The journey to WrestleMania

WrestleMania is an amazing journey that began with the first WrestleMania in 1985 and continues 32 years later (although, it’s their 33rd anniversary if you ask the WWE).

The journey to the first WrestleMania began prior to 1985 when multiple events in the world of professional wrestling occurred leading to the creation of WrestleMania. In 1982, Vince McMahon purchased the WWF territory from his father. At the time, professional wrestling was divided into regional territories across North America under the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) banner. The NWA served as a governing body that shared talent across the territories. In 1963 Vince McMahon Sr. broke away from the NWA and ran his Northeast/New York territory independently.

After purchasing the WWF, McMahon had bigger plans for the territory. McMahon wanted to transform his regional territory into a national promotion. McMahon accomplished his goal by buying out smaller territories and securing a national television deal. By purchasing other territories, McMahon was able to acquire their regional television deals and run his WWF television shows in new markets. After buying out territories, McMahon was able to run more shows in more cities allowing him to generate more revenue.

In 1983, Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA promoted the first Starrcade on Thanksgiving Day. Starrcade was the ultimate professional wrestling card that featured the NWA’s biggest stars of the era and was broadcasted on pay-per-view’s predecessor close-circuited television. Starrcade was the predecessor to WrestleMania and without Starrcade, there may not be a WrestleMania.

The following year Vince McMahon purchased NWA territory Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW). McMahon was not really after the Georgia territory, but their Saturday 6:05 to 8:05 timeslot on TBS when they aired “World Championship Wrestling.” By purchasing GCW, McMahon controlled all professional wrestling on national cable television.

On July 14, 1984, McMahon appeared in what would later be known as “black Saturday.” McMahon appeared on TBS at 6:05 to announce the sale and switch in programming from GCW to WWF. One problem for McMahon, the product the WWF offered was significantly different than the product southern “rasslin” that GCW offered. Viewers rejected the WWF product and wrote into TBS protesting the change. Losing money on the deal, McMahon sold the timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions for $1 million.

In 1985, McMahon bet every dollar he had, most of which was from the sale to Jim Crockett Promotions and promoted the first WrestleMania. McMahon combined wrestling with pop culture celebrities to help sell WrestleMania. Featured on the WrestleMania card were celebrities Liberace, Billy Martin, Muhamad Ali, Cyndi Lauper and wrestling in the main event, Mr. T. Had the event failed, McMahon and the then WWF would have gone bankrupt. The event proved to be the most successful closed circuited television event to date. More than one million people watch making it a financial success.

32 years later WrestleMania remains the ultimate event in the WWE year. The method of transmission has changed from closed-circuit television to pay-per-view to the WWE Network. The wrestlers have changed over the years but the man behind the event has not. Now 71-year old McMahon is promoting his 33rd WrestleMania card. As McMahon always says, he is just trying to outperform the previous WrestleMania.

 

