Not even sitting two seats from The Awesomeness That Is Brett The hit Man Hart made sitting through Friday night’s Rider/Stamps tilt worth mentioning.

It seemed as though everything had gone wrong at 1910 Piffles Way. My Blackberry gave out after three hours of furious tweeting, and I had no way of knowing whether anybody except Keith Colhoun was even reading my tweets. My iPod’s battery also died on me, which was immaterial: I had forgotten to download my version of Willie Nelson’s ‘Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over,’ indicating that the game was pretty much decided: The Tragically Hip’s Endless Emergency (‘Until it’s no longer fun/until it’s no longer relevant …)

Mosaic Stadium’s concessions have improved marginally since my Auntie Ruby got food poisoning in the late 1970s, but the smokie and Coke I was served with as about the same temperature. Whoever was programming the music over the public address system had a record collection that had stopped in 1992, and the Roughriders …. Played. Like. Shit.

In reality, the score flattered the Riders in more ways than one. I don`t know what the CFL officials consider pass interference any more, and I doubt they do either. The Riders’ last three touchdowns in the second half were ‘garbage time’ scores. The Roughrider defense, playing what one called a ‘couch’ defense (softer than a cushion – if that poster doesn’t copyright it, I will), gave up 31 points in the first half (I turned to the guy sitting between me and Brett Hart, probably one of his kids, and said ‘the Riders will have to score 35 points to win with that defense.’ He shook his head and said, ‘Thirty-five points won’t be near enough.’ He was right.)

The Rider’s second touchdown was set up by a pass interference call in the end zone, which happened in front of me, and in my opinion the Rider receiver (I think it was Hill) sold the non-contact between him and the Calgary defensive back, in a manner more reminiscent of diving in Italian soccer. That set up a gimmie touchdown, set up with a 1st-and-goal at the Calgary one yard line. (Keith Colhoun from CJTR and I engaged in a short tweeting battle during the game: he says the Rider receiver was held and it was an obvious penalty) The same thing happened in the third quarter where two consecutive PI calls set up the Riders deep in Calgary territory (the first PI call, was it Hill again?) should have been ruled incidental contact. Hill was the only receiver not named Dressler who was actually doing anything.

That effort led to Darian Durant throwing (was it tipped at the line of scrimmage? Can’t remember) straight to Cal d-back Keon Raymond who ran 116 yards the other way for a 14-point turnaround. Which leads us to … Hugh Charles.
Of the three touchdowns he scored, the last was in garbage time, against a Calgary defense playing soft as three-ply Charmain. And doing the backflip after scoring a touchdown when your team is getting beaten like an MMA fighter’s punching bag is a perfect example of the ‘me-first’ philosophy that makes bad teams – like the Roughriders — worse. Team sports are not about one guy – they’re about (in the case of Canadian football) 12 guys. On the Calgary interception/touchdown, Charles pretty much gave up and didn’t run after Raymond. Offensive linemen were running, Weston Dressler – who was on the other side of the field took off after him, But Charles wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

So what happens now in Riderland? More of the same.

There was no likelihood that Marshall (or any of his assistants) would be fired after Friday’s mess. The Riders have a short week (they travel to Toronto to play the Argos Thursday night), and that wouldn’t give the new coach time to prepare. Also, the person who would be doing the firing is out of town, apparently. That person isn’t the Roughrider general manager, and I’ll get to that later. But the Riders do have a more than two-week break between the Argo game and Labour Day where Greg Marshall shouldn’t be buying any green bananas.

Or not. Marshall signed a three year contract, and the Riders probably (a) won’t fire him unless they don’t make the playoffs and (b) the corporate sponsorship/ticket sales fall to a point where even Jim Hopson realizes that there’s a problem. Since most of the season’s tickets have already been sold, there’s no financial reason to fire Marshall and hire somebody else to do Marshall’s job. Wait, why wouldn’t they? The Riders are doing that with the GM position …

When Eric Tillman left after his incident with the babysitter, Hopson halved the general manager’s position, in a measure that’s unique in the CFL but not unique in companies that have serious problems with ballooning bureaucracies. Former coach Ken Miller remains as VP of football operations, while Brendan Taman becomes general manager. This is a stupid move because there’s no sense in hiring two people to do one job, and neither Miller (who spent most of his life as a positional and college baseball coach) nor GM Brendan Taman have the scouting contacts necessary to bring in good players. We saw that in Taman’s first go-round working with the Riders, and we saw that when he was the Blue Bombers’ GM. As well, former Rider offensive lineman Jeremy O’Day is floating around the Rider positional chart like a spacecraft adrift in the solar system — he was hired on because somebody (Miller? Hopson? Taman?) wanted O’Day to learn the management ropes for a more senior position, but O’Day wasn’t willing to leave town in order to scout … and the Roughriders need scouts the way Hart needs to see Vince McMahon beaten to a pulp and fed to Fort Churchill’s polar bears for the Montreal Screwjob.

And we’re seeing that now, as the Roughriders’ future plans involve waiting, wishing and hoping that Andy Fantuz and John Chick get cut by their NFL squads so they can come home like Little Bo Peep’s lost sheep, dragging their tails behind them. What fricking idiots – you send out the team you have to play, not the team you wish you had. (My bet is that they’re both gone for the season: even if they’re cut by Chicago and Indianapolis, respectively, they’re likely to stay south to interest some talent-starved NFL team, and if either one does come north, (a) there’s no assurance Chick will sign with the Riders or Fantuz will sign a new contract; and (b) most NFL players coming back to a CFL camp are more prepared, initially to play four-down football instead of three-down.

As well, Taman, as GM, wasn’t allowed to hire his own head coach – somebody above him, either Hopson or Miller forced him to take Greg Marshall as head coach. And Marshall, apparently, wasn’t allowed to hire his own assistant coaches – someone above Marshall put Doug Berry and Richie Hall on the coaching staff.

That’s NOT how a good organization works. This goes a long way to explain how the Saskatchewan Roughriders have gone from back-to-back Grey Cup appearances to a moneymaking craptacular organization that sells breakfast cereals, windshield wiper fluid, retro jerseys, scarves, baby clothes, and a host of other things involving people who sweat a lot. It doesn’t seem to involve football any more, in the way Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can make money hand-over-fist with pathetic teams they run, such as the Leafs, Raptors, and Toronto FC. The players don’t respect the coaches because the front office doesn’t respect the coaches

Then again, I couldn’t help but figure, as I was listening to Def Leppard follow Foghat on the PA during commercial breaks, and watching a few people do double-takes at The Hit Man, that it was like the 1990s were happening again in Regina. It’s almost as if some of the people who were in the Roughrider front office during the Al Ford years – Hall, Taman, maybe whoever was selecting the music – were being hired by somebody to desperately prove that the Al Ford era wasn’t all bad. Instead, they’re making me think that Ford had a lot of help in sending the Roughriders into near-bankruptcy as arguably the most pathetic sports franchise in Canada in the mid-to-late 1990s. Too bad Hart’s out of the wrestling biz: putting a sleeper hold on somebody – Miller, Taman, Marshall, Hall — might be a good way to start to turn around the Riders’ season.