Well, the Labour Day weekend did give some close games, even if there was only one that could really be considered a classic.  In a ceremonial matchup that’s been largely one-sided of late, the Roughriders bested the Bombers by a 35-30 score–the highest combined point total of any game since the B.C. Lions beat Hamilton 36-29 in Week Seven.  Suffice to say such high-scoring contests have been few and far between in a season dominated by defence…and marked by the futility of the CFL Least Division.  On that note, the dead-parrot race for first just got a little tighter with 2-6 Hamilton and 2-7 Montreal gaining ground on 3-7 Toronto.  Did I mention that the Argos are still four points out of last in the West?  Can’t we just have the Least Division winner play in the Vanier Cup this year or something?

Preseason Predictions

Last Week’s Rankings

Rankings Archive

1. Calgary Stampeders (8-1) Last Week: 1.  The Stamps D kept another opponent outta the end zone, as Edmonton managed just 13 points on two field goals and a blocked-punt return.  It’s now been something like six straight games since Calgary’s given up an offensive touchdown, and they’re allowing just under 15 points per contest.  Hey, if defence wins championships, this team must surely be Vancouver-bound come late November…but I wouldn’t wanna jinx it or anything. :P

2. Saskatchewan Roughriders (7-2) Last Week: 3.  Don’t look now, but the Riders have won six straight, climbing from fifth to second in the past five weeks.  Most impressively, their offence finally showed up to play on (the day before) Labour Day, surpassing 30 points for the first time since they played the REDBLACKS!!!! four weeks back.  That said, I would not be surprised to see Winnipeg take the rematch as the homefield advantage shifts for the Banjo Bowl.  As a matter of fact, I’ll be there–and I certainly won’t be cheering for Saskatchewan!

3. Edmonton Eskimos (7-2) Last Week: 2.  Not a whole lot went well for the Esks today, aside from that big special-teams play.  But to be fair, they were without starting QB Mike Reilly, who hurt his hand early in Week Nine.  Everybody’s saying he’ll be back for the rematch, but unless the Esks can contain Cornish–who rushed for 163 on just 17 carries–I’m not sure I see things going much better for them next weekend.

4. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-4) Last Week: 4.  Winnipeg probably played its best game offensively in over a month yesterday, but still came up short in Saskatchewan, dropping them two losses back of the non-crossover teams out west.  With B.C. facing the league’s worst team next week, the Banjo Bowl almost becomes a must-win for the Bombers, who could find themselves out of a playoff position otherwise…despite being a much better team than anyone east of them.

5. B.C. Lions (5-4) Last Week: 5.  Idle B.C. is still better than every single team in the CFL Least Division.  I dare you to dispute that statement!

6. Montreal Alouettes (2-7) Last Week: 7.  That’s right, by beating The Worst Team in the CFL, and scoring more than one touchdown in the process, Montreal becomes the hottest team in the Least Division!  OK, so it was their first win since July 4, but hey, they’re only half a game outta first place now, too…

7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-6) Last Week: 8.  Even when the Tabbies win, it sure ain’t pretty.  Alas, the 18-thousand who arrived for the grand opening of Tim Hortons Field needed a lot of its namesake sponsor’s java to stay awake in a second half that saw the two teams combine for two points.  But thanks to a 13-point outpour in the first frame, Hamilton hung on to beat the Argos in the Little League World Series Battle of Ontario.  Which makes them only the third-worst team in the league at the halfway mark.

8. Toronto Argonauts (3-7) Last Week: 6.  With Montreal and Hamilton finally getting off the schnide, Toronto now has the second-longest losing streak in the league, having dropped their last three games.  And that wasn’t the only thing the Argos were dropping, as Ricky Ray’s spotty performance was partially due to a distinct lack of stick-um on his receivers’ part.  Now with their next three games against the West, all the Argos can really look forward to are their upcoming byes in Weeks 11 and 14.  But hey, let’s see how long it takes anyone else out Least to win another game…

9. Ottawa REDBLACKS!!!!! (1-8) Last Week: 9.  With yet another off-putting offensive output–and this, against one of the league’s weaker Ds–the REDBLACKS!!!!! have proven themselves to be the CFL’s worst team.  Both in the standings, and in the minds of all but the true-black Ottawa supporters who still think Henry Burris is a starting-caliber QB.  Then again, does Ottawa have anyone who’d battle for a spot in the lineup of a Western Division squad?  I dunno guy, but I’ve heard that long-snapper Kevin Scott is pretty decent.  But what’s this, he got hurt against Montreal!?  Well that’s it, they’re screwed!  But hey, at least they’ve still got the Sens, right?