WrestleMania highlights

  1. Hugh Hogan and Mr. T defeat Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in the first main event
  2. WrestleMania II takes place from three separate venues. Nassau Coliseum (Uniondale, New York), Rosemont Horizon (Chicago) and Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Hogan defends King Kong Bundy in a steel cage in the main event.
  3. Hogan body slams Andre the Giant to retain the WWF championship, but Ricky Steamboat defeats Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship (IC) in a match that steals the show.
  4. The first of back to back WrestleMania’s promoted from Donal Trump’s Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. Savage defeats the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase to win the vacant WWF Championship in a tournament.
  5. “The Mega Powers Explode.” A match a year in the making, Savage loses his title to Hogan in the main event.
  6. The SkyDome main event featured IC champion the Ultimate Warrior pinning Hogan for the WWF championship.
  7. Hogan defeats Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter for the WWF championship. Again Savage steals the show in defeat as he loses a retirement match to the Ultimate Warrior. The Undertaker debuts defeating Jimmy Snuka.
  8. Plans for a match between Hogan and former NWA champion Ric Flair fall apart. Instead, Hogan defeats Sid Justice in the main event while Savage defeats Flair for the WWF title and Bret Hart defeats Piper for the IC title.
  9. Yokozuna defeats Hart for the WWF championship. However, Yokozuna is immediately challenged by Hogan, who had lost a tag match earlier in the card. Hogan defeats Yokozuna in 22 seconds for the title.
  10. Hart defeats Yokozuna for the championship, but his match is overshadowed by his own match against his brother Owen to open the card and Razor Ramon defeating Shawn Michaels in a ladder match for the IC title.
  11. Diesel defeats Michaels for the WWF title and in the main event, NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor defeats Bam Bam Bigelow.
  12. Michaels defeats Hart in overtime of their 60-minute ironman match 1-0, to win his first WWF championship. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H make their debuts their WrestleMania debuts. Austin defeats Savio Vega, but Triple H is squashed by the Ultimate Warrior in 99 seconds.
  13. The Undertaker defeats Sycho Sid for the WWF championship in the main event, bringing his undefeated streak to 6-0. Hart defeats Austin in the match of the night as a bloody Austin passes out in a submission match while in the sharpshooter. A rare double turn in professional wrestling. Austin entered the heel (bad guy) and left the baby face. The Rock makes his Mania debut, retaining the IC title in a match against The Sultan (Rikishi).
  14. Austin pins Michaels, with the help of a fast count from special outside enforcer Mike Tyson to capture his first WWF championship.
  15. Austin defeats The Rock for the WWF championship in the first of their WrestleMania trilogy.
  16. Triple H retains the WWF championship in the main event of a four corners elimination match defeating The Rock, The Big Show and Mick Foley. The show is stolen by Edge and Christian winning a three-way ladder match for the tag titles against The Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz.
  17. In arguably the greatest WrestleMania of them all, Austin alligns with former enemy Vince McMahon and beats The Rock for the WWF championship. Edge and Christian defeat The Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz in an unbelievable Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. Vince McMahon loses a match to his son Shane.
  18. Mania returns to SkyDome where the Triple H defeats Chris Jericho in the main event for the WWF championship. The main event is a complete afterthought after the Toronto crowd goes crazy for The Rock defeating Hogan.
  19. Brock Lesnar defeats Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship in the main event. Michaels and Jericho steal the show and The Rock finally defeating Austin at WrestleMania in Austin’s final match. Also on the card was a match between Hogan and McMahon.
  20. Chris Benoit defeats Michaels and Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Eddie Guerrero retains the WWE title against Kurt Angle and John Cena debuts at Mania winning the United States championship from the Big Show.
  21. Batista defeats Triple H in the main event for the World Heavyweight Championship. Cena captures his first WWE championship over JBL and Michaels steals the show again in a losing effort to Kurt Angle. Edge wins the first Money in the Bank ladder match.
  22. Cena submitted Triple H in the main event to retain his title. Edge defeats Foley in a hardcore match, Michaels defeats McMahon and Rey Mysterio captures the World Heavyweight Championship.
  23. Cena submits Michaels in the main event, while The Undertaker wins the World Heavyweight Championship and improves his undefeated streak to 15-0 against Batista. The other notable match on the card features a hair vs. hair match between Trump and McMahon. In the middle of the match Trump tackles McMahon in a “hostile takeover,” and his representative Bobby Lashley defeats Umaga. Trump shaves McMahon’s head but is given the Stone Cold Stunner afterward by guest referee Steve Austin.
  24. The Undertaker submits Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Michaels defeats Flair in a retirement match and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeats the Big Show
  25. Triple H defeats Randy Orton in the main event, but the show is again stolen by Michaels who loses to the Undertaker. Also on the card was a match between Jericho and Wrestlemania 1 competitors Steamboat, Piper, and Snuka. After the match, Jericho is knocked out by The Wrestler actor Mickey Rourke
  26. In the main event, Michaels wagers his career against the Undertaker’s undefeated streak. For the second straight year, Undertaker defeats Michaels in a match of the year performance. So far, Michaels has honoured his retirement stipulation, which usually never happens in pro wrestling, see Funk, Terry.
  27. The Miz retains his WWE Championship against John Cena with help from The Rock. Edge wins his final career match against Alberta Del Rio but is forced to retire because of a neck injury following the event. The Undertaker has another fantastic match defeating Triple H.
  28. The Rock defeats John Cena in the main event. CM Punk retains the title against Jericho and The Undertaker again delivers against Triple H with Michaels as the special referee inside Hell in a Cell.
  29. In a rematch of the WrestleMania 28 main event, Cena defeats The Rock for the WWE championship. The Undertaker defeats CM Punk in the match of the night, bringing his streak to 21-0.
  30. After being defeated in 18 seconds in the opening match of WrestleMania 28, Daniel Bryan rides the unbelievable crowd support and the YES chant to the WWE championship. In the opening match, Bryan defeats Triple H to get into the main event, where he beats Orton and Batista for the WWE Championship. In the most shocking moment in WrestleMania history, Lesnar defeats The Undertaker, leaving the Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd in stunned silence.
  31. After losing earlier in the night, Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract in the main event defeating Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship.
  32. More than 100,000 people attend at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. However, the main event victory falls flat as fans reject new champions Reigns after he defeats Triple H in the longest WrestleMania in history. Charlotte Flair steals the show with her Women’s Championship win against Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks.

