Heart

It’s a subdued Monday afternoon in Regina… which means the Riders didn’t win their game last night.  I shaved my playoff beard.

Doesn’t hurt as bad as last year (the loss, not the beard).  We simply didn’t play well on offence.  The rest of the team held their own and we wound up losing 21 – 18.  Respectable.  Still sad, but respectable.

We’ve been to 3 of the last 4 Grey Cups.  We have a young team.  We have a good team.  Next year, we’ll be one year better.  Maybe even 4 points better enough to win the big game next year.

When asked for his thoughts on what this meant to him immediately after the win, Montreal’s quarterback, Anthony Calvillo welled up with emotion.  He revealed that doctors found a lesion pressing on his heart, and he needs to have life saving surgery.  It was one of those ‘holy fuck’ moments.  He held off this surgery so he could finish the season and play in this game.

My heart goes out to him and his family.  May good health and a speedy recovery find him well.

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Grey Cup Sunday – The Sequel

In just over four hours, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be taking the field to meet the Montreal Alouettes in what is the most important single day of the Canadian calendar.  One quarter of all Canadians will be united in bars and living rooms across the country to partake.  Grey Cup Sunday is the Nation’s glue.

Tens of thousands of fans have converged upon Edmonton, Alberta, site of the 98th Grey Cup game.  They’ve been celebrating and partying for a week now and they come from all walks of life.  They walk and party among the CFL’s brightest stars and that’s what makes Grey Cup so special.

Players in the CFL earn an average of $50,000/year.  Some make significantly more than that, and some make slightly less.  They make the same money as the average spectator who watches them play.  The league’s superstars are extraordinary, and ordinary at the same time.  During Grey Cup week these players, these heros, are walking among the fans, drinking beers, and sharing stories.  They’re down to earth.  Approachable.  And the only thing ‘elite’ about them is their play on the field.

Fans of the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, or any other major league can’t say that about their players.  The costs of attending events in and around their championship games are affordable only by the wealthy and corporate elite.  The players are untouchable.  They’re not like the rest of us.

For 98 years, Lord Earl Grey’s Cup has been given to the best team in Canadian Football.  Fans can have their pictures taken with it.  They can touch it.  They can read the names like Marv Levy, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Marc Trestman, Jeff Garcia, Ron Lancaster, George Reed, Kent Austin and countless others, engraved upon it.  They can do it because this league is their league.  It’s my league.  It’s your league.

It’s our league.

Grey Cup Bound

At some point last week I decided that I was going to grow a playoff beard.  That’s why the Saskatchewan Roughriders are in the Grey Cup this Sunday for the third time in four years!  Or maybe it’s because our ‘team’ beat a bunch of egotistical, end zone dance choreographing, chest pounding, trash talking individuals in their own stadium.  I fucking hate the Calgary Stampeders.

They went 13 – 5 this season, while we only went 10 – 8.  They beat us two out of three times and finished first overall in the regular season.  In the media they talked about destiny, and how this was their year.  They put 8 players on the CFL all-star team.  The game against Saskatchewan was merely a formality.  When they lost, they blamed the refs, and one even accused the league of fixing the game.

Fuckers.

It feels different this time.  Not as dramatic.  More workmanlike.  Water is wet, sky is blue, and the Riders are going to the Cup again.  We beat ‘em last year in the finals, and we did it again this year, AND we did it while playing the game on their turf in -30 C weather.

At one point in the third quarter, our offence stood on the field for five minutes, bare arms, ice forming on their face masks, and facing a cold prairie wind while awaiting the review of a play that was challenged.  Calgary’s defence retreated to the sidelines, stood by the heaters and put on jackets.  The call went our way, and we took 6:20 off the clock, marching the ball into the wind to score the game winning touchdown.

Saskatchewan 20 – Calgary 16

It’s been a pretty special year.  2010 is the Roughrider’s 100th anniversary.  We are a community owned team – there is no private owner.  We are Canada’s team.  There are two 20 story tall Roughrider logos covering the sides of Regina’s twin towers.  The team has played in seven of TSN’s top ten highest rated CFL telecasts.  We outdraw the NHL, NFL, and Monday Night Football on Canadian television.  We sell more merchandise than all the other teams combined.  It wasn’t that long ago that Saskatchewan was the hind tit of the CFL, and of Canada.  Look at us now!

Having said that, 2010 has not been easy on the team.  We’ve been horribly inconsistent.  Lost games we should have won.  Rode a four game losing streak into the final game of the regular season.  People were calling for players to be cut and coaches to be fired.  The team, and the faithful endured.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t talk about individual accomplishments.  They respect their opposition.  They respect the game.  They represent our community.  Hell, on a team that draws its 46 players from all over North America, 8 are from Saskatchewan, and 25 now live year round in Regina.

And now we’re going to the Grey Cup in a rematch of last year’s game, a game we lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Montreal Alouettes.  It’s time to finish what we started.