Oh, wait…

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TIFF 2014: Virtual Waiting Room, how I miss thee not!

Usually around this time of year, I’d be writing an angry rant about how much time I spent in the Virtual Waiting Room for TIFF tickets.  But not this year.  Normally, I’d be fully awake and in front of the computer by nine, but today, I didn’t even get outta bed until 9:30…and it felt amazing!

And no, I haven’t abandoned the festival, an annual ritual ever since I moved here almost exactly nine years ago.  But just like last year, I bought the back-half pack–and unlike last year, I’ll be outta town for the first weekend of the festival.  So I wasn’t gonna spend all that time in line just to snag a couple screenings on Monday.  Especially not when regular tickets are now 24 bucks before taxes and service charges, roughly twice the price of my local Cineplex.  Hey, the festival was never cheap, but I remember when screenings cost me 20 bucks after tax–and they didn’t even have under-25 pricing in those days!

Hey, inflation’s a bitch, but with the back-half pack, I’m paying 13 bucks a ticket after taxes and fees.  So, y’know, it’s pretty much the same price as a regular night at the movies.  And since the back half begins on Tuesday the 9th, I might even get to see a couple premieres (non-premium screenings, mind you)…provided, of course, that they aren’t already off-sale.

Alas, just like last year, the window for back-half passes doesn’t open until the 2nd, a couple days after single tickets go on sale.  But considering that every single screening I had pegged for my pack last year was still available at the time, I’m not all that worried.  Hell, at 13 bucks a pop, I might even go see one or two movies that’ll be playing at the Cineplex next year!

(More on that come Tuesday.  I don’t wanna jinx it, after all…)

The soundtrack of my youth just turned 20. Guess I’m getting old…

I didn’t actually go and see The Offspring on their 20th anniversary Smash tour a couple weeks back; I’d already bought a ticket to Boris, and besides, it wouldn’t be the same without my Calgary crew. Although I don’t keep in touch with, well, any of those kids, there was a brief moment in time where all my friends had a copy of this album, and we cranked it constantly. Of course, by the time Americana came out in ’98, the band had completely lost the plot, and no one really liked The Offspring anymore. But for a couple years there, this record was the soundtrack to my summer, winter, and every season in between…even if my parents wouldn’t let me listen to it in the house.

Oddly enough, the two smash-hit singles (sorry) weren’t featured prominently on the album. If vinyl had still been in come ’94, you would’ve had to flip to Side B to hear “Come Out and Play” and “Self-Esteem.” When I first heard the latter on the radio, I wasn’t even sure what self-esteem meant—I certainly didn’t have much of it, anyways. And while I’ve never been with a woman quite like the one the song’s dedicated to, I did find myself relating to it more as I got a bit older—despite some dated 90’s lines like “I may be dumb, but I’m not a dweeb/Just a sucka with no self-esteem” and a chorus that consists strictly of “Oh-yeah-yeah-ha-has.” As for “Come Out and Play,” well, what better fight song for a buncha rowdy kids than that famous refrain “You gotta keep ‘em separated?”

But the album begins on a more aggressive note. After the infomercial intro “Time to Relax,” a vicious drum roll announces “Nitro (Youth Energy),” a super-speedy pop-punk anthem. I wasn’t really listening to thrash at the time, so it’s quite possible that tunes like this were my gateway to the likes of Razor and Nuclear Assault. Of course, “Bad Habit” was pretty much my jam. It was everybody’s jam. A sombre song about road rage and shooting people up that picks up the pace into a raucous, frantic chorus. I think all my friends knew all the words to this one, even the bad words. And let’s just say their performance of “Bad Habit” at the ’94 Billboard Awards was pretty much the most badass thing, ever.

“Gotta Get Away” was the album’s third single, and while not quite as commercially successful as its predecessors, twas still a pretty catchy tune. “Genocide” certainly wasn’t very radio-friendly, another fast-paced rager with quite the tasty guitar lick coming in halfway through a bass-driven verse. Still, a much better song than the one before it, if you ask me. “Something to Believe In” has a pretty anthemic chorus, the titular line repeated over a bed of “Whoa-ohs.” Keep it simple, stupid, right?

