Friday, 31 August 2012

Batman is a Tiger-Cat Fan... Sorta

Every now and then two things I enjoy crossover into one another. Last fall, there was a scene on the ABC sitcom Modern Family that featured footage of Quinton Porter and there was footage of a Toronto-Hamilton game shown on the FX sitcome The League. Well, this might top them all.

Director Kevin Smith (best known for his film Clerks) does a podcast with comedian Ralph Garman called Hollywood Babble-On. Garman is a master impressionist and one of his best impression is of 60s Batman star Adam West. So when the guys took their Hollywood Babble-On show on the road, they stopped in Ottawa. Two Hamiltonians attended the show and asked that Ralph do an impression of Adam West... doing the Oskee Wee Wee chant.



While the Argos may be the Boatmen, the Tiger-Cats have the Batman... kinda. Your move, Argos!

Chris Williams vs. Chad Owens

When watching the Edmonton-Toronto game, I took to Twitter to vent my frustration at commentators drooling over Chad Owens and his combined yardage. They made a big deal out of his back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons, the first player to ever accomplish that feat, and I posted my belief that the record was essentially meaningless because more than half of his yards last year (1,750 to be exact) came on kickoff returns. The only way a team can accumulate that many kickoff yards is if the other team is kicking off a lot, and if the other team is kicking off a lot that means that the Argos gave up a lot of scores. I'm not saying that what Owens did wasn't noteworthy, but it is not as impressive as some make it out to be.

Well, my opinion brought about a response that the Ti-Cats would love to have Chad Owens on their team. This is pretty laughable considering the Tabbies have Chris Williams and are doing just fine in the return category. This led me to wonder how each player stacks up to the other. With the Labour Day Classic happening in just a couple of days, what better time than now to stack up these two receiver/returners.

When it comes to offense, it is undeniable that Williams is the better player and more dangerous weapon. Owens has improved at receiver over his first two seasons in the league, but he is not as good a receiver as Williams. Williams already has a 1,000-yard season under his belt and he will get another one this season. Owens is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season this year, but his receiving numbers were pedestrian in his first two seasons. Williams is also more of a scoring threat at receiver, where he has already picked up 11 receiving touchdowns in just 23 games. Owens has scored just six touchdowns in 42 games and went 20 games between touchdown catches. Williams is the far superior player offensively.

But let's be honest, special teams is where these two will probably always be judged. Despite my belief that his 3,000 yard seasons aren't all that impressive, I do think Owens is a very good returner. He can make tacklers miss and has excellent speed. But let's not act like he can hold a candle to Williams in those areas. Williams is obviously faster than Owens (and might be the fastest player in the league) and his shiftiness is the stuff you write home about. Owens gets the majority of his return yardage on kickoffs (3,689 of his 6,532 yards) which is an area of special teams that Williams doesn't play. So you can't just compare raw yardage and say that one is better than the other. While Owens is undoubtedly a great returner, he is not as explosive or as dangerous as Chris Williams.

In the awards category, Owens has a slight lead. Both players have won two Player of the Month awards for their work on special teams, but Owens has won six Player of the Week awards to Williams' three and Owens was also the 2010 Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award winner. But Owens has done that over three seasons, while Williams has won his awards in just eight games. Williams didn't play a lot of special teams last year and was only used as the team's primary punt returner this year. Prior to that, Marcus Thigpen handled all the special teams return duties with Williams seeing some spot duty (he had 24 returns on both punts and kickoffs all last year compared to 137 for Owens).

So there you have it, a very unscientific examination of who is better between Chad Owens and Chris Williams. While I am sure a lot of teams would like to have Owens as their returner, one of those teams is most definitely not the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. With Chris Williams in the running for the Most Outstanding Player award, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are doing just fine in the return game and do not need, nor want, Chad Owens.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Chris Williams Does It Again

If this keeps up, Tiger-Cat fans are going to start taking it for granted. A day after being named the Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 9, Chris Williams adds another trophy to the mantle by being named the Special Teams Player of the Month for August.

Williams now has two Player of the Month awards and three Player of the Week awards, all for his record-breaking work on special teams. I think the rest of the league should just concede the year-end special teams award to Williams and move on. No one is going to surpass Williams at this point and I think it is safe to say that he will be the winner of the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award.

August was a tough month for Tiger-Cat fans, watching the team go winless in the month for the first time since 2003, so hopefully this win by Williams will be the first of many as the team gets set to start the second half of the season.

A Game Changing Experience

Sorry Steve, I had to post this one
This was written and was set to be posted just days after Steve was named the Scotiabank Game Changer, but the official pictures that were taken during the evening that I hoped to attach to this post never materialized. I was lucky enough to have some friends take pictures from the stands, so I am using one of those instead.

And despite this happening over a month ago, and therefore being old news, I still wanted to post it. I have gone through and made some changes to dates and the like, but the majority of this post is the same as it was back when it was originally written in late July.


It was a whirlwind couple of days for my buddy Steve after he found out he was named the Scotiabank Game Changer back in July. I was lucky enough to accompany him on gameday, but things got started even before that.

The Friday before the game, Steve was interviewed by Hilary Caton of the Hamilton Spectator about being named a Scotiabank Game Changer. My reasoning for nominating Steve was that I wanted his brand to get more recognition and he had already achieved that before we even went to the game.

Then of course came the main event, which was the game itself. I cannot put into words how cool the whole experience was, and I'm just speaking for myself. We arrived at the stadium at 5:30 and were immediately whisked onto the field to watch the two teams warm up. I get to games pretty early and stand in the west end zone to watch the warmups, but this was something different.

After standing on the sideline for about 20 minutes, we were taken up to the booth and got a chance to talk with TSN's own Duane Forde. It was such a cool experience to talk football with him. He seemed genuinely interested and engaged when we discussed various things about the Ti-Cats and the CFL in general. I spent the most time talking to him because I have always been a fan of his (yes, even dating back to when he played) and it was great to get a couple minutes with him to talk football.

After that, we went back down onto the field to mill around before Steve was sent out to midfield for the coin toss. Again, if you were at the game, you heard his name said and saw him on the field. Steve is not the world's biggest football fan, but he knew how cool it was to be out there for that moment.

As a Game Changer, Steve was given four tickets to the game in the "In the Trenches" seats. While they aren't the best seats for watching a game – I spent most of the time watching the screen because it is hard to see what is going on – it was still a pretty cool experience. We were located right next the Alouettes' bench and it gave me a new perspective on just what the opposing players face when they play at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The fans that sit near the opponents' bench are ruthless. Some of the insults cross the line, but most of them we funny. The target of fan scorn for most of that game was Alouette receiver Brandon London. The fans got on him and they got on him hard. Every time he came off the field, he was taunted mercilessly. Sitting as close as we were, I can tell you that some of what was said got to him.

As much as I am making this about myself, that night was all about Steve. If you were at the game or watched on TSN, you saw Steve receive his cheque and also saw him (and me and his girlfriend Katie) mug for the camera. If you missed it, you can catch said mugging by fast forwarding this video to about the 12:50 mark.

The whole evening was super fun and it was all thanks to Steve (of course, he has been thanking me endlessly because I nominated him, but I refuse to take any credit for the great stuff he has done). Now that he has won the $1,000 prize, he is eligible to become the Game Changer representative for the Tiger-Cats at the Grey Cup in Toronto. If he is chosen, he will have a chance to win $100,000 for Hamilton Health Sciences. So I implore everyone to keep voting for Steve and hopefully I will have some good news later this year.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Kick Returners Galore

It was a good week to be a kick returner or former kick returner for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Kick returners have dominated Tiger-Cat news the last couple of days.