In Remembrerance

I’m having a hard time believing that any ideology conceived by human beings is worth killing for, and certainly not dying for.  Yet we do it.  We do it and we glorify it.  We vilify it and we do it again.  Over and over, generation after generation.  We, all of us, are doing it right now.

We talk about Stalin and Hitler and Chairman Mao, and others as being mass murderers.  Yet it was not they themselves who turned on the gas, who pulled the triggers, who tortured and executed and raped, and destroyed lives.  It was everyday ordinary common foot soldiers who did most of the dirty work.  Thousands of them.

Were they particularly evil?  Were they ‘believers’ who drank up the propaganda and spilled blood for the greater good?

‘They’ believed they were doing good for ‘their’ side.  They believed it came down to a choice between ‘their’ own survival, or that of their foes.  ‘They’ listened to the speeches.  ‘They’ believed themselves to be true and just in their actions.  ‘They’ believed themselves to be better than those they persecuted.

‘They’ took one little step towards some unpleasant business.  And then another small step past that.  And then another.  And another.  And quickly more thereafter.  Faster and faster ‘they’ moved away from the place where their moral compass first started out until soon the question of evil and morality and of good and bad and right and wrong seemed so clear…

They could not recognize how far they moved that line until it was too late.

Perhaps most chilling, ‘they’ are just like you and me.  The capacity to bring destruction to our fellow human beings is as present in all of us every single moment of the day, as is our capacity to bring great works of good to the world.  Often, one is confused for the other.

I stood at a Remembrance Day ceremony this morning, and these were the thoughts racing through my mind.

Rousing Speech Fuels Highwaymen

Media Release

For Immediate Release

ROUSING SPEECH FUELS HIGHWAYMEN

October 29, 2010 (Yellowhead, Sk) After not even showing up for their previous game, Yellowhead Highwaymen owner/coach, Captain Jarrett Rusnak concluded that a lack of intensity has been the root cause of his team’s troubles.  “I was hanging out with some guys at Joe’s Condoms, Vacuum Cleaners and Pizza last week and was shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn how much football wisdom our collective fan base possesses,” began Rusnak.  “I can’t believe we’ve been here three years and never once bothered to consult our fans on the most important football decisions affecting this team.”

“We need to fire the coach,” said Merv Flerman, a plumber and unnoted football expert. “That’ll teach the players to stop being so dumb!”

“I think we should platoon our running backs with someone who’s good,” said Edward Verman, a pan handler and one time high school football player.

Mo Charles, a gas stationed attendant, mentioned that the team should keep its current coaching staff, except try harder to get wins.  “And also they should bring back the 1960s.”

After firing, then rehiring himself, buying a better running back at Wal-Mart, dropping acid then having tons of unprotected sex with a bunch of hippy chicks, Rusnak entered the locker room and roused his players with a speech crafted by the finest wordsmyths discount coupons at KFC could ever buy.

“Life is a game of inches,” Rusnak began.  “And so is my big fat Romanian cock!  Win the game or you’ll feel me slapping you across the jaw with it!”

The Highwaymen remain 18 points up on The Mighty Drama Quins.  The team also announced that proceeds from Sunday’s 50/50 draw will benefit literacy and grammar programs across the province.

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The Unauthorized Bio of Socksey

It is clear that ‘Socksey’ did not exist before 1991, at least not THIS Socksey.  There are records however dating back to 1692 of a woman who simply vanished into thin air during the Salem witch trials.

Socksey Walcott arrived to the tiny Puritan village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1691 and soon after introduced the population to something known as cunnilingus.  In no time, the village was taken up in some sort of craze.  Young women took to dancing in the forest naked and men suddenly found themselves smiling all the time, NOT thinking about their daily chores.

Socksey Walcott was called before the court, and charged with witchcraft, setting off a spree of accusations and mayhem.  Upon seeing the hangman’s noose, she realized her welcome was about worn out.  Pulling out the doubling cube, she made a deal with the dice gods and vanished into thin air.

She awoke in a place somewhat resembling a tacky 1970s porn set, with fake red leather walls, and a large velvet Elvis covering the ceiling.  Glen Beck was eating babies and some guy named Vic was standing in front of the bathroom mirror in his underwear singing show tunes while waxing his belly.  “What am I doing here?” cried Socksey.  “I made a deal with the dice gods!”

“Those were FIBS dice gods,” said Vic.  “We’re stuck here for eternity baby!”

Glen Beck shot Socksey a sympathetic look and whispered, “I’ve only been here two weeks and look at me now.  I used to be a nice guy.”

Suddenly a monkey swept in, grabbed Socksey by the hand, and jumped out the 19th story window.  “You’re going to kill us!” screamed Socksey.

“I’m a monkey,” said the monkey, “I don’t speak english.”

Socksey and the monkey hit the ground so hard, they landed smack in the middle of 1991.  She’s been incognito ever since.