I really don’t have much to add about “Come Out and Play” or “Self-Esteem.” Suffice to say, if you listened to rock radio in the mid 90’s, you’re quite familiar with both of them. On that note, gimme The Offspring over Green Day any day! (Although “Longview” was a pretty decent tune…)

“It’ll be a Long Time” is a much-needed, fast-paced pick-me-up after “Self-Esteem,” which is still a bit of a downer. This is pretty much punk by numbers; crunchy guitar riffs, punchy percussion and Dexter’s high-pitched wails…till they throw some arena-rock power chords at us, just because they can. “Killboy Powerhead” was actually a Didjits cover, though it could certainly pass for an Offspring original with its grungy, chunky punk riffs and big, dumb chorus. “What Happened to You?” is a little more leftfield, the band taking a shot at ska and not quite hitting the mark. Hey, when the label expects 14 tracks, there’s bound to be a couple throwaways…

Fortunately, they bring back the fast-paced skate punk with “So Alone,” a brief burst of aggression lasting little more than a minute. “Not the One” is another decent piece of poppy, happy hardcore, although not one that has really stuck with me over the years. On the other hand, the title track was always a personal fav. For an awkward, outsider kid, the chorus of “I’m not a trendy asshole/Do what I want, do what I feel like” really resonated with me. And hey, I suppose it still does.

Now when does that deluxe vinyl box set come out, again?

Yahoo gave my fantasy football draft a B. Hey, that’s better than last year…

Well, it seems I don’t have much luck when they dole out the draft positions.  After picking last in the first round last year, I ended up with the 11th overall pick out of 14 teams this season.  That wouldn’t be the end of the world…except that Marshawn Lynch was taken 10th overall, just one pick ahead of me.  As a result, I went against my normal RB-first-and-second strategy, and took Jimmy Graham with my first-round pick.  I can’t even remember the last time I took a tight end sooner than the 10th round, but if there’s one TE worth taking with your first pick, it’s Jimmy Graham.

In any case, Yahoo likes my draft much better this time around.  While I was graded a B- with a projected 4-10 finish last year, they upgraded me to a solid B while estimating I’ll be 9-5.  That’s certainly not too shabby!

After grabbing Graham with my first pick, I went RB-RB, taking Arian Foster and his ex-backup, Ben Tate.  Both Yahoo and most of my league thought Tate was a reach at 39, but I don’t think he was any worse a choice than the likes of Ryan Mathews and C.J. Spiller–especially since he has absolutely no one to split carries with in Cleveland.  A couple rounds later, I snagged Cam Newton in the fifth, then used four of my next five picks on receivers, building a corps of Garcon, Sanders, Bowe, Shorts and Nicks.  (Steven Jackson will hafta do as my flex RB–did I mention it’s a 14-team league?)

I think I got good value by taking the Cincy D in the 13th round, then spent my last two picks on Seahawks: kicker Steven Hauschka and TE Zach Miller.  Hey, Hauschka worked out pretty well for me as the last overall pick in last year’s draft, and the only time Miller might see the starting lineup is when Jimmy Graham has a bye.

As long as my RBs stay healthy, the only time I gotta worry is Week 10, when Foster, Garcon and Nicks all have byes.  But who knows, I’ll probably cut at least one of them by then.  Let’s just hope it’s not Foster.  I’ve still got a bit of a bad taste from last year…

I just ate the last bag of Hostess Hickory Sticks. Sad days ahead!


They just don’t make ‘em like they used to–or at all, for that matter.  When Hostess went outta business a couple years back cuz it didn’t wanna pay its employees’ Obamacare, several cases of Twinkies, Ho-Hos and yes, even Hickory Sticks, were selling off on eBay–or at least, they were being listed for sale, anyways.  But the shortage didn’t seem to affect Canada…until very recently.  Nowadays, I can’t find ‘em anywhere!

Like I’ve said before, Hickory Sticks are my crack, ‘cept I don’t smoke ‘em with Somali drug dealers.  I’ve been eating them since I was a kid, and I still take trips to the not-the-nearest grocery store to stock up every couple months.  Well, on my next-to-last trip, I noticed that Metro only had four bags left–so I bought ‘em all.  I figured they’d just restock ‘em…but I was wrong!

On my last trip to Metro, there were no Hickory Sticks anywhere in the chip aisle.  Well, none of the real thing, anyways.  After looking up and down the aisle forlornly for several minutes, I caved and bought the house Selection brand.  Big mistake!  These pale imitators don’t have the same texture at all–they’re much too thick–and instead of that subtle smokiness that Hostess is known for, they basically taste like bacon chips.  And not very good bacon chips, either!