For starters, Chris Williams has once again be named the Special Teams Player of the Week. This is the third time this season that Williams has been named the top special teams player. He won his first award following his two-return-touchdown performance against the Argos in Week 3 and again for his exploits against the Blue Bombers in Week 8. Williams was also named the top special teamer for the month of July and I expect him to be named that again for the month of August. I think whoever engraves the year-end awards might want to start working on the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player trophy because barring something drastic, I don't see how Williams doesn't take the award home.

As far as former kick returners are concerned, the Ti-Cats unveiled the list of the kick returners up for the all-time team. Four players are up for the team – Rufus Crawford, Garney Henley, Earl Winfield and Wally Zatylny – but Winfield is going to be the one how wins. The guy is the best returner this team has ever seen (well, at least until this season) and he is pretty much a shoe-in for this spot. That's not disrespect to the other three players, but let's not get too cute with this one. Winfield is the pick.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

10 Things I Learned... In Week 9

Coming up might be my favourite two weeks of the CFL regular season: the home-and-home series on Labour Day weekend and the following weekend. Most years, we get three great rivalries and BC vs. Montreal (no offense, but that series doesn't hold a candle to Toronto-Hamilton, Calgary-Edmonton and Winnipeg-Saskatchewan). I love the back-to-back games. It also kicks off the unofficial drive to the playoffs, which means things will start to get even more intense as we see who emerges from the pack to claim the ultimate prize in Canadian football. But before we get too far into future, let's look back on the week that was in the Canadian Football League.

(1) Bombers firing LaPolice feels like a bad move
It is impossible to say whether or not the decision to fire Paul LaPolice was a good or bad one by Winnipeg, but it feels like it was a bad one. I think GM Joe Mack takes as much blame as any for the problems in Winnipeg. The fact of the matter is Winnipeg is hurting at the game's most important position, quarterback. It is almost impossible to win in pro football without a reliable quarterback and up until the last two games, the Bombers have not had a reliable quarterback. The timing also feels odd. Winnipeg beat Hamilton and narrowly lost to BC, the league's best team, so it did look like Winnipeg was improving. As big a fan of Tim Burke, LaPolice's replacement, as I am (I wanted him as Hamilton's head coach after the team fired Marcel Bellefeuille), I just don't think he is in a position to succeed this year. Changing coaches at mid-season pretty much means you're giving up on the current season. It looks like it is going to be 22 years and counting in Winnipeg.

(2) Bombers should stick with Elliott
Sticking with the Bombers, and being a bit more positive, I think they should just stick it out with Joey Elliott regardless of Buck Pierce's health. Elliott has shown he can lead Winnipeg and I think it is time for them to just give him the ball and let him run with it. At some point, they are going to have to make a decision anyway, so they might as well make it now. The coaching change, as I said above, means they've pretty much given up on this year; if that is the case, then name Elliott the starter for the rest of the season.

(3) Helmet rule needs tweaking
The Edmonton-Toronto game was the first time I saw the new illegal participation rule called. Toronto's Armond Armstead was called for it when his helmet popped off and he continued to follow the play. The rule sounded great when implemented back in the off-season, but seeing it in action makes me think the rule took things a bit too far because telling a player to stop playing because his helmet comes off goes against his instincts. I'm fine with calling the play dead if the ball carrier's helmet comes off, but that's as far is it should go.

(4) Als not missing Jamel Richardson
The Als have been without Jamel Richardson the past two weeks, and even when he has played he hasn't been the player he was last year, so the Als have been forced to rely more on other receivers and both S.J. Green and Brandon London have stepped up to fill the void left by Richardson. Both players have been great for most of the season and, in a way, are making Richardson expendable. With his contract up at the end of the season, what seemed unfathomable last year could become reality next year: Jamel Richardson could be in another uniform in 2013. London and Green have been that good during the first half of the season.

(5) Will Geroy Simon come out of his funk
To continue talking about underachieving receivers, Geroy Simon has done virtually nothing since breaking Milt Stegall's yards record back in Week 1. He's on pace for just 981 yards, which would be his lowest total, and the first season where he doesn't break 1,000, since 2002. He has also yet to score a touchdown. I am starting to wonder if this might be the beginning of the end for one of the best receivers in the history of the CFL.

(6) Kerry Joseph could be the short-term answer for Edmonton
While I know that Kerry Joseph has never been an elite quarterback – his 2007 MOP season notwithstanding – and he makes a lot of mistakes, but I can't be alone in thinking he looks like the short-term answer at quarterback for the Eskimos. Call me a fool, but I still believe in Steven Jyles (less and less with each passing week, mind you), but the way that Joseph plays could be what the Eskimos need. They have a great defense that can overcome any mistakes that Joseph makes, and Joseph will likely make fewer mistakes than Jyles. I think it might not be crazy for Edmonton to consider starting Kerry Joseph from here on out.

(7) Chad Kackert might not be the upgrade the Argos sold him as
When the Argos released Cory Boyd, they said the move needed to be made because Boyd wasn't as good in the passing game and in pass blocking (never mind that he was the league's leading rusher when he was dumped which, last I checked, was the primary job of a running back). The Argos sold Chad Kackert as being able to do everything Boyd couldn't. Well, against the Eskimos, Kackert sure didn't look like the upgrade that the Argos told people he'd be. He caught just five passes for 31 yards (Boyd caught two for 30 for the Eskimos in limited playing time) and he missed more than a few blocks, one of which lead directly to a sack of Ricky Ray. Kackert looks like he could be a good player, but he doesn't look like the massive upgrade over Boyd that the Argos said he'd be.

(8) Calvillo continues making his case as the greatest ever
I'd be remiss if I didn't at least touch on Anthony Calvillo overtaking Warren Moon for the No. 2 spot on pro football's all-time touchdown list. I'm not big on combining records between the NFL and CFL because the game's are different, but the way Anthony Calvillo is moving up the ranks has me starting wonder if he is the greatest quarterback in CFL history. I said before that Doug Flutie would always be my pick, but the more Calvillo plays, the more I question whether or not my mind will be changed.

(9) Riders losng streak hits five
I'm not the world's biggest fan of the Riders or their fans. I think some of them (make note of the use of the word "some") can be arrogant and rude when it comes to anyone questioning their beloved franchise. That said, I do feel for them right now. They got their hopes up after that 3-0 start and to have to endure a five-game losing streak takes its toll. I hope most of them realize that this was to be expected and that their 3-0 start was a bit of a mirage. Saskatchewan is a young team with a young head coach and immediate success was never going to happen. The ceiling for the Riders at the beginning of the year was nine wins and that was a stretch. They still might hit that number, but next year is the year fans will see major improvement from the Green & White.

(10) Players of the Week
The race for Offensive Player of the Week was a two-horse race between Montreal teammates Anthony Calvillo and S.J. Green. Calvillo threw for over 300 yards for the seventh straight game, while Green hauled in 10 catches for 168 yards and one touchdown. Calvillo has been honoured many times over his career, so I'm giving this one to Green.

You could pretty much give J.C. Sherritt the award every week and I doubt you'd get many complaints, but another defensive player stood out and that was Charleston Hughes. Hughes forced two fumbles and picked off Darian Durant in Calgary's win on Saturday. That's pretty impressive for a defensive lineman.

Just like Sherritt, I could give the top special teams award to Chris Williams pretty much every week and with no one else doing much of anything on special teams this week aside from Williams, he gets the award again. He had another punt return for a touchdown and has now tied the CFL's single-season record for kick returns in a season with five... and he's done it in eight games. He now has 10 games to score one more time on special teams, so unless teams decide to kick it away from him on every punt, he will end up in sole possession of the record before too long.

