Has the CFL deteriorated into a bush league, where public trash talk has become so common that it is now reminiscent of professional wrestling?
A veteran assistant coach is making exactly that comparison after the latest outbursts this week from a couple of players in the Western Division.
Dan Dorazio, offensive line coach with the B.C. Lions, is upset and embarrassed by public, wrestling-style accusations emanating from the Edmonton Eskimos’ Rahim Abdullah, who suggested B.C. tackles Rob Murphy and Jason Jiminez are “the dirtiest players in the CFL. . .You name it, they do it.”
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Dorazio presumably wasn’t thrilled, either, with public comments from Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Reggie Hunt, who accused Calgary Stampeders receivers Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland of excessive hot-dogging.
“I’ve got a problem with them,” Hunt said. “I respect their game a lot (but) when you catch a five-yard out and get tackled. . .act like you’ve done it before. Act like you’ve caught a five-yard route before. It isn’t like you’ve just scored a touchdown. Celebrate after you score a touchdown, but I haven’t seen those guys score in a long time. . .Calm down, man. Act like you’ve been there.”
The fact that the Esks play the Lions this week, and the Stamps play the Riders, probably won’t hurt ticket sales. But still, Dorazio dislikes the pot shots.
“Stuff like that takes away from the game that is to be played," Dorazio told Vancouver sports columnist Mike Beamish. "It cheapens the players, and the coaches. And it diminishes our league. Honestly, I hate to see our league held up to ridicule. I don't think you'd ever see those comments in the print media in a National Football League city. There's no value in it.
“The insults don't bother me. We're big boys. But our world is not theatrics. It's not a (WWE chief) Vince McMahon world we live in and work in every day."
I get Dorazio’s point, but, deep down, I’m thinking fans might actually get a kick out of the public trash talk. It might be spicing up things for the CFL.
Let me know what you think by emailing me at email@example.com. I’ll publish some of your thoughts next week.
•Only one week into the season and several veterans are visibly miserable.
Damon Allen, who has been demoted to third-string quarterback with the Toronto Argonauts after the club unsuccessfully tried to trade him, isn’t even talking to the media or his replacement, Michael Bishop.
Troy Westwood, who has been replaced as the Blue Bombers’ kicker by Rob Pikula after the second-longest consecutive-game streak in CFL history, has grudgingly accepted a position onthe Winnipeg reserve squad.
And then there’s Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who, I’m told, is quietly seething about not being allowed to call his own plays (as he did in the past under former head coach Don Matthews).
• Regina sports columnist Rob Vanstone, who is brilliant, has won a $250 bet with one of his readers who wagered that he could not go two months without mentioning former-Saskatchewan-turned-Calgary quarterback Henry Burris.
The reader is compelled to cough up $250, but it’s going to charity. And Vanstone has decided to take care of half.
Vanstone must have been suffering through the Burris-less columns because, once the bet ended, he completed his column in the Regina Leader-Post with this paragraph:
“Henry Burris. Henry Burris. Henry Burris. . .”
• Burris looked sharp last week in the Stampeders’ opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but there’s still a bit of quarterback controversy in Calgary because some members of the team believe former NFLer Akili Smith is better.
Smith couldn't have played last week, by the way. He had a leg injury, kept quiet by the Stamps. He’ll be ready this weekend, however, in Regina.
• Oh, and this outstanding line from Vanstone about Hamilton’s Brock Ralph catching a pass in his own end zone and fumbling, leading to an easy Calgary touchdown:
“At this rate, Ralph may be the only Tiger-Cats receiver to catch a pass in the end zone for quite a while.”
It is true that the Ticats’ offence looked anemic in Calgary, failing to score a touchdown. And it is true that the Ticats were reminiscent of last season, when they were irrefutably wretched.
Many CFLers, however, believe the Ticats have upgraded their talent considerably this season and that it’s just a matter of time before they become respectable again.
Hamilton linebacker JoJuan Armour, although biased, is one of them.
“We didn't put our best showing on the field last week so this (game against the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday night) is our opportunity to come out and show that things are changing,” Armour said. “We're not the same team we have been in the past.
"We have a lot of minds to change and a lot of hard feeling to turn around. There is a lot of pride in our locker room. . .This is where I want to be. None of us are happy with the way things have been. We're not here just collecting cheques, we want to win. We want to win not just for ourselves but for the city."
• Heading into Thursday night, CFL decision-makers said they would not stop the Winnipeg-Montreal game to honor Bombers receiver Milt Stegall if he wound up scoring the touchdown that would give him the league record.
That had the Bombers fuming.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Bomber quarterback Kevin Glenn said. "Who knows if the record will ever get broken again? So you want to try and cherish the moment. As professionals, we can take that and channel it... back into the game. It's an important thing for Milt and the team and the city of Winnipeg. As professionals, it wouldn't take away from the game if they stopped it."
Even Montreal head coach Jim Popp said he wouldn’t mind if a few minutes were taken for a ceremony of sorts.
My hunch? TSN wouldn’t be happy about a delay.
• Calgary will be the site of the 2009 Grey Cup game.
CFL sources say the championship tilt already has been awarded to Calgary and that league governors are planning to make a formal announcement within the next two weeks.
"It's a done deal," a CFL executive divulged. "We're just waiting for the best timing now to hold a press conference. But the Grey Cup of 2009 will be in Calgary, for sure."
The chairman or chief of Calgary's Grey Cup committee probably will be Stamps vice-president Scott Ackles, sources said.
Ackles, son of B.C. Lions general manager Bob Ackles, left the B.C. front office during the past off-season to join the Stamps.
In 2005, Scott Ackles was a primary organizer of the Grey Cup in Vancouver and was widely credited for the event's success.
The Grey Cup, historically a major money-maker for the CFL franchise in the city where the game is played, will be in Toronto in November of this season and in Montreal in 2008.
• The Argonauts’ insurance plan vis-à-vis ex-NFL kicker Steve Christie has been in place for months.
The agreement was that Christie, born and living in Ontario, would be available any time Noel Prefontaine is unable to play.
Prefontaine can’t kick this Saturday in Hamilton (leg and head injuries) so Christie comes on board.
It’ll happen again, too, if Prefontaine needs to miss other games.
Christie belongs to a clique, if you will. Christie’s agent is Gil Scott, who also represents Argos general manager Adam Rita and Argos head coach Michael Clemons. They’re all good buddies.
Clemons and Christie, in fact, were college teammates.
• Christie, incidentally, thinks NFL kickers are “flakes” while CFL kickers aren’t.
“Guys who kick in the CFL are not flaky like they are in the NFL,” Christie said. “In the NFL, they don’t do anything other than kick. Here in Canada, these guys can play a little bit, too.”
• Every week this season, I make my traditional picks against the spread at the bottom of this column. I went 3-1 last week.
THURSDAY – Montreal at Winnipeg:
The Blue Bombers are favoured by four points. The Alouettes aren’t what they used to be. And, somewhere, Don Matthews is probably smiling. TAKE THE BOMBERS MINUS THE FOUR POINTS.
FRIDAY – Edmonton at B.C.:
The Lions are favoured by six points. Ricky Ray was sharp and the Eskimos exceeded my expectations last week, but that was on their home turf against Winnipeg. This game is in B.C. against the defending champions. TAKE THE LIONS MINUS THE SIX POINTS.
SATURDAY – Toronto at Hamilton:
The visiting Argonauts are favoured by 4.5 points. The Argos are having a sizeable quarterback controversy and I’m not convinced that Michael Bishop can handle things efficiently as a starter. And I know the Ticats will be psyched for their home opener. TAKE THE TIGER-CATS PLUS THE 4.5 POINTS.
SATURDAY - Calgary at Saskatchewan:
This game is a pick ‘em. Under new head coach Kent Austin, the Roughriders still seem to be anemic offensively while the Stamps are strong Grey Cup contenders. TAKE CALGARY AT PICK ‘EM.