There might be a few cases – the dying days of John Herrera’s career as general manager, the last couple of weeks of Roy Shivers’ tenure, a post-game column from Bob Hughes during the Reign of Error (1977-1987) — where the Saskatchewan media didn’t cover the Roughriders the way a Tory newspaper covered a Royal Family event. But generally, the Regina media in general – and the Leader-Post and CKRM, the Harvard company holding the Roughriders’ broadcasting rights in particular – don’t so much cover the Riders as act as their Ministry of Information. In Harvard’s case, that’s understandable: there’s a Harvard representative on the Board of Directors, and the company pays big bucks (at least in CFL terms) for the Riders’ radio and internet broadcasting rights. But why does the Regina Leader-Post pull its punches when it comes to covering the Roughriders?

Case in point. On an Aug. 16 live chat at the L-P website, Vanstone said that it would be improper, and unlikely, that the Roughriders would make big changes in the coaching staff before Labour Day. Here’s an excerpt of the transcript.

August 16 chat.
11:02 Rob Vanstone: I don’t see them changing a head coach in-season. They just hired him.

11:09 Rob Vanstone: I don’t see big changes. What change could they make that would trigger an instant improvement? It’s easy to say that a coach should be thrown overboard, but name a replacement who would upgrade things. That’s the big issue here. Who’s better than what they have?

11:13 Rob Vanstone: That’s the thing, Keith. In 1991, when they fired John Gregory, Don Matthews was sitting right there. I don’t see a quick fix this time around. If you’re firing someone for the sake of firing someone, I’m not sure that’s the right motivation.

But in today’s L-P (Saturday, 20 August), Vanstone says that firing Greg Marshall and Doug Berry was necessary. (Leader-Post). As Jon Stewart would say, whaaaaaaaaat?

The major change in Vanstone’s attitude was, on the surface, the Toronto Argonaut game, where the Riders couldn’t score a point in the first half against the worst defense in the CFL. (prairie dog). But everybody knew – even if they weren’t saying – that the Riders were a team in turmoil; just look at how unprepared they were to play in almost all their games. And, given the lack of available CFL-calibre coaching, and the fact that the, according to a couple of people at the last home game (against Calgary) Miller was on the sidelines with a copy of the game’s play sheet – who would have been parachuted in if the Riders were in trouble on the field? Ken Miller, that’s who. Oh yeah, space in the press box is at a premium (my reporter’s comps saw me sit in the west side stands, and that’s the same for me when I liveblog/tweet on Labour Day), but that doesn’t explain why Miller was on the sidelines, hovering over Marshall like a hyena encountering a carcass.

(UPDATE: I should also mention that, according to a couple of other people, Rider president Jim Hopson also spends game time on the Rider sidelines. To me, at least, that send a very overt message that he’s more involved in on field matters than a president of a football club should be. And that’s not a good message to send to the players — it’s as if he’s undermining his coaching staff. As well, Miller, in addition to being vice-president of football operations, is also now the Roughriders’ head coach and offensive co-ordinator. These are three full-time positions, according to the Roughrider management structure, and Miller retired as head coach last year due to health issues. God help us …)

Whether by deliberately withholding information that the Riders would rather have not seen in print, or by forgetting that the Riders had a coaching option if they decided to can Marshall, the Leader Post’s sports department tried to give its readers a different impression about the Riders’ direction than what was actually going on. It’s certainly not their finest hour in sports journalism.

I stated this post before taking a gander at Greg Marshall’s press conference Saturday afternoon. Maybe it’s selective editing on the part of the reporters/cameramen covering the event. But in my opinion, Greg Marshall couldn’t have committed career suicide more completely had he rented the Conexus Arts Centre, charged $100 a ticket, was escorted to his easy chair by a couple of washed-up D-list porn stars, and told the assembled throng that he had tiger blood coursing through his veins and was an F-18. But once again, the local reporters an opportunity to ask the questions which would have gone a long way to explaining why the Riders’ season has gone sideways. Did Greg Marshall take the job knowing that he didn’t have full autonomy to select the coaching personnel he wanted, meaning he didn’t have control of what kind of team he wanted on the field, and if so, why did he take the job? Answering those questions might have gone a long way to explaining why the Riders are in the quagmire they’re wallowing in right now.