Top Canadian for the week was a toss up between Jon Cornish and Andrew Harris. Cornish picked up an impressive 159 yards on the ground, while Harris 88 total yards and two touchdowns. Despite not scoring, Cornish gets the awards. Rarely does a running back rush for nearly 160 yards, so when one does he should be recognized.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Ticats are Hummin'


Earlier this week, the Ti-Cats announced that they had teamed with the band The Arkells on a new song that will be the team's theme for the remainder of the 2012 season. The song is called "Ticats are Hummin" and you can listen to the song in the video above.

Upon first listen, I really didn't like the song. I still don't think it's a great song to get fans pumped up, but after listening to it a couple of times, it has grown on me. I'm not a big fan of The Arkells or their style of music, but this tune is kind of catchy.

Fans better get used to hearing the song because it is going to get played ad nauseam during Tiger-Cat home games. It is going to be played before kickoff, after every win and the chorus will be played following every touchdown. With the way the Ti-Cats score points, we could hear the chorus of that song five times a game.

I also think it was a great idea for the Ti-Cats to team with a band from Hamilton for the song. While my personal preference has always been for a local hip-hop artist to redo the Wiz Khalifa song "Black & Yellow" with Tiger-Cat specific lyrics (I nearly did it myself until I remembered that I have absolutely no rap skills to speak of), this Arkells song is more than an adequate substitute.

So while it might not be my cup of tea, I am sure there are a lot of fans out there that are excited about this song. Now we just need the team to start hummin' like the song says. Then, regardless of whether you like this song or not, you'll be happy to hear it at every home game.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Montreal 31, Hamilton 29

Another tough loss drops the Cats to 3-5, but I'm nowhere near as angry about this loss as I was about last week's defeat. Last week, the Cats shot themselves in the foot with six turnovers, but this week it was incompetent officiating and incompetent coaching that determined the outcome of the game, but I'll get to that in a second. Let's start by looking at both the positives from last night's close loss.

Positives

What would this team do without Chris Williams? The man is an unstoppable force right now. He scored his fifth return touchdown of the year, breaking Earl Winfield's team record, and tied the league record for return touchdowns. This one was a 69-yard beauty that was set up after a great block by Marc-Antoine Fortin. Williams has pretty much sewn up Most Outstanding Special Teams Player, but he also has more than a puncher's chance of winning the big prize, Most Outstanding Player. If there is one player that has epitomized the word "outstanding" so far this season, it has been Chris Williams.

While he didn't put up monster stats, six catches for 59 yards, this was Sam Giguère's best game as a Tiger-Cat. A lot was expected of the former first-round pick and maybe too much was expected early on. He's still a first-year player who has been away from the Canadian game for four years. It was going to take him some time to get adjusted. He also plays a position, wide receiver, that doesn't see a ton of action. He saw some today and put up decent numbers. Perhaps this was just the type of game that he needed to get him going.

While he didn't blow the doors off, I think Avon Cobourne's return to the lineup was a successful one. He picked up 94 yards from scrimmage on 13 touches and scored one touchdown. I think he did enough to warrant staying in the lineup, and hopefully George Cortez feels the same way.

Luca Congi has been getting hammered from every direction about the deficiencies in his game. Basically, he's being ripped for not being Justin Medlock. Well, when the Ti-Cats needed Congi, he came through for them. He went a perfect five for five on field goals and nailed a clutch 47-yard kick near the end of the game. Congi has just two misses on the season and was arguably on of the best players on the field for the Ti-Cats last night.

Negatives

I hate, hate, hate complaining about officials because it comes off as excuse making. But two of the biggest turning points occurred on a single play. The Ti-Cats were called for a facemask on S.J. Green when there was no facemask to call. Simply put, no one touched Green's facemask! Even worse was that Green shoved defensive back Ryan Hinds to get open on the play, caught the ball and then was awarded with the phantom facemask call. The Als ended up scoring a touchdown just two plays later. I get that refs will make bad calls from time to time, they are only human, but this was one of those times when you cannot make the wrong call. The no-call on the push off was bad enough, but to compound it with the facemask penalty that didn't actually happen just made matters worse. Those calls weren't the sole reason the Ti-Cats lost a two-point game, but they had a huge impact.

The other big mistake was Cortez not challenging the catch, which was not a catch, by S.J. Green. Replays showed very clearly that Green trapped the ball with his body against the ground and that an incomplete pass was the correct call. But Cortez did not challenge it and the Als would end up ending that drive with a field goal. This is the second time this season Cortez has messed up not challenging a disputable catch. The first instance game in Week 1 when, in a very similar play, Weston Dressler caught a pass that replays showed hit the ground. Like rookie player, rookie head coaches are going to make mistakes. But like players, you want them to learn from their mistakes and not make them again. Well, Cortez has now made the same mistake twice and I will hate to see the reaction should he make it a third time.

While not the reason behind the loss, Henry Burris had a less than stellar game against Montreal. He went 22 of 34 for 281 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he never really found a rhythm and he overthrew a lot of passes. His interception came off a bad overthrow to Onrea Jones. Burris has been in a little bit of a funk every since the bye week. While "Bad Hank" did show up like he did in Winnipeg, "Good Hank" wasn't there either. I hope this isn't the start of problems with Burris, but that amazing July seems like a long time ago.

One of the most questionable moves the team made after training camp was cutting veteran tackle Belton Johnson and replacing him with rookie Marc Dile. It looks like that may have been the wrong decision. Dile has not played well in Johnson's old position and he was the culprit behind a drive-killing sack that forced the Ti-Cats to try a long field goal – lucky for Dile, Luca Congi bailed him out – and give the ball back to Montreal. One more first down would have sealed the game, but Dile let his man come free and bury Henry Burris in the turf. Keeping Johnson and putting Dile on the practice roster may have been the smarter move.

Final Thoughts

Two plays and three decisions are all that really stood in the way of the Tiger-Cats evening their record at 4-4. That's a tough pill to swallow. Losing by two in Montreal is not the worst thing that could happen, but now the Cats have put themselves in a very difficult situation. They are two games back of the Als, could be two games back of the Argos if Toronto beats Edmonton on Monday and could be in last place if Winnipeg can topple the mighty Lions in Winnipeg tonight.

Regardless of the outcomes of those games, the Labour Day Classic and the rematch the following Saturday in Toronto loom large. I will stop short of saying the Ti-Cats have to win both games, but they definitely cannot afford to lose both games. Lose them both and this season is over.

With no games until September 3rd, the Ti-Cats will end of the month of August without a win for the first time since 2003. Not exactly the type of month we all expected after the way July ended.

So next up for the Ti-Cats are the hated Argos, starting with the final Labour Day Classic that will ever be played at Ivor Wynne Stadium. If there was ever a game the Ti-Cats had to win, it is that one. Win that one and you will hear the sigh of relief all the way in Vancouver. Lose it and the fans might just tear the stadium down then and there. The next two games will probably determine the Tiger-Cats' season. I suspect it will be a very anxious time in Tigertown over the next 10 days.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Preview: Tiger-Cats at Alouettes

3-4
4-3











The last time these two teams met it was a battle for first in the division. While the stakes aren't the same for this one, the Tiger-Cats do have a chance to end a two-game losing streak and silence a lot of critics with a win over Montreal tonight.

There has been a lot of talk over the last few days about the defense and what to do to fix it. While fans are calling for the head of coordinator Casey Creehan, the players themselves had a players-only meeting to try to get things figured out. They know where they rank in many statistical categories and I expect that these prideful men will do their best to hold the vaunted Alouette offense in check.

Helping to do that may come on offense with the addition of Avon Cobourne to the lineup. Cobourne will be filling in for Chevon Walker, who is out with a hip injury. While Cobourne doesn't bring the same home-run ability to the team as Walker does (name me another running back who does), Coboure does bring a toughness that has so far been lacking from Walker's game. Where Cobourne will excel is in hitting the hole hard and picking up five or six yards at a time. He won't break one 80 yards, but he will keep the chains moving which will keep the Tiger-Cat defense off the field and allow them to rest. He is also a much better blocker than Walker, and that will allow Burris more time in the pocket to make reads and find the open man.