Further confirming this national crisis, I noticed when I went to the bus terminal last weekend that there were no snack-sized bags of Hickory Sticks at the food counter, either.  This is most unusual, as I’m pretty sure I bought a bag before boarding a bus down to Rochester back in June.  (I mean, I always buy a bag of Hickory Sticks when I take the bus!)  But this time, I had to settle for salt-and-vinegar chips.  *sad trombone*

Alas, while the demise of Hostess USA was well publicized, it seems this national treasure has simply gone quietly into the good night.  Man, I would sooooo vote for any party that made re-opening the magical, mythical Hickory Sticks factory a top priority in the next election!!!!

What visit to Ottawa would be complete without a trip to Fake Real Sports?


Now, I’ve been to the real Real Sports Bar & Grill a handful of times, mostly to watch football–whether it was the Super Bowl, a post-Seahawks-shitstomping-Buffalo celebration, or, more recently, when I had basketball tickets on the evening of the Hawks’ Wild Card playoff game.  The one time I went there for the Stanley Cup Finals, I couldn’t get a seat.  But the Ottawa edition certainly wasn’t packed for an afternoon CFL contest and some NFL preseason action–not even at 7:30 on a Saturday.  (Then again, isn’t that when most Ottawans hit the hay, anyways?)  I dunno guy, but I’m pretty sure Pat Bateman’s seen more people at Texarcana.

That said, ownership has done a pretty good job of making the George St. location seem like Real Sports on steroids–if steroids made your junk smaller.  (Oh, wait!)  It’s almost like a miniature version of the real thing, what with its frosted glass bar, back wall of beer taps, and a centrepiece TV that you can see from the scaled-down second floor.  Of course, while the real Real Sports boasts a giant screen the size of a Toronto townhouse, the Ottawa edition is roughly as large as your MP’s office.  Which is to say, you still gotta crane your neck to watch the action when seated at the bar.

I will say this, though:  While I wasn’t impressed with the food in Toronto the one time I ate there, I’d say my capital-city meal was a major improvement.  Although I can’t say it was an Ottawa thing–the two menus are virtually identical; in fact, the sandwich I ordered features prominently on the Toronto Real Sports’ website.  That said, the Triple Threat puts three good things between two pieces of bread: namely, pulled pork, beef brisket and peameal bacon.  The first two blend together quite nicely, while the latter adds another texture to the dish.  And the best thing about this sammy?  No veggies in sight!

064Mmm, meat…

2014 NEW CFL STADIUM TOUR: TD Place, Ottawa

What with the Canadian dollar hovering around 91 cents U.S., I figured I’d be better off visiting some home-country destinations this summer.  And hey, it just so happens that three CFL teams have opened new stadiums in the past year–Winnipeg last season, Ottawa this season, and Hamilton…well, they’re still working on that.  (I might hafta hold off on Timmies Field till late September.)  In any case, I’ve already got my Banjo Bowl ticket in hand–and I did just visit Ottawa last weekend.  Let’s just say that TD Place, well, it’s still kinda under construction, too:

001(Behold, the round mound of…dirt!)

That said, the stands are fully, erm, standing.  They’ve even got cupholders in the cheap seats!


At least they’ve got grass on this side:


Now, I probably shouldda paid a bit more attention to Rene Paredes in warmups.  He missed a couple close kicks come gametime!


No, that’s not a hotel–they’re putting up condos right next to the stadium.  Shortest commute ever?


No, that’s not a church–but rather, the future home of the Ottawa 67’s.


017(And yes, the home team does come out of that giant helmet…)


Bo Levi uncorks a tight practice spiral:






Hello, ladies…


A few candid action shots:





Although the REDBLACKS!!!!! only points came from an impressive INT return on, like, the second play from scrimmage, they actually kept Calgary out of the end zone, for the most part, until the fourth quarter.  Once things got outta hand and the fans started filing out, I took the opportunity to head all the way down to the front row, right behind the Stamps’ bench.  You couldn’t really see the game from there, but I did get a good view of the sideline:



Looks like Paredes is impressed with the cheerleaders:


Remind me not to pay for these seats next year:


At the end of the game, being that I was the only guy left in Section S sporting a white Stetson and a Stamps jersey, linebacker Alvin Bowen came over and gave me his gloves!  I would not have known who he was were it not for the jersey on his back, but I’m definitely gonna follow his career more closely now.  (On that note, Bowen made his first special-teams tackle of the season on Sunday.)  Charleston Hughes also came over and shook my hand, but I did not get a picture of either player.  Still got the gloves, though: