Last night in Vancouver, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and British Columbia Lions demonstrated everything that makes the Canadian Football League the most under-appreciated sport league in the world, with assists from the covid-limited but raucous bipartisan fans in attendance at BC Place and TSN’s announce team of Dustin Nielson and Glen Suitor.
Both teams threw everything they had at each other, growing increasingly desperate to land that knockout punch. When you are throwing haymakers, you are going to miss sometimes and look bad, like, real bad. In CFL games, this manifests itself in your first missed field goal of the season, borderline pass interference calls, roughing the passer penalties at bad times, really dumb horse collar tackles out of bounds, and shanked punts at. Exactly. The. Worst. Time. Possible. Mr. Suitor said it right; “sometimes pressure can bust pipes or create diamonds.” How poetic; didn’t think you had it in you, Mr. Profound.
But this kind of brutal bad luck only makes the spectacular moments even more sublime. This juxtaposing of towering highs and deep lows was personified by Rodney Darnell “Lucky” Whitehead Jr., who started the game by absolutely killing the Roughriders in the first half, only to fumble twice in the second half (one of which made no difference but the other making all of the difference).
It’s the kind of game you wish you could be at, but Nielson and Suitor made up for it by maintaining just the right level of commentary, observations and chatter. Suitor has always been good but Mr. Nielson is already starting to reach Chris Cuthbert-levels of dramatic play-calling. At all the right moments, his voice matches the moment, but when necessary, it’s like he’s calling the Hindenburg disaster. “Oh the humanity! It’s a horrible kick!” He pumps the brakes just before spilling over into the hysterics that radio football announcers sometimes work themselves into (which, don’t get me wrong, has it’s own charm).
Michael Reilly remains the most irritating and frustrating quarterback to watch as an opposing fan. You can typically predict when he is going to march down the field and score because he almost always does so at the most crucial times of a game. The Roughriders probably won only because they kept Mr. Reilly off the field during the important last late moments of fourth quarter. Suitor’s comment on Reilly’s footspeed is dead right: a “young version of himself”. But then, Mr. Reilly just didn’t have the speed necessary to get that last two yards late in the fourth quarter that resulted in the fatal moment the Lions had to punt the ball back to a surging Cody Fajardo. Nevertheless, may I be the first to say I hate you, Mr. Reilly, but I’m glad you play in the league.
And what are we to make of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ offense? Lame swing passes for three yard losses seemed to make up 80% of the playbook. Then someone seemed to realize they forgot there are two sides to the laminated Denny’s menu that Offensive Coordinator Jason Mass stares all game like it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and he’s going to order Moons over My Hammy before passing out face down in his pancakes. Then suddenly Roughriders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo starts throwing darts and carving up the defense like it’s a Thanksgiving turkey. Please explain yourself, Roughriders’ offense.
A quick word. Suitor and Nielson focused on the post-touchdown Fajardo/Clark routines, but Ricardo Louise had the best endzone celebration. Mowing a lawn and waving to the neighbours. Like Lil Nas X’s name, I don’t get it, but it’s brilliant.
And speaking of Lil Nas X, and apropos of nothing, I like that weird Uber Eats app commercial with Elton John and Lil Nas X. I think Uber Eats is a day late and a dollar short trying to horn in on Skip the Dishes and get into the online food delivery business, but keep up the oddball weird commercials. They beat the endless truck commercials typically on short rotation during CFL broadcasts. And seriously, who, really, uses trucks to drive up the side of mountains or crawl over piles of rocks? You go to CostCo on weekends to load up on toilet paper, Miller Lite and frozen chicken wings.
Apropos of something, it behooves me to point out that K.C. and the Sunshine Band over that cfl.ca offered three unanimous picks for the CFL games this week. They took Hamilton, Montreal and BC. Right, wrong and wrong. It’s a fool’s errand to pick CFL winners, so I can’t be too hard on them, especially when my picks are worse than their picks, but I’m not crazy enough to post them online. Anyway, I just want to say that this week’s tripartite Kisses of Death from the Six Horsemen of the Apocalypse at cfl.ca demonstrate my rule: the cfl.ca Kiss of Death means the favoured team is going to lose, and it work two-thirds of the time, everytime.