Only two of the four East Division teams have qualified for playoffs in the Canadian Football League — the other four come from the more powerful West — but perhaps this is the year the Hamilton Tiger-Cats break a 20-year drought and spill locker room champagne while hoisting the Grey Cup.
While the power in the CFL has been decidedly in the West’s favour in recent years — even though the West and East, thanks to a couple of surprising upsets, have evenly split the last 10 Grey Cup triumphs — the best team during the regular season this year has been the Tiger-Cats.
Hamilton’s 14-3 record (with one to play) makes it a prohibitive favourite to be the East rep in the Grey Cup game in Calgary Nov. 24. Of Hamilton’s three losses, two were narrow ones, and came on the road against the best in the West — a 24-19 defeat by Saskatchewan Aug. 1 and a 19-18 loss Sept. 14 to the Calgary Stampeders.
In the year of the injured quarterback, the Tiger-Cats are the cover story. Starting QB Jeremiah Masoli, last year’s East nominee as Most Outstanding Player, suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 6, leaving the quarterbacking chores to backup Dane Evans.
Masoli's absence had little negative effect, as the Ti-Cats barely skipped a beat. Evans completed 70 per cent of his passes for nearly 4,000 yards as his team ran away with the East Division pennant.
Besides the possibility of winning the Grey Cup, other silverware could wind up in the Steel City this year, too. Orlondo Steinauer is the favourite to win the Annis Stukus coach-of-the-year award and the speedy Brandon Banks, among the league leaders in versatility — receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, kick return yardage — will be a strong contender for Most Outstanding Player.
Western hopes centre around Calgary and Saskatchewan, although the injury-plagued Winnipeg Blue Bombers made a late statement with a Zach Collaros-led one-point win over the Stamps in their final game of the 18-game schedule. The Stamps, however, appear to be rounding into shape now that quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is healthy again, and the Roughriders have ridden the arm of first-year sensation Cody Fajardo and the guidance of rookie coach Craig Dickenson to become legitimate contenders.
The playoffs start this week with Edmonton, which earned the ‘crossover’ position because of the overall weakness of the East Division, taking on Montreal in the East semi-final. Hamilton awaits the winner. In the West, Calgarians have high hopes that their Stampeders will be playing a home game in the Grey Cup Classic.
- Headline at TheOnion.com: “Scientists pretending to be interested in kicker offering up brain for research.”
- Patti Dawn Swansson, aka the River City Renegade, on Bomber QB Chris Streveler’s toughness: “Someone could huck a live grenade down the guy’s pants and he might miss a play or two while medics re-attached both his legs with a tube of Gorilla Glue and some Scotch Tape.”
- Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri to Indianapolis Colts’ team-mate: Eric Ebron after a great TD catch: “‘That was one of the top 25 catches I’ve seen.’ Responded Ebron: That means a lot since you’ve been playing 85 years.’”
- Michael Bamberger on SI.com, recounting Babe Ruth’s post-baseball career obsession with golf: “As the saying sort of goes, Mrs. Ruth married Mr. Ruth for better or worse, but not for lunch.”
- Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Major League Baseball umpire, Rob Drake, tweeted he would buy an AR-15 and use it if Donald Trump is impeached. No wonder Drake was so tough on lefties.”
- Comedy writer Jim Barach: “Patrick Beilein has resigned as basketball coach for Niagara University after only seven months. The sad part is they sent him off campus in a barrel.”
- Alex Kaseberg again: “A study claims mashed potatoes are just as effective at replenishing your body as Gatorade. And, after the game, mashed potatoes are more fun to dump on your coach's head.”
- Patti Dawn Swansson again: “What do I think of the Jets’ latest recruit, Luca Sbisa? I think he needs one more vowel.”
- Headline in the Houston Chronicle after Game 1 of the World Series: “Nats ding Cole.”
- Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “MLB is floating a proposal that, starting in 2021, would reduce the number of minor-league teams from 160 to 120. OK, 122, if you want to include the Tigers and Orioles.”
- Fark.com, on Denver police issuing a PSA about a Broncos ticket scam: “The scam, of course, is paying hundreds of dollars for a seat, $32 for three Budweisers and you get to watch them lose by 17.”
- Wild Bill Wood, of New Orleans’ WGNO-TV, on the 60-plus Saints signatures tattooed on the back of Who Dat fan Brian Henry: “His back looks like the bottom of the United States Constitution.”
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