 

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The World Baseball Classic is anything but classic

The World Baseball Classic returns Mar. 6, and runs through Mar. 22. Unfortunately for the people behind the tournament, very few people actually care.

When the WBC was first announced in 2005, baseball fans finally received the international baseball tournament they had been asking for. Unfortunately, what they received is not what they wanted. The WBC is a watered down event that does not bring the best players from the best baseball world together for one tournament. Instead, it’s a tournament where the best players willing to play compete. The WBC leaves a lot to be desired when the majority of major league stars decide that they are better off preparing for the upcoming major league season in their spring training camp. That means a lot of the WBC rosters are filled with minor league and independent league players. Instead of criticizing top players for not playing, players such as former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay were celebrated for not playing.

The WBC is a 16 team tournament with prestigious baseball powerhouses such as Israel, Australia and Chinese Taipei. The Israel team has just one player born in the country. The rest of the roster is made up of Americans. Chinese Taipei, China and Cuba have zero major leaguer players           on their rosters, while South Korea and Australia have one major league player. Cuba’s roster excludes any major league player who was forced to defect in order to play in the MLB. That means no seeing sluggers Jose Abreau, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig or flame throwing Aroldis Chapman.

In case you were wondering about Canada’s roster, don’t worry. Their best player is American born Freddie Freeman, whose parents are both Canadian. The two biggest name pitchers on the rosters are both retired. Eric Gagne has not pitched in the majors since 2008. While Ryan Dempster has not pitched since 2013. Utility infielder Pete Orr is currently a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers. Canada has five major leaguers on the roster. In other words, Canada joins the approximately 11 other teams with zero chance of winning this tournament.

The unappealing rosters are just the start of problems that makes the WBC an unappealing event. Games are played in three countries and three different time zones making it difficult for fans to watch. How is anyone supposed to follow the tournament when games are played in Tokyo, Miami and Los Angeles. Having games played in multiple countries makes it extremely difficult to watch on television and learn who in the world these players are on other countries rosters.

Until the tournament best players in the world start playing and the tournament is played in one time zone, the WBC is destiny to fail. Maybe in four years, the tournament organizers will fix the problems. But I would not hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

 

 

The ship be sinking

“The ship be sinking,” was the famous quote Michael Ray Richardson gave to reporters as the 1981-82 New York Knicks’ season collapsed. Yet 35 years later, the quote can perfectly be applied to the dysfunctional Toronto Argonauts. The Boatmen’s ship is sinking faster than the titanic after a self-destructive off-season.

Following a 5-13 season, the Argos decided to fire their long-time general manager Jim Barker. The team’s poor record was justification for that decision. The only problem was how poorly the Argos executed their decision. The Argos were eliminated from the playoffs on Oct. 22. The decision to fire Barker was made on Jan. 24. The Argos decided to fire Barker three months after the team had been eliminated from the playoffs. The only question anyone can ask is, what took so long?

For three months, Barker was in charge and able to make personnel decisions as he had for the previous six seasons. Barker was able to sign quarterback Drew Willy and pass rusher Shawn Lemon to contract extensions. Now the team sits, without a general manager just weeks before free agency opens Feb. 14.

Argos President and CEO Michael Copeland made the decision to part ways with Barker and replace him with head coach Scott Milanovich and assistant general manager Spencer Zimmerman. The solution is nothing more than a stop gap. The unexplainable delayed decision to fire Barker has disrupted the entire structure of the organization.