Another player who will be in the lineup is Andy Fantuz. Fantuz missed last week's game in Winnipeg after suffering a head injury the week before against Calgary. With Chris Williams looking like an early MOP candidate and teams keying in on him, Fantuz might find a little more room to operate in the middle of the field. He could be in line for a big game against the Als.

But this game will probably all come down to which team's defense can make more plays. The Ti-Cats had three near-interceptions last week and turning even one of those misses into a pick could have been the difference in the game. Hamilton's defense will be in tough against Anthony Calvillo, but the Cats have frustrated him in the past and they can do so again. Montreal has improved defensively since the last time these two teams met, but Hamilton did score 39 on them in their last meeting and the offense could just have Montreal's number.

Montreal will be looking to continue their win streak, while Hamilton will be looking to end their losing streak. The Ti-Cats visit Montreal for the only time this season and everything gets underway on TSN at 7:30PM.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Greg Marshall Ain't Walking Through the Door

There has been a lot of talk the last week about the Tiger-Cat defense, and rightly so. After seven games, the defense ranks last in many defensive categories and has held opposing teams to under 30 points just twice. Fans have been debating just what the problem is, with most placing the blame squarely on defensive coordinator Casey Creehan. Many have even called for Creehan's job. The popular name for a replacement is former defensive coordinator Greg Marshall.

Well, I hate to break it to all those clamouring for Marshall's return, but he ain't walking through the door. Marshall was fired as head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders last August and they will be paying him for this season and next not to coach. He gets his full salary from Saskatchewan and gets to spend time with his family. This also means he can be very picky when it comes to accepting another job. He can wait for the job he wants (a position in Ottawa, perhaps) as opposed to taking a job he needs. Since he's getting paid, he doesn't need to work. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Marshall return – I never wanted to see him leave – but the chances of him returning, especially at mid-season, are pegged at slim to none in my books.

I understand why people are frustrated with the state of the defense right now, but fans need to be realistic in how the team will improve in that area. It won't be by hiring a new coordinator at mid-season. How often does that truly make a difference? Desperate teams, ones like Saskatchewan and Toronto last year, make changes at key coaching position at mid-season and they rarely pay off in anything substantial. Saskatchewan saw a little bump after they fired Greg Marshall as head coach last year, but that fizzled and the team finished 5-13 and missed the playoffs. The same sort of thing happened to the Argos after they fired defensive coordinator Chip Garber. The Argos didn't turn it around and finished 6-12 and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. Making coaching changes at mid-season is not the way to turn an underperforming team around.

Fans calling for Creehan's head and Marshall's return need to understand that those two things are very unlikely to happen. For better or worse, Creehan will probably be the defensive coordinator all season. Fans should probably accept this and put any idea that Greg Marshall will return to Hamilton to rest.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

News Day in Tigertown

Another Tuesday means another round of fresh Tiger-Cat news.

We have to give congratulations once again to Chris Williams. Williams was named the Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season. As everyone is probably already well aware, Williams has tied Earl Winfield's team record for return touchdowns in one season and is one off the league record. With 11 games left to go, Williams has a great chance to not only break the records but shatter them completely.

Next, the Tiger-Cats have revealed the names of the linebackers up for the all-time team. It is a strong list of 12 players, three of which will make the squad. Two current Tiger-Cats, Jamall Johnson and Markeith Knowlton, are up for consideration and join Marwan Hage as the only current Tiger-Cats who have been named as nominees. The list is a good one, with Ben Zambiasi being the only shoe-in, in my opinion.

Finally, the Ti-Cats announced that they will hold a practice at the University of Waterloo next Tuesday. The team will practice on Warrior Field and then hold an autograph session for fans. It is very similar to what the team does at their Black and Gold Days. I am a big proponent of the team trying to find a regional foothold outside of Hamilton and giving fans in other communities a chance to meet Tiger-Cat players is a great way to accomplish that. Hopefully, we'll see more of this in the future.

Monday, 20 August 2012

10 Things I Learned... In Week 8

Interesting week of CFL action coming off the final bye week of the year. We are just a couple of weeks away from Labour Day which is the unofficial start to the march to the playoffs. With one 5-2 team, three 4-3 teams, three 3-4 teams and one 2-5 team, this could end up being the tightest season in regards to final records as any we've ever seen. Whoever gets hot around the middle of October might be the team you want to bet on come the end of November.

(1) Every team that came off a bye won
Four teams came off byes in Week 8 and all four of those teams won. I don't think that is coincidence. Teams coming off a bye have a competitive advantage that teams who played the week before do not, and I don't just mean the players. The coaches for the Bombers, Als, Argos and Lions had two weeks to prepare for their Week 8 opponents, while the Ti-Cats, Eskimos, Stampeders and Roughriders had half that time. Next year, the league should make sure that bye teams play bye teams and non-bye teams play non-bye teams. To once again do it like they did this year would be a tad unfair.

(2) BC's defense is on a major roll
While everyone, myself included, was gushing over the Edmonton Eskimo defense, the BC Lion defense is putting together one heckuva run. The Lion D has not allowed a touchdown since early in the third quarter of their Week 4 loss to the Eskimos, and in the last three games, BC opponents have managed to score 8, 8 and 5 points. This is a streak of excellence that I will be keeping my eye on for as long as it goes.

(3) The Als are back
Maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit here, but that sure looked like the Als of old on Friday night in Edmonton. Before you could blink, the Als were up 28-0 and they dominated from start to finish. If this was the start of them turning the corner, the rest of the East Division is in a lot of trouble.

(4) No one should be surprised the Argos beat the Stamps
In one of the odder stats that I found out about this week, the Toronto Argonauts are pretty much kryptonite to the Calgary Stampeders. The Argos have won the last five meetings between the two teams, including twice in Calgary. They've also done it with three different starting quarterbacks (Ricky Ray, Steven Jyles and Cleo Lemon) and against three different starting quarterbacks (Kevin Glenn, Drew Tate and Henry Burris). When the Argos play the Stamps next year, I'm putting my money of the Boatmen.

(5) Little-known Canadians get some face time
Three seldom-used Canuck players got the chance to make some big plays this week. Montreal's Patrick Lavoie, and Hamilton's Darly Stephenson and Darcy Brown all contributed with big plays for their teams this past weekend. Lavoie caught another touchdown, his fourth of the season, while both Stephenson and Brown made long catch-and-run plays for the Tiger-Cats. It is always nice to see young Canadian players do well for themselves.

(6) Elliott shines... with an asterisk
It was a very impressive start for Winnipeg's Joey Elliott. The former Purdue Boilermaker threw for 406 yards in Winnipeg's win over Hamilton. He looked unafraid to make plays, which bodes well for his future in the Manitoba capital. That said, he did this against what is arguably the worst defense in the league right now and he also benefited from a couple of dropped interceptions. I'm not saying that Elliott can't be the player Bomber fans are raving about – I think he can and I actually like Elliott more than Brink or Pierce – but that we should wait for a couple of weeks before anointing him as a QB saviour.

(7) Riders losing streak not a surprise
When the Riders started the season 3-0, people were stunned. Now they've lost their last four and are once again in the basement of the West Division. But Saskatchewan's current record should not be a surprise. This was a bad football team last year and one off-season wasn't going to turn them into Grey Cup champions. They have a young team with a new coaching staff; coming together as a group will take a little longer. The team doesn't look great now, but Rider fans will probably be looking at a pretty good squad in 2013.

(8) Chad Simpson latest running back to run over Tiger-Cats
Chad Simpson couldn't get much going early on, but in the fourth quarter he piled up the yards against the Ti-Cats. He didn't cross the century mark, but his hard running helped the Bombers eat up clock and get the win. Simpson is proving to be a more than adequate replacement for Chris Garrett and there is going to be a fierce battle between these two players in training camp next year.

(9) Lions own Durant
I have known for a while that Ryan Phillips has owned Darian Durant during his career. Phillips has nine interceptions against Durant since he became the starter in Saskatchewan. But it is not just Phillips that feasts on Durant; BC as a whole has 20 interceptions of Durant over the course of his career. That's 29 per cent of his picks coming against one team. That's a pretty amazing stat. I don't know what it is about BC that just makes Durant throw up picks, but whatever they are doing should be copied by the other six teams.

(10) Players of the Week
I know what Calvillo did against Edmonton, and I wouldn't be surprised if he won the award, but it is hard not to recognize a player who throws for over 400 yards in his first start in almost two years. My top offensive player was Winnipeg's Joey Elliott.

For the second straight week the top Canadian will also take home another award, in this instance it is Defensive Player of the Week. BC Lion defensive back Cauchy Muamba picked off Darian Durant twice in BC's 24-5 win on Sunday night, and for that he is the top defensive player and top Canadian player for Week 8.

Who else but Chris Williams could be the top special teamer for Week 8? Williams scored another return touchdown, this time it was of the punt return variety. He now has four return touchdowns on the season, which ties Earl Winfield for the Tiger-Cat record, and is one off the league record of five shared by Henry "Gizmo" Williams, Bashir Levingston and Keith Stokes. He is the most dangerous player on any field he plays on and he proved that once again last Thursday in Winnipeg. Williams is a no-brainer here.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Winnipeg 32, Hamilton 25

Normally this post comes much sooner, but I decided to take my time before writing this. After Thursday night's loss I was angry and I wanted to write this with a much clearer head. I probably won't wait this long again, but I was furious after the loss on Thursday and I would have been very, very negative. Allowing a day to clear my head was a good thing.

Positives

Chris Williams is the most explosive player in the league. His fumble on a punt return – which will be touched on later – was troublesome, but it is hard to be upset with a player who tallies over 300 total yards and three touchdowns. If he could just fix the little inconsistencies in his game, he would be an unstoppable player. As is, he is still a front-runner for Most Outstanding Player and almost a shoe-in for Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

The team's other Williams is also someone who put together a solid outing in a loss. Williams had another seven tackles and a sack against Winnipeg. Williams is on pace for over 100 tackles for the first time in his career and he is a legitimate candidate for top defensive player. No complaints about the way Williams plays. Week in and week out, he is Hamilton's most consistent defensive player.

Despite an injury that took him out, it was a very impressive debut performance by new Tiger-Cat defensive lineman Bruce Davis. Davis made a couple of very nice plays before leaving the game with an injury and it looks like he will be in the Tiger-Cat plans from here going forward. Now we just have to await word on how severe his injury was. Hopefully, it will not keep him out of action long.

Negatives

Where else could I start but with turnovers. Committing six total turnovers, four fumbles and two turnover on downs, is not the way to win football games, especially on the road. Henry Burris inexplicably fumbled the ball four times, losing three, and his first was easily his worst. On what looked to be a touchdown that would have made the game 14-1, Burris was stripped on the one-yard line by Winnipeg defensive lineman Alex Hall. A touchdown there might have demoralized the Bombers and took the crowd completely out of the game. Instead, Winnipeg went down the field and kicked a field goal. Burris' fumble led to a 10-point swing. A six turnover game is unlikely to happen again, but it happened once and it cost the Tiger-Cats a win.

I don't know what happened, but after halftime the Ti-Cats decided it was time to make Joey Elliott look like the second coming of Warren Moon. The defense limited the Bombers to seven points in the first half, but they exploded in the second half behind Elliott's 406 yards passing. It was a stunning turnaround for a defense that was actually playing some decent football.

The defense was also able to keep Chad Simpson in check, until the fourth quarter. The Ti-Cats limited Simpson until the final quarter, but a combination of fresh legs and a defense that was on the field way too long, led to Simpson running all over the Tiger-Cat defense, just like Jon Cornish did in the fourth quarter a week ago.

And then there was the third and one playcall. Just what the heck was that? Third and even less than a yard and the Ti-Cats line up in a shotgun formation? That struck me as George Cortez thinking he's smarter than everyone else. For a guy who prides himself on being an offensive genius, that was one of the stupidest playcalls of his short head coaching career.

Final Thoughts

At first I was furious with the way I saw the Tiger-Cats play. They did everything in their power to lose that game on Thursday night. Whenever they had a chance to take a bigger lead or put together a decent drive, they fumbled it away.

But despite that, despite the six turnovers, the Ti-Cats still only lost by seven. A team that commits six turnovers should lose by 20. So does this loss actually show that a Tiger-Cat team that limits mistakes is still one of the better teams in the league? Maybe, but the problem is they are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league at the moment (sound familiar?) and that is probably the most frustrating thing about this loss.

This was a win that the Ti-Cats gave away and now they have given Winnipeg some hope. They have given them reason to believe that Joey Elliott is the guy that can lead them out of the basement and back into the playoff race. They now sit just two points back of the Ti-Cats and they are one win away from making this three-horse race in the East and four-horse one again.

This was a win that the Tiger-Cats could have come home with, but they didn't. It seems like just another example of the team not being able to take that next step when opportunity comes knocking.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Preview: Tiger-Cats at Blue Bombers

3-3
1-5











This is the first game in a very important four-game stretch for the Tiger-Cats. Hamilton will play nothing but their East Division rivals over the next four weeks. Game No. 1 is against a desperate Winnipeg Blue Bomber team that can ill afford a sixth loss in seven games.

Offensively, the Ti-Cats will have to make do without the services of receiver Andy Fantuz. Fantuz suffered a head injury in last week's game against Calgary and will not play this week against Winnipeg. First-year receiver Sam Giguère will slide into Fantuz's role and could be on the verge of a breakout performance.

Defensively, improving their run defense will be key. With Winnipeg starting Joey Elliott getting his first start in almost two years, expect a heavy dose of running back Chad Simpson. Simpson has improved every week and a solid running game will help Elliott out.

Winnipeg are almost in a must-win situation. Dropping to 1-6, with four losses inside the division, would be as close to a death knell as there is in Week 8. Joey Elliott will be trying to convince the Bomber coaching staff that he deserves to be the starter, so expect the Bombers to play their best game of the season.

This could also be a good game for Hamilton. Winnipeg has scored the least amount of points, while also giving up the most points. The Ti-Cat offense will score points, but this could be the game the defense uses to turn things around. Facing the league's worst offense and worst defense could be just what the doctor ordered.

A desperate Bomber team and a Ti-Cat team looking to make amends for last week's loss is the recipe for a highly entertaining ball game. The game starts at 8:00PM and can be seen on TSN.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

All-Time Receivers

When it came out that fans would be choosing an all-time Tiger-Cat team, I thought the toughest decisions would be at receiver. Well, the list of receivers up for the team has been unveiled and I think I was right. There are 16 names on the list, four of which will be on the team, and picking those four will be the most difficult task fans will have to make regarding the all-time team. There are eight Hall of Famers, and that doesn't include fan favourites Tony Champion and Earl Winfield.

I truly do not know how fans are going to pick only four. Two people could pick two different foursomes and neither would be wrong. Is a group of Champion, Winfield, Tommy Grant and Hal Patterson more deserving than a Tommy Joe Coffey, Garney Henley, Darren Flutie, Rocky DiPietro quartet? I think age is going to be a deciding factor in the selections made by fans. Older fans will probably gravitate more towards guys like Coffey, Henley, Patterson and Grant, while younger fans will skew more towards Winfield, Champion, DiPietro and Flutie.

