Vanstone: Roughriders lead the CFL in statement games
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in desperate need of a breakthrough game as they prepare to face the blah blah blah, yak yak yak, bleat bleat bleat … burp.
.Yet, once again, we resort to a storyline that is admittedly tired and borderline nauseating, yet applicable.
The Roughriders, who played a “statement game” on July 22 and another one last Saturday, are now preparing for the latest in a series of contests that serve as a barometer of the team’s progress, or possible lack thereof.
Next on the agenda is Sunday’s collision with the B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium, which has cup-holders.
The scenario barely differs from that of July 22 (when the Roughriders suffered a 27-10 CFL loss to the host Calgary Stampeders) and last weekend (when Saskatchewan exploded out of the gate by surrendering 30 consecutive points en route to losing 30-15 in B.C.).
Until the Chris Jones-led Roughriders can actually defeat a West Division rival at a point in the season when talk of a playoff berth is not the byproduct of sheer fantasy, the clamour will continue for a victory that validates the current regime and signals a genuine turnaround in Riderville.
To this point, there have been spasms of optimism, fuelled by the Roughriders’ two victories this season. However, both wins were followed by letdowns, followed by more talk about a looming “statement game,” followed by one or two extra-strength tablets, and some antacid.
A 37-20 conquest of the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats was followed by a bye week and the aforementioned nose-plugger in Calgary.
The Roughriders rebounded from disappointment at McMahon Stadium by downing the Toronto Argonauts 38-27 on July 29 at Mosaic Stadium.
Presented with another chance to build upon a victory and establish some momentum, not to mention goodwill, the Roughriders faltered badly last week at BC Place.
The offence expertly passed to set up the punt.
The defence had more holes than Bonnie and Clyde.
The Roughriders are looking to atone for that miserable showing by exacting a measure of revenge and restoring some hope.
Ideally, the Roughriders can win a game that leads into a bye week and, as was the case in July, allow their fans to savour a victory for a fortnight.
Such a triumph would also resonate because of the calibre of the opposition. It would be a tonic for a fan base that has become benumbed by disappointment for the better (or worse) part of three years — a period in which the Roughriders are 3-26 against West opponents.
Another benefit would be the muting of cranky commentators — columnists, open-line-show participants, and the largely anonymous football mavens of social media — who, rarely with interruption, have sliced and diced the Roughriders during this protracted swoon.
The team and its loyal fans, who routinely sell out the new stadium, could use a respite from the chronic, caustic carping and complaining and alliteration.
But what if the woes should persist?
Everyone knows the drill.
Blame the coaches — Jones, especially — for everything except the cost of in-stadium bottled water.
Dump on quarterback Kevin Glenn and lobby for him to be replaced by (pick one) Brandon Bridge, Marquise Williams, Vince Young, Johnny Manziel, Colin Kaepernick, Michael Vick, Sonny Jurgensen or, eventually, possibly, hopefully, James Franklin.
The post-game refrain has become more predictable than the three-yard pass on second-and-long.
On the talk shows, a tortured soul named Sheldon dutifully calls in and opens several veins for the listening public. If the team could demonstrate emotion with such reliability, Sheldon’s impassioned rants may not be necessary.
Jones is questioned for using a three-man rush, which has proven to be just as ineffective as the seven-man rush. Eight, anyone? Or two? More tablets, perhaps?
Glenn is maligned for supposedly being too old, for having a throwing arm that is allegedly weaker than my jokes, and even for throwing for 50,000 career yards — a product of longevity, his critics insist, instead of excellence. Alas, there is a seeming eagerness to diminish an achievement of which only six other CFL pivots can boast.
There is little boasting in Rider Nation. Not anymore.
The fan base had acquired a swagger during a period of prosperity in which Saskatchewan appeared in four Grey Cup games (winning two) in a span of seven seasons.
At that time, the Roughriders were the envy of the CFL from every perspective. They raked in monstrous profits while routinely winning games of considerable magnitude.
Off the field, the Roughriders continue to be a success story. The palatial stadium is routinely packed, as is the expansive Rider Store before games. In that context, the Roughriders radiate and celebrate newness.
From a football standpoint, it is the same old story — one that has become tiresome for all concerned.
Perhaps, at some point, there will be a remedy for the blahs and the bleats and the yaks, and some relief from the gasbags.
But, in the meantime, the wait continues — and the weight on the team’s shoulders increases.