Two days after firing Barker, Milanovich resigned as head coach to accept the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback coaching job. Within a span of 72 hours the Argos were left without a head coach and general manager. The Argos window to interview candidates on other teams’ coaching staff closes Jan. 31. The Argos will be interviewing candidates without being able to offer any structure or job security to whoever they talk to.

One of the reasons Milanovich left was because of the lack of job security. Milanovich was smart enough to realize the situation he was in. Whoever accepts the Argos general manager job will want to start fresh with their own head coaching hire. Knowing that he was in a no-win situation, Milanovich bolted. Everyone who the Argos interview knows that they will be in the same situation that Milanovich was in until the Argos figure out their front office structure.

“The ship be sinking,” Richardson quote was echoed by current Argos defensive back Jermaine Gabriel. Gabriel tweeted “I need a sinking ship emoji.” For Argos fans, there is little reason to be optimistic. The organization is a mess, and the team appears headed for another disastrous season.

The Argos hired Copeland in July 2015, after nearly a decade serving as the CFL’s CEO. But he could be next on the Argos firing line. Copeland failed to get fans in the seats in the Argos first season in BMO field. Good luck getting people to buy tickets this year, after the team’s awful offseason. He failed to properly judge the market for the Grey Cup. The team over-priced tickets, forcing them to drop ticket prices and paper most of the stadium for the CFL’s showcase game.

The CFL needs Toronto to be a strong market but Toronto has never figured out how to build a successful organization. Instead, the team has constantly made excuses. BMO field was supposed to be the solution to the team’s problems. But now Toronto is learning that the Argos’ problems run deeper than the stadium. The problems are everywhere and it’s time for Toronto to stop making excuses and start coming up with creative solutions.

Picture courtesy of Laura Groza/The Sputnik

 

Coppermine film review

Ray Harper’s 1992 documentary Coppermine analyses the integration of outsiders into the community of the Copper Inuit of Coronation Gulf and the Coppermine River. The documentary illustrates the spread of disease among the Inuit and the government’s failure to respond.

The documentary does well to illustrate the central theme of a doctor attempting to treat an epidemic among the Inuit. However, the documentary would have been significantly more effective if the editor and director focused on just one subject. Instead, the documentary splits the film’s focus on two different subjects. The film excels when focusing on Dr. R.D. Martin. However, the film spends too much time focusing on one Inuit women who contracts tuberculosis. Instead of integrating her story into Martin’s, the director has made this woman her own focus. At times her focus overshadows Martin’s struggles, and makes the epidemic appear smaller than it actually was. The split focus within the film reduces its effectiveness and at times makes it difficult to follow because viewers never really learn who this woman is.

The film did an excellent job gathering effective sources that were able to illustrate what happened in Coppermine from 1929 until the early 1930s. The film talks to Dr. Martin, and some of his associates serving in Northern Canadian outposts. The film also does a good job talking to multiple Inuit people. However, the subtitles used could have been improved. The film benefits greatly from the clips of b-roll that was filmed during the timeframe that Dr. Martin was in Coppermine.

The film begins with the double marriage between two Inuit couples. This scene really sticks out as it is completely unrelated to the next 45 minutes of the film. It is not until the end of the film, when we see one of the people from the wedding again. At the end of the film we learn that the groom’s mother was the woman the film split its focus on. One of the better scenes shows the man, attempting to locate his mother’s grave. However, with all the crosses and poor documentation, he is unable to find it.

The documentary does an unbelievable job of pinpointing the person who contracted tuberculosis. Through this person, were are able to get a better understanding of how the disease was first contracted in an Edmonton prison and then spread among the Inuit once the man returned. By being able to trackback to the initial case, the viewer is able to get a better understanding of how serious the epidemic was.

The Dr. Martin storyline is aided by effective b-roll footage, Martin’s own personal accounts and the readings of telegrams and letters that Martin sent to his superiors. Martin articulates how when he was assigned to Coppermine, he was told to expect to deal with eye issues. However, when Martin arrived, he learned that the community was dealing with a tuberculosis outbreak. Prior to arriving, no one had mentioned anything about tuberculosis to Martin.

Through Martin’s own account we are able to see how poorly the government handled the tuberculosis epidemic. The historical value of the film is added through Martin’s account and the footage of planes arriving with supplies. However, the viewer learns that the supplies arriving were used during the previous decade in World War One and were not the supplies Martin required.