Coaching From the Couch

It’s 9:30pm on a Saturday night in Regina.  The Riders just lost badly to Deadmonton and despite having second place and a home playoff game sewn up, people are acting like the apocalypse has arrived.  Fans in this province bug me because they have no sense of perspective when it comes to assessing what kind of team we have.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have been to two of the last three Grey Cups, winning both times (the 2nd for about 30 seconds).  We’re one of the winningest teams over that three year span.  We’ve done it with five different quarterbacks, two head coaches, off field drama, 17 broken tibulas and tons of personnel changes.  It wasn’t that long ago that home playoff games and winning seasons were merely a fantasy, season after season, after season.

We’ve lost games we should have won this season, including the last three games in a row.  So has 11-5 Calgary (who’s 2-4 over their last six games).  So has 11-5 Montreal (who just got trounced 40-3 by Hamilton).  And every bottom feeder in the league has beaten one of the three dominant teams this season.  I’d rather be cheering for the 9-7 Saskatchewan Roughriders than the BC Lions, or Edmonton Eskishmoes, or the Winnipeg Blowbombers.  We remain a threat to play in the Grey Cup and win this year.  We’re in good hands with our current coaches and players.

How about we just let them do what they do best?  I doubt very much our advice from the comfort of our couches is all that useful.

Highwaymen Forfeit Game

Media Release

For Immediate Release

HIGHWAYMEN FORFEIT GAME DUE TO PLANE CRASH

Oct 22, 2010 (Yellowhead, Sk) The Yellowhead Highwaymen were forced to forfeit their recent away game after their plane crashed over the Saskatchewan Alps.  “The Flux Capacitor blew on the cigarette lighter in the cockpit and next thing you know… all the coffee makers were offline,” began Highwaymen Owner/Coach, Captain Jarrett Rusnak.  “It was chaos and then the plane’s engines stalled and I was like, ‘I totally want to have sex with a hot chick in the bathroom before the plane goes down.’”

The plane made an emergency landing in a field near Saskatoon.  Due to the uncertainty of the situation, Highwaymen coaches and players were forced to eat some of their fellow passengers.  “Well, we kind of felt bad about that, but we didn’t have time to grab something in the restaurant before we left,” said Rusnak.  “Then a bunch of people from Saskatoon showed up to rescue us, and they started talking about their goddamed river, and how pretty their city is, and how they’re so much better than everyone else… and so we ate them too.”

All together, three teams of rescue personnel were eaten before Highwaymen coaches and players were eventually coaxed out of the plane with tickets to some stupid Ukrainian dancing thing.

The Highwaymen remain hopelessly out of playoff contention but have invited league leaders to the team’s annual fundraising dinner to…. ‘speak’ at the event.

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Rookie of the Year

Media Release

For Immediate Release

SOMEONE NO ONE EVER HEARD OF IS HIGHWAYMEN’S ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

October 16, 2010 (Yellowhead, Sk) The Yellowhead Highwaymen have announced stadium anthem singer Jorje Vancesca as the team’s 2010 CFLFFL Rookie of the Year.  “Our 2010 crop of rookies are still growing in a test tube in Gluko Von Ivanburg’s lab and the other guys we brought in weren’t eligible because they had NFL experience,” said Highwaymen owner/coach, Captain Jarrett Rusnak.  “That left what’s his face as the only other option.”

Vancesca, in his first year with the team, takes the field before every game to belt out a salsa version of ‘Oh Canada’.  “Sometimes he’s still on the field when our captains come out for the coin toss,” began Rusnak, “and a few times they passed each other and kind of nodded a hello to each other.  I never actually saw it, but somebody told me that they were talking to someone who thought they saw it happen.”

Vancesca will be presented with a token plaque presented by one-time 15 seconds of fame recipient, Dick Assman.  The ceremony will be attended my no one special and will take place probably sometime next week.

After being in the hunt most of the season, The Highwaymen currently sit 12 points out of first place and are too busy planning their year-end garbage bag day to bother commenting further.

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Highwaymen Reach Out to League

Media Release

For Immediate Release

HIGHWAYMEN REACH OUT TO LEAGUE GOVERNORS

October 5, 2010 (Yellowhead, Sk) In an unprecedented gesture, Yellowhead Highwaymen owner/coach, Captain Jarrett Rusnak, has reached out to his fellow league governors to sponsor a mission to Matrimonial Blisshinstein in an effort to locate and rescue CK Barnagel owner, Richard Kies.  “Vibrant young man go to that place and disappear, only to reemerge years later broken, old, and tired.”

Kies was reported missing over the weekend and a search of his home uncovered clues to his possible whereabouts.  “We found brochures to Matrimonial Blisshinstein located under a pile of empty pizza boxes,” began Rusnak.  “We were also alarmed to discover his stack of porn magazines, DVDs, and penis enlargement devices tossed in the recycle bin.”

There is little in the way of agreement on how to proceed in the matter.  Matrimonial Blisshinstein is a closed country and has no diplomatic relations with any other nation.  Extracting Kies forcibly could cause an international incident.  “Right now we’re looking at our options, but we’re just a bunch of guys, not CSIS,” said Rusnak.

Sixth Sense offered to conduct a memorial service, and Team Tillman is slated to deliver the eulogy.  A memorial torch remains lit outside Golf’s Steakhouse.

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