It's a beautiful day here in Montreal as people celebrate Fete Nationale.
Summertime for me starts next weekend: the kickoff of the 2007 Hamilton Tiger-Cats' season against Calgary.
To get there, the team has endured the most competitive training camp in memory with an influx of homebrew talent that has turned a source of weakness into a future strength.
Mc Kay-Loescher, Bauman, Bekasiuk, Reid, Gagne-Marcoux, Getzlaf...a new Canadian corps that spells respectability and the capacity to compete this year for a playoff spot. This is a group that has made the Cats younger, stronger, and faster in a hurry and raised optimism from the 4-14 debacle of last season.
The convergence of the 2006 and 2007 drafts onto Alumni Field could not have happened at a more propitious time for the club. On both sides of the line of scrimmage, Canadian talent has emerged to make the Cats rebuilding program that much more interesting to watch.
To top it off, the signing of former LSU standout tackle Peter Dyakowski late last week gives the Cats a potential ratio-buster of major proportions down the road. The Tabbie drafting cake is now fully iced and now we await a celebration.
I have no plans in November...LOL
MIKE AND HITCH
Change comes at a price. Rob Hitchcock and Mike Morreale epitomized the class, intensity, and grit that Ticat fans demand of their players..Their parting news conference was sad to watch. However, one cannot help but admire their dignity, love for the game, and love for their team, even in the face of a professional setback no athlete on a team sport ever wants to face: getting cut.
Posters on ticats.ca have weighed in on both sides of whether it was correct to release them in the way they were. I can understand the detractors' sadness -- Rob was my favourite current Ticat and it will be a big adjustment not to see #42 prowling the field any more for Hamilton.
Nonetheless, consider the fact both men were given front office opportunities and a press conference to express their thoughts on the situation and it is night-and-day from what most players ever get when being cut.
I've seen Joe Zuger get cut by the Cats. Joe Namath limp from the Big Apple to L.A. I've witnessed Jerry Rice leaving San Francisco. Even Wayne Gretzky leaving the Oilers for L.A., for crying out loud! Loyalty in pro sports is where you find it. It is more Old Yeller than Follow The Yellow Brick Road most of the time when it comes to personnel decisions.
The price of getting younger is that youth is served. Veteran leadership is important to have in a dressing room and the Cats will find new leadership through the process of building a contender. Some men will be rah-rah in the dressing room and lead that way. Others, as Rob and Mike did, will let their example on the field do the talking. I am not concerned about the leadership quotient in the room. New leaders will emerge and some of the current crop will step up from before to new prominence.
FOR PETE'S SAKE
I've weighed in on ticats.ca about my shock regarding how the Pigskin Pete succession was aborted and the group of finalists were left in the dark for weeks one on before the "Celebrity Pigskin and The Wee'rs" approach for 2007 was announced by Tiger-Cats president Scott Mitchell.
I stated it as it is:
"It would be like the Padres deciding to turn the San Diego Chicken into a thift bucket it can raffle off in the seventh-inning stretch. You know, the city mayor, Miss Saucelito 1966 with four teeth missing, and a representative from the airport terminal clergy wrestling behind second base for the last drumstick. That crass. "
If the Pigskin Pete tradition winds up with Paul Weiler's retirement, so be it. Anything is better than making it into raffle bait and a baby-kisser schmooze magnet that is filler between the coin toss and the kickoff.
A future Pigskin Pete should be chosen through a contest where fans interested in becoming the next Pete (or Petunia) could write in (i.e. "Why Do I Want To Be The Next Pete") that would lead to a selection of a workable tryout number of contestants. Then the team could hold a final tryout like they do with the cheer team. This would avoid the plug-pulling nonsense of the last week and ensure that the team had some say on who the next Pete or Petunia will be.
Apologies should be made to those finalists in the fan-driven selection process who were left in the dark for weeks until the team's latest "solution."
MAAS IS TAAFFE'S MAN
Jason Maas will start as the Tiger-Cats quarterback in Calgary. Maas kept up his part of the bargain by being effective in his preseason debut against the Bombers on Friday night. Head coach Charlie Taaffe made it clear that he liked what he saw in Jason's decision-making and execution during his stint. That's enough for me.
I understand the Chang Gang's need to overturn 4-14 in one week, but it's not going to happen through keyboard jockeying. Timmy will have his opportunities this season, especially if he is designated as the backup to Maas (which I believe he earned through his body of work at camp as a whole). Jason will be pushed and I fully expect him to be replaced if he falters.
How did that Cosentino coup over Faloney on the letters pages of the 1961 offseason go, anyway?
It is a question of allowing a CFL rookie pivot to ease into a potential usurping scenario or throwing him to the wolves right away. I'd rather the Cats find out for sure that the proven CFL commodity they have in Maas isn't getting the job done than panicking to Plan B right away.
Chang will have to overtake Maas on the field when the real bullets fly and that vanilla taste is gone from defences, as it should be.
Hope everyone buckles up because win or lose, this season will be one hell of a ride!
Oski Wee Wee,