Ugh, I don’t even know where to start. I’m not even going to mention that the Roughriders were beaten by their own starting quarterback. (Oops! Dammit!) But seriously, WTF, CFL, WTF?
Fans of Discombobulated may have wondered why I stopped posting anything after early July this season, and I was wondering the same thing. After watching last night’s CFL Western Final, I realized why. Writing is a form of therapy for me so that I can stay sane(ish) while remaining a member of Rider Nation. I’ll explain.
When the Roughriders operate in regular Roughriders mode (i.e. like an eight year old with Tourette’s, Asperger’s and ADHD jacked up on Mountain Dew who happens to be playing with a loaded shotgun), the only way I can stand it is by writing about their incompetence. I suspect it’s partly how Rob Vanstone has managed to avoid becoming an alcoholic.
The Roughriders’ 2019 CFL season seemed to get off to a promising start, by standard Roughriders operating procedures. Our General Manager, Vice President, Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator all left for the NFL within hours of promising to stay with the team by signing a contract extension that was apparently worth the paper it was written on. (I understand he’s doing a bang-up job down south, by the way. Real Super Bowl stuff. More like Super Bowel; am I right ladies?)
Okay. So the Roughriders missed signing all of the quarterbacks that they actually wanted, so they signed a quarterback that I happened to think is very good but who must have wondered how much the team really wanted him, given how much of a booby prize he seemed to be treated as by the team. Then, that booby prize quarterback got concussed on the third play of first game of the season. The team started out 1-3 with a rookie general manager and head coach, with no reason to think this was going to be anything but a wasted year until management could clean house at the end of 2019 and commence a new rebuilding program in 2020. And then there was the whole “Crazy Gainer” thing; I don’t know what to say about that.
Then everything took a strange turn.
First, they fixed Gainer so he looked like a normal CFL mascot rather than an axe murderer. (Eventually, Gainer will turn into an axe murderer if he has to sit through games like yesterday for the rest of his life.)
Second, the defense constructed by the above-mentioned departed General Manager, Vice President, Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator stayed good. Like, real good, as in, arguably the best in the entire league good.
Third, Cody Fajardo.
Mr. Fajardo turned out to be a prototype young American quarterback with a powerful arm (seriously, you have to see him up close when he throws; seeing it on TV does not do it justice) and spectacular running ability who did not fold up like a cheap lawn chair at the first sign of pressure. In fact, he turned out to be more like one of those steel folding chairs that WWE superstars smash over each other’s heads when the ref isn’t looking (or even when the ref is looking; are there no rules in sports entertainment?).
Mr. Fajardo could be counted on to actually win games (as opposed to lose games) in the fourth quarter (yes, Roughriders fans, that’s an actual thing). He was even one of those upstanding righteous clean-living Americans who would thank God after winning games, apparently without giving a second thought to the question of whether God would have anything to do with the outcome of a stupid football game (especially a regular season CFL game; He might watch the Grey Cup since nothing else seems to happen in late November and the halftime entertainment has been half-decent in recent years).
This can be contrast with Darian Durant, who did not ever seem to be overly worried about what God was thinking, at least in the sense that Mr. Durant had a healthy ego and seemed to be aware that when he was winning games in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t God who was doing all the work.
A good Christian who might be reading this post could point out that Mr. Fajardo seemed to thank not just God but Jesus, too. Jesus seems to be a fairly forgiving guy, but before I get into that, let’s talk secular football.
After the shaky but entirely typical start to the 2019 season, the Roughriders began playing like a real live professional football franchise. They still lost to the Calgary Stampeders, but again, that’s normal in the CFL; everybody loses to the Calgary Stampeders. At the end of the season, after beating the Edmonton Redskins twice in a row, the team found itself in first place, just like in 1976 and 2009. What could go wrong?
You might think I’m trying to be ironic here, but no. Seriously, this 2019 Roughriders team had played almost an entire season looking like it knew how to win important games.
So I had nothing to write about. The Roughriders were playing good, solid, competent, professional football. I had nothing to complain about. What’s fun about that? Nothing. Nothing is fun about that.
And then yesterday happened.
In the lead up to the game, all talk swirled around Mr. Fajardo’s obliques. Would he play? Could he play? Was this 2018 all over again?
Watching the game on TV, Mr. Fajardo seemed unaffected. Even when he seemed a little off in the first quarter, that could reasonably be chalked up to the normal rust that can build up when the first place team gets a bye to the final.
