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  • Reeve Batstone

Enigmas Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Riddle


In my own mind, I had Saturday's Lions/Argos game as a pick'em. Why? Largely because their quarterbacks, while very different athletically, can be so unpredictable. They are both enigmatic in that you never know whether you will get the stellar version or the inconsistent one. They both tend to get the ball out slowly and have a propensity for throwing into double coverage. They are both gunslingers, if left to their own style of play. On this day, however, neither threw an interception and both had passing efficiency ratings above 100. Impressive quarterbacking. While Adams is known for his running ability, it was MBT who unexpectedly took what the defence gave him and ran for a 17-yard gain.


On the other hand, the Lions offence did not take what the Argo defence gave them until they handed the ball to James Butler. He ran well but they didn't use him enough. It was not one of LIons' OC, Jordan Maksymic's best games play-calling this year. Butler averaged nine yards per carry against the Argos, a foreboding sign with two games v Montreal coming up. You can be sure that Montreal will be feeding the Argos all the healthy William Stanback they can dish out.


One of the games-deciding factors was BC taking 14 penalties to the Argos eight. Composure wins again, although Hendrix and Edwards need to keep their powder dry after the whistle. Winning teams don't beat themselves. Winnipeg and Calgary rarely take selfish penalties. If you want to beat the big boys you have to play like one.


Positives:

The defence was great again. Robbie Smith had four tackles and a sack. I did not see a drop off from missing Shane Ray. This also reflects well on Corey Mace. Royce Metchie did not need to make seven tackles 20 yards down the field. Mr. November, Ja’Gared Davis, had his best game of the year making six tackles with two sacks. Brilliant tackle by John Haggerty on STs.


The teams tied in sacks at three. Bede was perfect on FGs.


Great separation by Tommy Nield on his TD. So good in fact that despite a throw that was slightly behind him, Marcus Sayles was still unable to close. He also showed great focus with the goalpost nearby. Huge bonus from a back-up receiver. The kid has been strong and reliable in limited action this season. Yet another excellent draft pick. The Argos' Canadian talent and depth has been tremendous.


To me, the signature play in the game was the MBT sack-fumble. After Jordan Williams took off with the ball Kurleigh Gittens got on his horse and pursued him with intent. Forcing a fumble, Gittens lost his helmet in the process, but was not deterred by the imminent personal risk. He showed no quit and neither did the Argos.


Great coaching on play-calling and offside hard counts. I continue to like the play-calling on short yardage. More deep throws on second and inches, please.


Negatives:

Bladek's look out block on a sack in which got MBT absolutely hammered.


Who is advising Dinwiddie on their penalty challenges this year? They are too often ill-advised and not successful. Save them for later in the game. It cost them an obvious PI call. Dinwiddie looked clearly frustrated after they lost their timeout/challenge.


Ambles is still double clutching receptions and not yet catching with confidence. Great game otherwise.


Football Needs More Canada

I have gone off the last few weeks on the betrayal of football players at the hands of the NFL's poor application of its own concussion protocol, as it applied to Tua. Mercifully, the NFL and its Player's Association did a muted mea culpa this week and partially owned up to their own incompetence. They added "ataxia" to their protocol which is designed to capture the disruption of balance/stability and coordination. Why this needed to be added after all the scrutiny of concussions over the last decade can only be described as jaw dropping. It was clearly an attempt to "blame" it on the protocol rather than a systemic failure of the league and its staff in its unwillingness to follow the spirit of the protocol. It was largely CYA and reputational damage control. Let's hope the NFL is serious about protecting its players going forward. I'll believe it when I see it.


Regarding safety, especially head trauma, the NFL should take another look at the Canadian field. It’s safer and healthier. Physics says that football and hockey have a lot in common, at least when it comes to head trauma (concussions). More than a decade ago, Dr. Richard Wennberg, a doctor and researcher at the University of Toronto and Toronto Western Hospital, studied the collision rates and impact on head trauma experienced by hockey players playing on an NHL sized rink and those playing on the international-sized ice surface. He found that the larger, international-sized ice, was significantly safer, resulting in a much lower rate of collisions and concussion. His results were published but ignored by the NHL and not surprisingly the now despised Hockey Canada. Widening the ice surface costs money for retro fit in NHL rinks. They won't do it until the medico-legal liability catches up with them like it did 40+ years ago when insurance companies forced the universal adoption of hockey helmets in the NHL. Meanwhile, the NHL is trying to force the IOC to use NHL-sized rinks in the Olympics. It’s a bad idea. What does this have to do with football? It turns out plenty.


The same principles of collision rates apply to the NFL field and wider Canadian football field. The Canadian field is 15 yards wider just as the International hockey rink is 15 feet wider than the NHL ice surface. The Canadian game also has more passing plays than running which results in fewer players involved per tackle, on average. The research by Wennberg actually led to the NFL looking at the feasibility of widening their field a few years ago. It was actually former CFL executive Bill Polian who introduced the idea of widening the American field by three to five yards. Published statistical modelling also supported this proposed change showing a reduced risk of head trauma by widening the American field. The evidence is clear cut. The will is not.


In both professional hockey and football, the players have gotten a lot bigger, faster and stronger over recent decades but the fields of play have not gotten any bigger. This has led to increased forces at play and more head injuries. It's not a coincidence that concussions are headline news almost every day now. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to see that professional hockey and American football are simply more dangerous than they used to be.


The NFL is reluctant to increase the field size for the same reason as the NHL, money. Retrofits to the stadiums are costly and both leagues market the violent collisions as a means to draw viewers. Eventually the medico legal liability will catch up to the NFL as well but they will kick the can down the road as long as they are able. Nevertheless, its a good reason for the CFL players association to get behind the dimensions of the Canadian field and resist the adoption of four downs. Four downs on a Canadian field will most assuredly lead to more running plays. This would be counterproductive to player safety by leading to bigger players and more players involved in each tackle.


God Bless America

Finally, its Thanksgiving and worth mentioning that without our American cousins, the CFL would not be the game it is and our communities would be poorer for it as well. Notwithstanding the support from the likes of me for a stronger Canadian ratio, I am grateful for what Americans have brought to our country. We are, after all, a country of Indigenous peoples and immigrants.


Americans have been featured players in our game since the 1930s when Fritz Hansen starred for the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg. While the ratio of Canadians has dropped steadily, the contribution of Americans has grown on and off the field. There have also been many great American players and some not-so-great players make Canada their permanent home. It’s a huge thing when you consider they have left their homeland, a country which worships football, to come to a foreign country where hockey still rules. Many have taken out Canadian citizenship. It’s humbling to know that they have left their extended families and American exceptionalism because they saw a special beauty in the true north strong and free, in spite of the gales of November and cold winters!


Notable examples of those who came, conquered and stayed include: Annis Stukus, Geroy Simon, Ron Lancaster, George Reed, Wayne Harris, John Helton, Willard Reaves, Dick Shatto, Bill Symons, Dave Raimey, Gene Mack, Michael Clemons, Chuck Ealey, Bernie Custis, John Barrow, Angelo Mosca, Anthony Calvillo, Henry Burris, Jackie Parker, Sam Etcheverry, Adrion Smith, and the Campbells and Dickensons. I'm raising a glass to the Yanks this year. These days I think they could use a hug and certainly deserve our thanks!


Happy Thanksgiving!

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