Martin’s letters and interview to an excellent job of illustrating how hard he tried to help the Inuit people, and what little help the government was. One of the more powerful scenes is when Dr. Martin gets on a plane and flies to Ottawa after not receiving the supplies he requires. Upon arriving in Ottawa, he is put on leave. Dr. Martin goes to Scotland to learn more techniques to better combat tuberculosis. However, Martin never returns to Coppermine and the government never replaces him.

The film really makes the Canadian government look terrible. In addition to not replacing Dr. Martin in the mid-1930s, the government assigned just four doctors to cover thousands of kilometers across the North West Territory. The footage showing supply boats and planes arriving with supplies is excellent footage to have. But the viewer learns through interviews that the supplies the people receive were all dated and not what was required. The government appeared to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to Dr. Martin when he contacted them about the outbreak and what he required to treat the people of the region. By not providing the necessary medicine, and isolation equipment, the government is responsible for the deaths of many Inuit people.

 

Management shuts Blue Jays championship window

The Toronto Blue Jays’ World Series window has prematurely closed after years of bad management, and spring training has not even started yet.

The past two seasons, the Blue Jays made the playoffs and advanced to the ALCS, but that is where their playoff run ended. Enjoy the memories of walk off home runs and bat flips Toronto sports fans. It will be a while before you see another playoff game inside the dome.

After winning the American League East two years ago, the Blue Jays elected to move on from General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. New president Mark Shapiro hired his former apprentice Ross Atkins, but the decision to move on from Anthopoulos was the correct decision.

In the last year of his contract, Anthopoulos traded away the future to save himself. Anthopoulos figured if he could make the playoffs he would get a new contract, he guessed wrong. Despite making the playoffs, the Blue Jays moved on and so has the rest of the Major Leagues. Two years later, Anthopoulos has not landed another general manager job.

In the summer of 2014, Anthopoulos gambled with every chip he had hoping to hit the jackpot of a championship. Ultimately Anthopoulos made it to the final table, but when he pushed his stack of chips to the middle of the table, he was sent home with nothing.

In separate deadline deals, Anthopoulos unloaded highly touted pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman and Daniel Norris, along with others. Initially the gamble proved worth it and the Jays won the AL East for the first time since 1993.

Two years later, the Jays are paying the price for trading away prospects. Instead of having young talented players on relatively cheap contracts, the Jays are stuck paying inflated prices for past-their-prime veterans. Today, all the Jays have to show for in those deadline trades is the albatross contract, and declining ability, of Troy Tulowitzki on the roster.

Anthopoulos’ biggest blunder came in 2012 when he traded for 38-year-old R.A. Dickey. In return, Anthopoulos gave up top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard. If the Blue Jays had Syndergaard right now, the window would still be open. It would be wide open because a rotation that features Aaron Sanchez and Syndergaard has two potential pitchers capable of winning a Cy Young award. Instead the Blue Jays received four mediocre seasons from Dickey, who the team left off their post-season roster.

The Jays hired Atkins who, in his first year running the franchise, has misjudged the market every step of the way. As Atkins was hired, sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion entered the final years of their contracts. Every move Atkins made had to be made thinking about improving the club and counting his pennies. Atkins needed to have the money required to resign two of the team’s most important offensive players, but he did not do that

Instead Atkins looked for alternative solutions. Calling them solutions is generous, calling them stopgaps would be friendly. They are just mistakes, and ultimately they lead to Encarnacion signing with Cleveland.

Currently the Blue Jays have 11 players under contract for $126.5 million. Including $20 million each for the .254 hitting Tulowitzki and for Russell Martin who Anthopoulos overpaid, and hit .231 a season ago. For the Jays, both of those players will continue to decline as they get older but both will continue to be paid $20 million until the end of the 2019 season.

Atkins is responsible for acquiring Melvin Upton Jr., Francisco Liriano, Steve Pearce, Kendrys Morales and extending Justin Smoak. Combined, those four players are making over $39 million. Trading for Lirano can be defended because the Jays got prospects in return for absorbing Lirano’s $13.67 million salary. Down the stretch with the Jays, Liriano was one of their best pitchers. But in the first half of the season with Pittsburgh, the 32-year old was awful and no one can be sure which version the Jays will get in 2017.

Upton and Smoak were midseason decisions by Atkins. Upton and his contract were acquired from San Diego for very little. The Padres are paying $11.45 million of Upton’s $16.45 million salary, but 32-year old Upton has been on the decline for four seasons since signing his contract. Upton’s batting averages over the past four seasons have been: .184, .208, .259 and .238, use whatever advanced metric you want, the player formerly known as B.J. is a replacement level player. At the $5 million the Jays are paying him, it’s a bad decision.

The decision to extend Smoak is just awful. Smoak owns a career .223/.308/.392 batting line. Like Upton, Smoak is a replacement level player, but a player Atkins is paying $4.125 million dollars for each of the next two seasons.

34-year old Steve Pearce has never been a major league regular. Pearce has been a fourth outfielder for his career. Last season he hit .217. For his career Pearce has an average of .254, but Atkins figuring you can never have enough replacement level players, gave Pearce $12.5 million for the next two seasons.

Combine the contracts the Blue Jays gave to Pearce, Smoak and Upton and the Blue Jays have committed $21.625 million. The Blue Jays gave Morales a 3-year $33 million dollar contract. Morales solves one problem for the Jays, batting left handed. Morales averages 25 home runs and a .273 average, but he is a downgrade from Encarnacion.

The Blue Jays tendered Encarnacion and Bautista $17.8 million contracts. Both players could accept the one year deal, but it also gave the Jays a first round pick when Encarnacion signed with Cleveland. It also means the team was willing to commit over $36 million to the two players.

Would 42 home run hitter Encarnacion have resigned for a 5-year $110 million dollar contract? We will never know. Reports said the Blue Jays offered $80 million over four seasons. If they had not signed Pearce they could have given that money to Encarnacion. If the Blue Jays resign Edwin, their window is still open.

If the Jays had not extended Smoak they could have potentially signed Morales for the same contract and signed Bautista. It is not unreasonable to think that the 36-year old Bautista would have accepted a one year contract for $20 million and attempt to rebuild his value and be a free agent next season. The Jays could have potentially had a lineup as they had a season ago, with Upton replacing Michael Saunders in leftfield and Morales replacing Smoak.

TSN reported the Blue Jays were willing to spend $165 million. According to Baseball Reference the Toronto Blue Jays will have a $141.8 million payroll once all arbitration and pre-arbitration contracts are signed. If you subtract Pearce and Smoak’s $10.375 and add $42 million the Jays sit at $173.425. Still over the reported $165 million, but that includes contracts for Aaron Loup, Ezequiel Carrera and Darwin Barney. If you subtract the $4 million those replacement level players make, and you are closing in on that $165 million payroll. Instead the Blue Jays will be paying over $140 million for a third of fourth place team in the AL East.

Ottawa Redblacks stun Calgary Stampeders to win 104th Grey Cup

Few gave the Ottawa Redblacks a chance in the 104th Grey Cup, but after four quarters and overtime, Ottawa defeated the heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders 39-33.

Calgary entered the Grey Cup as 9.5 point favourites. In the regular season they went 15-2-1. A Grey Cup win, would have put Calgary in the conversation as one of the best teams in CFL history. Earlier in the week, they cleaned up at the CFL awards ceremony. In the two previous matchups with Ottawa, one ended in a 26-26 draw, the other a convincing Calgary win. But in neither game, did former Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris play.

Burris played one of the greatest games in his 20-year professional career to led Ottawa to its first Grey Cup since 1976. In what very well might be his final CFL game, the 41-year old Burris threw for 461 yards, 3 touchdowns and ran for a touchdown.

The 104th Grey Cup will go down as an instant classic and one of the biggest upsets in CFL history. Ottawa jumped out to a 27-7 lead early in the third quarter. But in the second half, Calgary slowly chipped away tying the game and forcing overtime.

Ottawa finished the regular season 8-9-1, winning the East Final against the Edmonton Eskimos in a 103rd Grey Cup rematch. But they followed the blueprint they used in their two previous matchups with Calgary to victory. For the third time this season, Ottawa held the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian, Calgary’s Jerome Messam to under 40 yards rushing.

But the difference between the first two matchups and the Grey Cup, Ottawa forced Calgary quarterback and Most Outstanding Player Bo-Levi Mitchell to uncharacteristically turn the football over. Mitchell threw three interceptions, gave Ottawa’s offense the chance to win advantage in time of possession and total yards battle.

After going down 27-10, Mitchell lead back to back touchdown drives to cut the score to 27-23, after kicker Rene Paredes missed a point after with 13:35 to play. With six minutes left, Burris scored a touchdown, but kicker Ray Early missed the point after. Six minutes left and Ottawa lead 33-23.

In the CFL, three minutes can feel like an eternity, and for Ottawa it certainly did. With 1:38, Most Outstanding Rookie DaVaris Daniels ran for a 19 yard touchdown. Down three Calgary got the ball back and drove down inside the Ottawa five yard line. A touchdown would win the Grey Cup for Calgary, a field goal would force overtime.

From the two yard line, CFL Coach of the year Dave Dickenson elected to use Canadian quarterback Andrew Buckley on a quarterback rollout to score the winning touchdown. Ottawa stuffed the play and forced Calgary to hit the game tying field goal.

The decision to go with Buckley will be compared to Super Bowl 49, when the Seattle Seahawks elected to pass the football from the two yard line instead of handing the football to bruising running back Marshawn Lynch.

In the Calgary backfield, is most outstanding Canadian, and league leading rusher Jerome Messam. At 6’3” and 263lbs, Messam is a difficult man to stop from getting two yards. The decision to not give Messam a chance to win the game, will be discussed for years to come.

In overtime, Burris led his final touchdown drive, connecting with Ernest Jackson for the go-ahead touchdown. A failed two point convert gave Calgary a chance to win with a touchdown and convert. Calgary went for the tying touchdown on the first play, but could not complete the pass. Second down, Calgary went short, but again, incomplete. Third down, Mitchell’s pass fell incomplete. Despite, early contact from the Ottawa defender, the flags remained in the officials’ pockets. Ottawa had won the Grey Cup.

 

It’s time for the Rams to clean house

It’s time for the Los Angeles Rams to fire Head Coach Jeff Fisher. It’s time for the Rams to fire Fisher and General Manager Les Snead. It has been time for the Rams to fire Fisher and Snead since the conclusion of 2014 season.

In 2012, the Rams then based in St. Louis hired long-time Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher to take over the 2-14 Rams. In addition to Fisher, the team hired Les Snead away from the Atlanta Falcons to be their general manager.

In four and a half seasons the Rams are 30-41-1 under Fisher and Snead. But the team’s results have plateaued after the duo improved from 2-14 to 7-8-1 in their first season in charge of the Rams. After the Rams record regressed to 6-10 in 2014, the Rams should have fired both of Fisher and Snead.

In 22 seasons as an NFL head coach Fisher has earned the reputation as a coach who will finish the season with a 7-9 or 8-8 record. In 22 seasons, Fisher is 172-161-1, and has finished above five hundred in just six seasons. In ten seasons Fisher has won seven or eight games. Fisher is not the coach who can elevate his teams, and that is exactly why he needs to go. You cannot expect to do better than 8-8 with Fisher as your coach.

Entering their fifth season together and final year of their contracts, the duo went all in and made a last ditch attempt to save their jobs. The Rams traded up to select California QB Jared Goff first overall. In exchange for the first pick, a fourth and sixth round pick, the Rams gave up the 15th pick, two seconds, a third round pick in 2016, and a first and third round pick in 2017.

After eight games, Goff has yet to take a snap for the Rams. A large reason why Goff has not seen any playing time is due to the stubborn nature of Fisher. Fisher’s refusal to play Goff draws back to Fisher’s clash with former third overall pick quarterback Vince Young. Young won offensive rookie of the year. But constant clashes with Fisher cost both the coach and quarterback their jobs with the Titans.

In Tennessee, Fisher elected to start journeyman veteran Kerry Collins over Young. Collins was the prototypical big armed quarterback drafted fifth overall. But Collins failed to live up to his draft hype, playing most of his career as an average quarterback who barely threw more touchdowns than interceptions.

Fisher and the Rams refusal to remove Case Keenum from the starting lineup is inexcusable. Keenum is a below average quarterback. He has been for his entire four year career. In 23 career starts Keenum owns a 58.5 completion percentage, 6.8 yards per attempt and a 24 touchdown, 20 interception ratio.  The numbers are shockingly similar to Collins. Collins completed 55.7 percent of his passes, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt with 208 touchdowns and 196 interceptions. With Keenum as the starter, the Rams can expect another losing season.

Fisher’s refusal to bench Keenum, leads to obvious question of why. There are two conclusions that can be drawn from not playing Goff. One, Goff is not ready to play and represents a significant downgrade from the below average Case Keenum. The second conclusion is that Fisher believes his best chance of winning and saving his job is with Keenum. Either way, the Los Angeles fans have begun chanting for Goff at home games. For Fisher and the Rams, those chants will continue to grow louder. So loud, that Fisher will no longer be able to deny hearing them.

If the Rams believe Goff is a significant downgrade from Keenum, it draws into question the scouting department led by Snead. Since Snead took over in 2012, the Rams have made seven picks in the first round, five in the second and six in the third round. In addition the duo inherited a former first overall pick in quarterback Sam Bradford. Despite trading back to acquire extra draft capital, the Rams have failed to coach and develop the talent they have selected.

In five drafts under Snead, the team has made 18 picks in the first three rounds. 14 of the 18 players drafted remain on the active roster. Two of the 18 are on the inactive roster (former third round picks Tre Mason failure to report and Stedman Bailey gunshot wound) and have not played for the Rams in over a year. Former second round pick Isaiah Pead went bust and is now in Miami. While boom or bust cornerback Janorius Jenkins signed a big with the New York Giants in the off-season.

With the 18 picks, the Rams have drafted only one superstar in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. It’s not a matter of if Donald wins a defensive player of the year, it’s when. Donald is a disruptive force, who pressures opposing quarterbacks and stuffs the run game. The drop off from reigning defensive player of the year JJ Watt is minimal.

After making the highly praised decision to trade down with the Washington Redskins in 2012 so they could select Robert Griffin III, the Rams traded down again with the Cowboys. The two trades gave the Rams extra draft capital. But the Rams failed to generate a great return on their extra draft picks.  The Rams selected a decent starting defensive tackle in Michael Brockers 14th overall. But more was expected from Brockers, who the Rams are now paying $11 million a year.

With the 8th pick they selected 5’9” gadget wide receiver and return man Tavon Austin. Austin has shown explosive flashes of ability, but Fisher and the offensive coordinators that he has hired have failed to find ways to get the football to. The pick still looks questionable today. But when you consider the Rams traded up to get Austin and just gave him a $40 million, four year extension, it’s beginning to look worse.

The Rams selected two players from Georgia with success. Alec Olgetree is more of the better young starting linebacker. Running back Todd Gurley appeared to be a superstar in the making after his first season. But this year he is averaging 1.7 yards less per carry. After 21 games it’s too early to determine which season’s is a better indicator of Gurley’s abilities. Gurley’s first season was marked by an amazing start. But he cooled off by the end of the season. The truth about Gurley is likely somewhere in the middle.

When the  Rams selected Greg Robinson second overall, they expected him to be the second coming of Hall of Fame left tackle Orlando Pace. The Rams selected Pace first overall in 1997. Pace was a dominant pass and run blocked, and fans expected the same from Robinson who dominated in college at Auburn. So far, Robinson has been a complete bust. Robinson has failed to be the dominant run blocker he was in college. But more concerning is how terrible Robinson has been in pass protection.

Outside of the first round, Trumaine Johnson is a good starting corner who was worth of the Rams’ franchise tag. Safety TJ McDonald is an above average starter. Lamarcus Joyner is a nice player, but is not without his flaws in the secondary. Outside of the first three rounds the Rams best pick is kicker Greg Zuerlein. Rob Havenstein is the Rams best lineman, and looks like the only long-term starter on the offensive line. But it’s not like he has a lot of competition for that honour. Outside of those five players, the Rams success outside of the first round is pathetic.

When you consider all the extra picks the Rams have had, it’s even more pathetic. If you want to build a successful team, you need to find players later in the draft. The draft will ultimately be the downfall of Snead. The lack of the Rams success in the draft raises more questions about Goff’s potential as a pro. If the Rams are this terrible at identifying talent, and cannot develop, coach and get the most out of players under Fisher, what hope does Goff have?