But here’s the problem, the ghosts of 1972, 1976 and 2009 seemed to be lurking about, toying with the team. Throughout the game, every time the Roughriders did something right, they followed up with something wrong, very wrong. Like, Roughriders wrong.
See, the Roughriders don’t lose games. They lose games. Losing a CFL divisional final is what the Edmonton Eskimos did in Hamilton. They were outclassed and outplayed; never really in the game. The end came with a whimper. Not the Roughriders. They had to keep Rider Nation dangling on a thread until literally the last play of the game so that when they lost, it was a kick to the nuts loss, not just an oh-well-we’ll-get-them-next-year-loss. It was a dead silent, we’ll-all-hear-the-goal-post-vibrating-in-our-ears-until-next-June loss.
It needs to be noted that the defense stayed strong, but for a few plays. The Blue Bombers had clearly figured out that if the Roughriders blitz, the answer was not a quick short outlet pass but a long bomb. That’s what it appeared to me, anyway, as a completely ignorant football fan.
(Seriously, I know nothing about football tactics or plays or philosophy. I just know what I see but I don’t actually know why anything happens. When TSN’s Glen Suitor explains what just happened and draws a bunch of weird circles and pointy lines on the telestrator (or whatever it’s called now, or spelled), he could be describing a tennis match and I’d have no idea.)
Let’s talk about the trick punt return play. Brilliant! The Roughriders used the same damned play that the Blue Bombers had used a couple of years ago. Perfectly timed; perfectly executed. But then, one of the fastest American players on the Roughriders got caught more or less from behind by some anonymous white (probably Canadian) special teams guy. His name sounds French, for chrissaskes! Even Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said that that play saved the game; called him a “hell of a man” at the postgame press conference. (Those anonymous white Canadian special teams players are the kinds of players you need on a team, by the way. That guy, whatever his name is, will be playing for the Roughriders next season.)
Okay. So the Roughriders are on the one yard line. Good news! The team paid a small fortune for one of the best, most bruising running backs in the CFL. Just give the ball to him and he’ll pound it in while an approving George Reed looks on from afar. Nope!
The team sets up in the shotgun with an empty backfield. Oh…kay…. Hmmm. Well, Roughriders offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo is a genius, or whatever. The team runs what appears to be some kind of modified Statue of Liberty play, except this one is just a Statue play. The ball is snapped efficiently to the quarterback, who freezes up like a statue and waits for someone, anyone, maybe even a Roughrider, to tackle him. If that’s how they drew it up, then mission accomplished. The ultimate passive-aggressive football play.
It says something that, at the postgame press conference, when head coach Craig Dickenson was asked about that play, he admitted he really didn’t know what was supposed to happen on that play. It’s like the captain of the Titanic saying at the post voyage press conference that he really didn’t know what he’s supposed to do when the ship is steaming directly towards an iceberg. Uh, turn? No! That’s just what the iceberg would be expecting!
Anyway, the next time the Roughriders are on the one yard line, they use their secret weapon: Cody Fajardo. See, the great thing is that Mr. Fajardo has historically been a short yardage specialist. In fact, if memory serves (and it does), it was a young Cody Fajardo, playing for the Toronto Argonauts, who ran the ball in from the one yard line against some team in the 2017 Eastern Final, thusly winning the game and allowing the Argos to subsequently win the Grey Cup. Now if I could only remember which team had been the victim of Mr. Fajardo’s short yardage prowess. Hmmm….
Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. And anyway, Mr. Fajardo can be forgiven for failing to score yesterday because, I don’t know, his obliques were torn. If only our coaching staff had known about Mr. Fajardo’s medical condition, if only they had some insider information about the extent of his injury, they would have likely decided to use their smash mouth running back William Powell who had been brought in as a free agent precisely because the Roughriders needed a dependable running back.
If you will permit me just one profanity.
Okay, moving on.
See the problem is that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are coached by one of the Dickenson brothers. Whenever a team coached by one of these Montana legends is playing in a vitally important game and their team is on the one yard line, near the end of the game, on a play that could define the destiny of their team, these guys will always avoid using their bruising (and league-leading) running backs. Anyone who watched the 2016 Grey Cup knows what I’m talking about. So at least the Dickenson brothers stay true to who they are.
Then the last play of the game. This was God’s wrath.
Now, anyone who has ever read the Bible knows that God can be a bit of a jerk. He is, in His own words, a jealous god. See, God was getting news throughout the year that there was some yahoo CFL quarterback who was crediting the Almighty with the Roughriders’ success. Everyone knows that God is currently a Stampeders’ fan. His allegiance switches from time to time; he was a Roughriders fan (1966-1976), Eskimos (1977-1982), Roughriders (2007-2013) and so on.
So here God is, trying to enjoy the 2019 CFL season, and there is this guy on the Roughriders who keeps claiming that He has something to do with the Roughriders’ success. Well, God is not going to put up with that bullshit, so of course he makes sure the Roughriders not only get to the Western Final, but that they get every opportunity to win the Western Final despite playing terrible for 90% of the game. Then, the pièce de résistance… off the crossbar! The Wrath of God!
Now, it looked to me that Mr. Fajardo was throwing into triple coverage, so I doubt the pass would have been successful, but that’s not how God works, baby! If you want to shoot your mouth off all season, you’ll get what’s coming to you at the end of the season. The very end.
You’d think that Jesus, who Mr. Fajardo also credited for his success, would have been a little more forgiving, but this is where things get complicated. You see, as I understand it, God and Jesus are the same person. To anyone with a passing familiar with mental illness issues, or has watched TV or seen a movie in the last, say, 80 years, that sounds a lot like schizophrenia. You don’t give the keys to the car to a guy who has multiple personalities! You never know if he’s going to go through the McDonald’s drive-thru or drive off a cliff! Cripes people; think!
And don’t get me started about the Holy Spirit who seems to me to be some kind of theological third wheel who is just trying to horn in on all the adulation and respect that gets thrown God and Jesus’s way. Just to be clear, Mr. Holy Spirit (if that is your name, because I heard it’s actually Holy Ghost and you’re just trying to sound more mature and distinguished now), it’s not working. No one ever thanks the Holy Spirit for winning a football game, and it must drive you crazy. I’m sure you’re all like “Hey people, we’re all the same person! Me, God and Jesus… the same! Why don’t you throw a little love my way? Who do you think made that third down gamble work?”
Just once I’d like to hear a football player thank the Holy Spirit for that field goal. Maybe if Mr. Fajardo had thanked God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then Jesus and the Holy Spirit could have talked God out of smiting the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Or at least over-ruled him on some kind of majority rules voting thing. Or maybe it’s more like the American Electoral College, where God gets more votes than the other two. But Jesus and the Holy Spirit could have said to God “Look, you had your fun with 1972, and 1976, and 2009 and the whole Chris Jones debacle, but let it go, man.”
That’s where the devil would be whispering in God’s ear, “Don’t listen to them. Let the Blue Bombers win. You can then torture the entire Province of Manitoba by having the Bombers lose to the Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup. Just think of it… 30 years of futility. We’re talking Jews-wandering-the-desert level futility.”
(Keep in mind that even God would not be so foolish as to try to foresee the Grey Cup winner; there are some things that are just too unpredictable to even hazard a guess. Nice try, Satan.)
So yeah, that’s what I think happened. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Satan were all sitting around watching the CFL Western Final (probably at Satan’s house; he’d have the best TV and snacks by a long shot) and they decided the most fun they could have would be to screw with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by dangling a chance at a Grey Cup victory. I can assure you, none of these divine entities, not even Satan, would be a fan of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Well, maybe Satan.
As a brief denouement to this post (which has gotten a little out of control by even my loose standards), I was watching Zach (Zack) Collaros at the post game press conference, sitting beside Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea, who I think looks like Viggo Mortensen (or at least reminds me of him).
Are we sure Mr. Collaros really has ever been concussed? Because he always seems a little out of it. How can anyone tell if he’s been hit too hard? In the aftermath of one of his greatest triumphs, Mr. Collaros seemed like he was trying to remember whether he had won the game or lost the game. Even Mr. O’Shea made a comment about whether Collaros was excited or not: “Can’t you tell? Look at him.” Everyone laughed; even the guy from Sportsnet.
My point is that Mr. Collaros obviously faked all his concussions until the CFL finally traded him to a team he figured would win the Grey Cup. It was just a matter of time. Mr. Collaros was like the hot potato of the 2019 CFL season.
Alright, that’s enough. But does anyone remember how the Roughriders’ 1992 season ended? Feels a bit like that.
What we do in life echoes [off the crossbar] in eternity.