The four chosen will be more than deserving, but those left off the team will be just as deserving. This is why I thought, and still think, that picking the receivers for the all-time team will be the most difficult for fans.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Five Things I Learned... In Week 7

What an odd feeling it was being done with CFL games on Friday night. My evenings in the summer are usually reserved for watching CFL games, but after Friday's game, I went CFL-less for the rest of the weekend. I didn't like it. I am so glad that bye weeks are over now.

(1) The dropped passes epidemic
I cannot recall seeing as many dropped passes, and by usually reliable receivers, as I have seen so far this season. Just this past week, I saw Nik Lewis, Dave Stala, Sam Giguère and Greg Carr drop passes that hit them right in the hands. We've seen it from other players in previous weeks, and the TSN panel has made mention of it the last couple of weeks, but it seems almost comedic the amount of dropped passes we are seeing. What could be the explanation for it?

(2) Jon Cornish being Jon Cornish
This week, we finally saw the Jon Cornish everyone expected at the beginning of the year. Cornish dominated to the tune of 170 rushing yards and was a main reason the Stamps were able to control the lock in the fourth quarter and beat the Tiger-Cats. A week after calling out his offensive line, Cornish had his best game of the season. Now let's see if he can follow it up this week against a much tougher Toronto defense.

(3) Edmonton, with even an average offense, could win it all
The more I see of the Edmonton Eskimos, the more I think they are a threat to win it all if there offense gives them even average production. Their defense is amazing at this point and after six games, they have given up just 99 points. Contrast that to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who have given up exactly 100 more points in the same span. They've given up 20 or more points just twice so far this season, which means their offense has to score maybe 24 points for them to win. That's not asking too much of Steven Jyles and Co. I think if Edmonton can find a way to get consistent production out of the offense, this team could be playing deep into November.

(4) Ted Laurent is feasting
One of the reasons for Edmonton's dominant defense has been the play of defensive tackle Ted Laurent. The mammoth former Ole Miss star now has a sack in each of his last five games. Laurent likes to rub his belly after big plays and he has been rubbing it an awful lot so far this season. Laurent is feasting on opposing quarterbacks and is starting to make a name for himself as one of the league's dominant pass-rushing interior linemen.

(5) My Players of the Week
My pick for Offensive and Canadian Player of the Week is the same guy: Jon Cornish. No one had a more productive week offensively than Cornish did. He led the Stamps in both rushing and receiving, and was an unstoppable force in the fourth quarter. Best player on any field this past week.

The week's top defensive player was once again Edmonton's J.C. Sherritt. He picked up seven more tackles to add to his league-leading total and made a crucial interception late in the game against Saskatchewan. Sherritt has been the best defensive player so far this season and he was once again the best defensive player this week.

Another week without a dominant special teams performance, so I am going to give my nod to Calgary punter Rob Maver. Maver had some nice punts in Calgary's win over the Ti-Cats on Thursday and with no standout performance elsewhere on special teams, I think now is the time to recognize the work the punters do.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Argos Release Cory Boyd

In a move that no one could have seen coming, the Toronto Argonauts have released starting running back Cory Boyd.

Boyd currently leads the league in rushing and has been one of the few players the Argos could rely on for steady production the last two-plus season. Yet when speaking about his release, Argonaut GM Jim Barker said that "a different style of play is needed at running back to heighten the success of our new offense." If this is truly the reasoning, then Barker is a bigger idiot than I previously thought. If your offense doesn't have a place for Cory Boyd in it, then there is a problem with your offense.

Now we get to wonder where Boyd will land. I know there will be those clamouring for his signing in Hamilton, but I don't see that as likely. I would love nothing more than to see Boyd in Black & Gold running over his former teammates on Labour Day, but I don't think the Ti-Cats will make the move to pick him up. They seem happy with Chevon Walker, and while Boyd is undeniably a better running back, I just don't see them making a play for him. I hope I'm wrong because the idea of a Boyd-Walker, 1-2 punch has me giddy.

I can't imagine Boyd will be out of work for long, so we should know sooner rather than later where he ends up.

My Press Box Experience

On Thursday night I did something I never thought I'd never do: I watched a game from the press box at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The story of how I got there isn't really all that interesting, but I'll tell it anyway. I figured after over two years of writing somewhat coherent drivel about the Tiger-Cats, I would take the chance and ask if I could get press credentials. So I sent an e-mail to Scott McNaughton, director of communications for the team, and he agreed to meet with me to discuss the matter. We met on the first day of training camp at McMaster and after a little chat he told me that watching a game from the press box was something the team was willing to let me do. That game ended up being this past Thursday's contest against Calgary.

I headed down to the stadium, grabbed my press pass and headed up to the press box. I will admit that I felt a little out of my element when I first got up there. It felt a lot like being the new kid in school. Everyone else kind of knew one another (or at least that's how it felt to me, being the new kid) and here I was the dork with the backpack just trying not to bump into anyone and get a wedgie.

So I sat in my assigned seat and watched the players warm up. I was just sitting there watching warmups when Drew Edwards, who I met and chatted with at training camp, stopped by to chat with me. It was mostly small talk and Ti-Cats talk, but it was nice to not be sitting in silence anymore, even if just for a few minutes.

That's the one huge differences I noticed from sitting in the stands to sitting in the press box. It is definitely more of a workplace than I imagined. I knew that there wasn't going to be hooting and hollering, but there also isn't a whole lot of talking amongst the writers. Or at least I didn't notice any, but I was pretty focused on the game. The vibe is definitely different and you learn very quickly that you are not sitting with fans, but professionals paid to be there. It took a little getting used to.

As far as during the game goes, there is an announcer who gives you the blow-by-blow of what happens on the field. I did not expect that. I don't know why, and after it happened I realized how much sense it makes, but it was still something I wasn't anticipating. They also have the TSN feed shown on a couple of TV screens, which again was something I didn't expect but probably should have.

One of the hardest things about sitting up there as a fan is not cheering. I guess I was lucky because there wasn't a whole lot to cheer about, but I had to stop myself on a few of occasions (the two Chevon Walker touchdowns and the drop by Sam Giguère on the bomb from Henry Burris, for example) from shouting when something big happened.

The thing that captured my imagination the most was the view from the press box. It is absolutely amazing. I have sat in a lot of places at Ivor Wynne, and this was the best view I have ever had. You can see everything.

Once the game ended, I quietly packed up my things and went home. It was definitely a different experience, but one that I would gladly do again, even if just to brag about it to friends and family.

So thank you to the Tiger-Cats and especially to Scott for allowing me to take in a game from the press box. It was an experience I will never forget.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Calgary 31, Hamilton 20

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Once again, the Ti-Cats have a chance to take a step up and remove the .500 monkey from their back and they fail to do so. The team simply got run over by the Stampeders and wasted a golden opportunity to seize sole possession of first place in the East Division.

Positives

Very few positives came out of this game, but one of them was the play of Chevon Walker. You can still see the rookie mistakes he makes – there are a lot of two- or three-yard gains – but when you're as explosive as he is, you take the good with the bad. He scored both Hamilton touchdowns last night and finished with 103 total yards on just 14 touches. He was Hamilton's best player last night.

Another positive was the play of rookie receiver Simon Charbonneau-Campeau. Thrust into the lineup after the injury to Andy Fantuz, Charbonneau-Campeau picked up 45 yards on just three catches and helped move the chains a couple of times. He won't make anyone forget about Fantuz, but it was an impressive showing in limited time for the former Sherbrooke star.

