning sack.

One final shout-out needs to go to us, the fans. Tonight was one of the loudest I've ever heard Ivor Wynne for a game that wasn't a playoff game or Labour Day. I can only imagine how loud it sounded on the field, but that's the type of atmosphere that we need to create. Great job, fans.

Negatives
As everyone who watches knows, the running game is still a big problem. Many people want to blame DeAndra' Cobb, and I'll admit that he hasn't looked good, but I think most of the blame lies with the Offensive Line. As a former O-Lineman myself, I am loath to put any blame on the big guys up front, but it just seems like they aren't making any holes for Cobb. Now, from where I sit in Ivor Wynne, it is hard to tell, so if anyone watched on television and has a different perspective, please feel free to chime in. No matter what the problem is, it needs to be fixed soon.

The other area that still seems to be an issue is the Secondary. They simply give up too many big plays. The Brock Ralph catch on the second-to-last play of the game is inexcusable. That should never happen. Rule number one of playing Defense with a lead is,don't let anyone get behind you. The DBs also seemed to bite on the pump fake a lot. Just like the running game, the Secondary needs to be shored up soon.

Final Thoughts
This was far from a perfect game. The Cats looked terrible for most of the first quarter, but lucky for them, it didn't hurt them this week. The Cats and Bombers are two very equally matched teams, and when teams are close, the home team usually prevails. This week, Hamilton played at home. Next week, in an equally important game, the Bombers will be the humble hosts. The Cats will need to play better to beat Winnipeg in Winnipeg.

All week I've said that the next five games would dictate the season for the Cats. Well, this was the first week, and the Cats are 1-0, with four left. I said the Tabbies would have to win, at a minimum, three of those five to remain in the playoff race. Tonight, they got the first one. Now it's time to go on the road and finally pick up a win. I expect next week's tilt in Winnipeg to be very similar to this week's game. Hopefully, the Cats will play better and do enough to win.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's celebrate this week's win and worry about next week, next week.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

More Stadium Fallout

I have written about the Tiger-Cats rally, the senior governments' bombshell that they won't fund a west harbour site and the mayor's tantrum following said bombshell, so I guess it's only fair that I cover the west harbour rally that occurred last night.

Like I said in my piece on the mayor, I didn't want to make this overly political, but my hand was forced. Well, after reading what transpired last night, I'm not going to bite my tongue.

I just want to comment on Graham Crawford, a member of the pro-west harbour group "Our City, Our Future," comparing what occurred yesterday evening to living in North Korea.

Yes, in his infinite wisdom, Mr. Crawford compared the federal and provincial governments' about-face to the dictatorial regime of Kim Jong-il.

It is hyperbole of that nature that dilutes the actual message. Mr. Crawford comes off looking like an ill-informed fool with this statement. I get that he and his supporters are angry, but to make the comparison to North Korea is juvenile, asinine and completely ignorant; though given the comments made by the mayor, I should not be surprised when one of his supporters would make such an imbecilic declaration.

This debate is now calling into question the democratic system we have in Canada. A simple perusal of the Canadian Constitution would do them all some good, as it would put to rest the ridiculous notion that what happened yesterday was somehow anti-democratic. Democracy has not been attacked; this is not authoritarian; this is simply the federal and provincial governments making a decision that they are well within their rights to make. They don't want to see their tax dollars spent in a manner that only benefits the mayor's massive ego

To be completely honest, I'm just sick of this whole thing. This issue has ripped the city in two and, up to this point, has done more harm than good. I cannot wait until this whole thing is behind us. I want to get back to simply focusing on the on-field product. Hopefully, that will come sooner rather than later.