Negatives

The only place to start is with the run defense. Calgary ran for 233 yards on the Ti-Cats last night, with Jon Cornish accounting for 170 of those yards. When Calgary needed to run the ball, they did. When Hamilton needed to stop the run, they didn't. Everything Calgary did in the run game worked; end arounds, up-the-gut runs, even Kevin Glenn managed to scramble for a 16-yard run at one point. The Ti-Cats couldn't stop any of it.

Marc Dile had a rough night. By my unofficial count, he was flagged four times for either holding or illegal procedure. He was the reason that the steady Belton Johnson was released and looked every bit the rookie that he is last night. Not a good night for him at all.

The injury suffered by Andy Fantuz was a tough blow. If not for getting hurt, Fantuz's name would likely be in the area above this because he was putting together a pretty good night. Even with missing most of the second half, he still caught six balls for 77 yards. It's a shame he got hurt, and I hope he has a quick recovery.

Lastly, I was very disappointed to hear the fans in attendance boo Kevin Glenn. I thought Tiger-Cat fans would show their appreciation for what Glenn did while he was here and sadly, I was mistaken. Very disappointed.

Final Thoughts

So once again the Ti-Cats have a chance to make a statement and fail to do so. They now find themselves atop the East Division standings, but only because of early season tiebreakers over Montreal and Toronto. Those tiebreakers could be gone soon with the Cats set to embark on a four game East Division swing, that includes three games on the road. The Ti-Cats will head to Winnipeg to play the Blue Bombers next Thursday, then travel to Montreal to play the Alouettes the following Thursday, before settling in for back-to-back games against the Toronto Argonauts.

It is that upcoming stretch of games that makes last night's loss so disheartening. The Ti-Cats had a chance to put some breathing room between themselves and the rest of the division, but instead they fell back to the pack. They have a golden opportunity to distance themselves over the next four weeks, but they will have to be better than they were last night if they hope to win more than they lose during that stretch.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Preview: Stampeders at Tiger-Cats

2-3
3-2











After a week off, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are back in action hoping to extend their league-high three-game win streak to four when they take on the Calgary Stampeders.

At first glance, this game looks like it will be a shootout. These are the two top offenses in the league, according to points-per-game, with the Ti-Cats averaging slightly over 32 points in their five games and the Stamps not far behind at 31. We could be looking at 80 combined points in tonight's game.

With the weapons on both sides, the defenses are going to have to step up. For the Cats, that means finding a way to minimize perhaps the league's best receiver, Nik Lewis. With his size and skill, it is impossible to stop Lewis, but with the hard hitters in the Tiger-Cat secondary, they might be able to slow down the league's best receiver.

Calgary will try to put the clamps on speedster Chris Williams and the reliable hands of Andy Fantuz. But as was shown in the Week 5 win over Saskatchewan, Hamilton has a plethora of pass catchers that will need to be contained. Rookie Onrea Jones caught two touchdown passes, veteran Dave Stala hauled in one of his own, and first-year Tiger-Cat Sam Giguère helped with a big 50-yard catch and run. The Calgary secondary is going to have their hands full with the talented Tiger-Cat receiving corps.

With the possibility of rain in tonight's forecast, both running backs could see a lot of work. Calgary's Jon Cornish has been a disappointment so far this season and will look to bounce back from a minus-one-yard performance against BC two weeks ago. While the big plays have gone away, Hamilton's Chevon Walker is the league's third-leading rusher and is due for a big game.

Of course, the main storyline of the game is Burris and Glenn leading their new teams against their old ones. Both players have downplayed the revenge angle when asked about it, but there has to be a little motivation for each player as they go up against the team that deemed them expendable.

With two high-scoring offenses and both teams coming off a week's rest, this should be an exciting and entertaining contest. The game starts at 7:00PM at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

What Type of Reception Will Glenn Receive?

Tomorrow's game features the return of former Tiger-Cat quarterback Kevin Glenn to Hamilton as he leads the Calgary Stampeders against Henry Burris and the Ti-Cats.

Glenn quarterbacked the Tiger-Cats for three seasons and in each of them the team made the playoffs. He was a great player who was one of the many that helped turn this franchise around. Without Glenn's play, this team was probably not in a position to get "more better" this off-season. Not everyone sees Glenn's time here in the same light that I do, which makes me wonder what type of reception he will get at the start of the game.

I truly hope the fans don't boo Glenn when he is introduced (likely on Calgary's first offensive series). Glenn didn't ask to leave and he gave it his all while he was here. He deserves to get a nice cheer for all the years of great play he gave the fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium. I hope the fans feel the same way I do and show the class that I know we Tiger-Cat fans have. Booing Glenn just means we're like every other fan base who can't look beyond the new jersey (and do we really want to be compared to those irrational Burris-hating Rider fans?). We Tiger-Cat fans are better than that, so let's give Glenn the welcome he deserves for what he did to help the Tiger-Cats mean something again.

After that first cheer, feel free to boo, but we should show Glenn that we appreciated what he did while he was here and the only way to do that is to give him a cheer and a clap when he first steps on the field. I really hope that's what I see and here tomorrow night.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

All-Time Defensive Tackles and Another Ex-Cat Signs Elswhere

It's Tuesday, which means it is News Day here in Tiger-Cat land. Unlike the last three weeks, there are no Players of the Weeks to announce, but there are a couple pieces of news that are likely of interest to Tiger-Cat fans.

We start with the announcement of the defensive tackle nominees for the all-time team. Seven players are up for two spots and one is pretty much already taken by Angelo Mosca – if he doesn't make the team, I will be stunned – which leaves one spot for six players. John Barrow, Vince Scott and Mike Walker have to be considered the three leading contenders to join Mosca. I would think that Barrow, who is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, has a banner on the Tiger-Cats Wall of Honour and a plaque on the Walk of Fame, is going to be the second defensive tackle chosen. But it wouldn't surprise me if Scott or Walker, both very accomplished players in their own right, were named to the team. The only thing for certain is that Mosca should have October 27th marked on the calendar because he's on the team.

The second bit of news is about another former Tiger-Cat finding employment elsewhere. Following the news that Stevie Baggs joined the Baltimore Ravens (at least for training camp), comes word that former Ti-Cat kicker Sandro DeAngelis has been given a chance to resurrect his career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. DeAngelis was terrible while he was here, but one bad season should not have forced him from the game for as long as it did. He deserves a chance to prove he is still the same kicker that was the league's all-time most accurate during his days with the Calgary Stampeders. It's nice to see him get another shot to play.

Five Things I Learned... In Week 6

I hate bye weeks. Hate them. Only two games this week and one was on Friday and the other was on Monday. Next week isn't much better, with again just two games, with one of a Thursday and the other on a Friday. But that's it and then we are back to four games a week until the playoffs.

(1) Classy move by Jovon Johnson
It was an extremely classy move by Winnipeg's Jovon Johnson to take three Bombers fans out to dinner last week. Johnson treated the three fans to a free dinner after answering trivia questions posted by Johnson on Twitter. Johnson has taken a lot of flak for some of the things he's said this year, but this was a class act by him and he should be commended for it.

(2) Horrendous reffing in the Lions-Argos game
Two not-even-borderline offside calls wiped one touchdown off the board and allowed for another to be scored. The first phantom call was made against BC's Keron Williams and negated a Byron Parker pick six. The second was made against Toronto's Marcus Ball and negated a third-and-goal stuff by the Argos defense. Both calls were brutal and after seeing replays, I fail to see what the refs saw. Not a good day at the ball park for the officials.

(3) Brandon Whitakers nickname should be "The Bomber Killer"
Of Brandon Whitaker's 653 yards from scrimmage, 414 of them have come against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. That means that 63.4 per cent of his total yardage for the season has come in two games against one team. Matt Dunigan is fond of calling Whitaker "Two Way," but I think a more appropriate nickname might be "Bomber Killer."

(4) McCallum's lost it
Last year was a storybook year for Paul McCallum. He set the record for field goal accuracy and was named the league's top special teams player. But this season has been the total opposite for him. All great players inevitably decline and it is starting to look like McCallum held on for one year too long.

(5) My guesses for Players of the Week
Not as easy to pick Players of the Week with only two games, but I think the four players chosen are deserving of the honours.

For Offensive Player, it seems to me like it will come down to two players from Montreal: Jamel Richardson and Anthony Calvillo. Richardson finally played like Richardson and caught four passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Calvillo was Calvillo and put up 368 yards on 17-of-29 passing and two touchdowns. This one is tough, but I think Richardson deserves it this week.

The week's top defensive player was Adam Bighill. Bighill was all over the place on Monday. He finished with a game-high seven tackles, while also picking up a sack and an interception. An all around great performance from BC's man in the middle.

Special teams is once again a tough one. Not a lot of standout special teams performances this week. So I will give the award to Montreal's Sean Whyte. Whyte was a perfect four for four on field goals and had a decent night punting the ball as well. Whyte looked the best of an unspectacular bunch.

Top Canadian might be the biggest no-brainer of the week. BC rookie defensive lineman Jabar Westerman was a beast on Monday evening. He was a disruptive force all game long for the Lions, and picked up a sack and a forced fumble that helped BC beat Toronto. The 2012 second-overall pick lived up to his draft position against the Argos. He was easily the best home-grown talent on any field in Canada this past weekend.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Baggs Signs With the Ravens

I have never hid the fact that I am a fan of Stevie Baggs. I never hid the fact that I thought the team was wrong to let him go back in March. But since the Ti-Cats are in the midst of a three-game winning streak and things are going smoothly in Hamilton, thinking about past negatives isn't something I want do. But I bring Baggs up for one reason.

He has signed with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens had an opening on their 90-man training camp roster and have brought Baggs in to compete for a spot at linebacker. He will also have to contribute on special teams if he hopes to make the team.

This kind of came out of nowhere and it does seem odd that the guy who was deemed not good enough to play for the Ti-Cats is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens. So was Cortez and crew wrong or is Baggs now more suited to be a pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL than a pass-rushing end in the CFL? This is a very weird situation. While I am sure this has happened before, I can't think of many times a player was cut from a CFL team for lack of performance, which was the reason given for his release, and was signed by an NFL team. But it's just more of a noodle-scratcher than me placing blame on anyone. It is just a very strange situation.

But like Justin Medlock, Marcus Thigpen, Justin Hickman and Garrett McIntyre before him, I wish Baggs the best of luck in trying to make it in the NFL.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Ignorance and Idiocy (UPDATE: Wilbon Responds)

It has been a good while since I went on a rant. It's kind of hard to be angry as a Tiger-Cat fan right now and one needs to be angry to rant. But I found something to be angry about after watching ESPN's sports-talk program Pardon the Interruption.

During Friday's episode the idea of American football being played in the Olympics came up as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is starting to advocate for the sports inclusion in the games. When co-host Tony Kornheiser read a quote from Goodell that said 64 countries play American football, one of the requirements a sport must reach before being considered for the Olympics, Wilbon began by laughing at it. He followed that up with a quote so ignorant and idiotic that I have to print it in full (they can be heard at the 5:14 mark of the podcast of the episode):
This is junk!. There's two countries playing real American football, America and Canada, and we're not sure about Canada.
Wilbon, for all his sports-writing expertise, lets his ignorant side shine through on this one. While I've come to expect that Americans know very little about our brand of football, but hearing the arrogance in Wilbon's voice as he says "and we're not sure about Canada" made me want to reach through my TV and punch him right in the mouth.

Maybe someone should show Wilbon the footage of Team Canada's 23-17 gold medal victory over Team USA in last month's finals of the IFAF Under-19 World Championships.

I will give him credit for one thing, though: he is right and Canada does not play "real American football." We play Canadian football.But he was right about that on a technicality, so I'm not giving him too much credit.

Wilbon's comments were ignorant and typical of ESPN blowhards who speak before they think. I like PTI and like Wilbon, but he's no different than the Jim Rome's, Skip Bayless' and Michael Landsberg's of the world; he's a guy who gets paid to shoot his mouth off.

Guess Wilbon's not as enlightened as fellow ESPNer, and big-time CFL fan, Chris Berman.


UPDATE: ESPN's Michael Wilbon has responded via Twitter. He posted the following in response to this post:

I'm going to guess that Wilbon didn't actually read the post because if he did he would realize that this was never about the CFL vs. the NFL or even Canada vs. the US. This was about his comment that he wasn't sure if Canada played football. It was an ignorant comment, and I stand by that statement, but I especially stand by it after this new comment where he calls the CFL "minor league pro football."

I think what bothers me the most about that statement is that it is disrespectful to the hundreds of players that play in the CFL. Guys are up here for reasons other than talent and by calling the CFL a minor league, Wilbon implies that players are in the CFL because they lack the talent to play in the NFL. I know it probably means little to a guy who, according to others, sold his credibility a long time ago, but perhaps there are guys who play in the CFL because they'd rather earn their paycheque than be a third stringer for the Cleveland Browns.

While Canada will likely never be the football power the US is, Wilbon decided to make that point – which is a point I do not disagree with and was the never the reason for my initial post – in the most ignorant and disrespectful way possible. Hopefully, this is the final time we will hear from him on this subject.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Some Tiger-Cat links

I don't normally post links, except when I'm plugging my own stuff or stuff from friends, but with the bye week in full effect, there hasn't been much present Tiger-Cat news to talk about. So with that in mind, I thought I'd post a link to an article and post a video that have been brought to my attention over the last couple of days.

The article comes from the Carolina Panther website and is a feature about former Tiger-Cat kicker Justin Medloc. It is from a couple of days ago, but it was sent to me this morning and I thought I'd pass it along. There are some interesting tidbits in there about his time in the CFL and in Hamilton, but the part that will likely be of most interest to Ti-Cats is just how close Medlock was to returning to Hamilton this season. While it is a subject that was written about when Medlock left, this is the first time that I recall seeing detailed specifics, such as how much money the two sides were apart at the time of his signing with Carolina.

The video is an eight-minute clip from an upcoming documentary called "Gridiron Underground" by former Tiger-Cat running back John Williams. The documentary is about African-American players in the CFL and features interviews with players such as Bernie Custis, Henry Burris and Warren Moon. I found the clip to be absolutely captivating and I think everyone who sees it will agree:

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

More Accolades for Burris and Williams

It has been quite a month for Henry Burris and Chris Williams, and they each have a little more to celebrate about as both were named Players of the Month.

Burris has played like a man possessed since his short-lived benching in the first half against the BC Lions back in Week 2. Since then, has led the Cats to three straight wins and won Offensive Player of the Week following Week 4 and Week 5. By pretty much any measure, it would be difficult to argue against Burris being the best quarterback in the CFL after the first five weeks. He has been a real treat to watch in leading the Ti-Cats to the top spot in the East.

Williams has been equally as fantastic. Williams was named the top special teamer following his scintillating performance against the Argos back in Week 3. Williams has impressively built on his amazing first season and looks to be even better in year two. Williams is arguably the most dangerous weapon on any team right now and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. While it had no bearing on winning the award, Williams has been just as great as a receiver as he has a returner. He leads the team in catches and yards, has two 100-plus-yard games so far this season (both came against the Roughriders) and he is tied for the league lead with six total touchdowns. Guess Williams doesn't believe in the sophomore slump.

It has been a great month for the Ti-Cats, and the play of Burris and Williams are two of the main reasons why.