In For A Dozen: Loïc Kayembe, heat warnings, a pox on Panda Game profanity and a kickoff-reduction rule

Stuff that really should presented in podcast form, but let's not kid ourselves: you don't have time to listen! Instead it gets presented in written word format. How Web 2.0! In For A Dozen will be a weekly middle-of-the-week ritual that strives to put university sports in the context of a world where one can no longer Stick To Sports. 

  1. It really beggars processing that Ottawa defensive end Loïc Kayembe is dead and his teammates are carrying on by trying to prepare for the Panda Game, which will be in front of a crowd that dwarfs their usual audience by a factor of 10. One day the 24-year-old Kayembe was playing a football game. The next day the Congolese-born Montrealer was gone, leaving a void in dozens of lives. There's no predicting or extrapolating how the Gee-Gees will respond once they return to competition. A GoFundMe to help pay for Kayembe's memorial service reached its goal inside of a day.
  2. Hindsight is 20/20, but it feels like 37 C. It was stinking-hot in Ontario during the last two football Saturdays, with temperatures ranging above 30 C and high humidity, which was exacerbated by the sun's warming effect on rubber-pelleted FieldTurf playing surfaces.

    No doubt every team took every precaution to make sure players were hydrated and had some shade on the sidelines. One does wonder — and please don't read this as finger-pointing — how humid it has to be before teams move game times away from the hottest time of day.

    Logistically, could there be some edict from on high to push a game times to late afternoon? It's one variable that can be controlled. 
  3. The Panda Game is going to have a higher attendance than some teams will play in front of all season, again. Both Carleton and Ottawa sold out their ticket allotments three days in advance. Of course, what will be different is the sensitive situation with a death in the Gee-Gees football family. It's probably not going to stop Carleton supporters chanting, "Fuck you Ottawa U" and "what the fuck's a Gee-Gee?" ad nauseam at the uOttawa team and students, with Gee-Gees supporters riposting in (un)kind with F-bombs.

    I have never been able to get on board with that being cute or endearing, which is how it seems to be portrayed by the schools and the Ottawa media. This isn't about political correctness; it's just about preferring creativity and originality to tacky, trite tribalism: that's the best you can come up with?

    The chants are going to happen, but it will seem tone-deaf, please excuse the wet-blanketing. At least Ottawa is the home team so it gets the north side of TD Place where the player benches are, while Carleton will get the south side. That could defuse any tension.
     
  4. Basketball update: Tanor Ngom from Senegal, who comes advertised as a 7-foot-2 post player with NBA potential, is headed to Ryerson. That ... that seems like a good get. Ngom has  shown enough promise to represent Africa in the Basketball Without Borders event, and it probably doesn't require much exposition to explain that having him pick Ryerson over a D1 high-major down south speaks to the reputation of the OUA's Big Two.

    No prospect has ever missed a shot on YouTube, but here is Ngom in competition. It's hard to glean much about his offensive game, since it's mostly finishing uncontested dunks against much smaller players. But he picks up a point guard on a switch!


    With the state-sponsored hostility toward Black, Muslim and Hispanic populations in the U.S., the time is now to advertise that Canada is a good place to study and play sports. It won't happen, though.
  5. If you care about university hockey, take some vicarious pride in San Jose Sharks wing Joel Ward, who said he might bring the protest movement against inequality to the NHL, being an Atlantic University Sport alumnus. That's not the reason why Ward is considering speaking out, but his four seasons with the UPEI Panthers was obviously a different environment than most NHL players get in their early 20s.
    To those who call taking a knee symbolism, what do you think standing for the anthem is? Symbolism is important and should be chosen carefully.
  6. One digression from sticking to sports: Never underestimate America's ability to have a sports scandal conventionally come up when everyone should be mad about something else. The FBI dragnet into corruption in college basketball, which has already taken down Rick Pitino at Louisville and is likely to ensnare further high-major D1 coaches, defys downplaying. When the FBI is looking into bribery and kickbacks, it goes well beyond "what's always happened." And if it brings an end to the Shamateur Sports Industrial Complex in the States, so much the better.

    At the same time, this taking up time in the conversation when the real scandal is having a president who, at worst, is willing to build a political base on white supremacy, and attained the office after an election that involved serious interference from a Hostile Foreign Power who shall remain nameless. What should really be the outrage that prompts a great reckoning?

    (Whether HFP's interference swung the outcome last November cannot be established, but the likelihood of one candidate winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all by 1 per cent is extremely low. Also, it's been shown HFP tries to interfere with everyone's national elections.)

    Point being, is the biggest thing happening really a bunch of coaches being glorified bagmen?

    Ten years ago, the American media seemed to be a lot more interested in pushing people's buttons over Barry Bonds breaking the home run record with a chemical boost than President George W. Bush invading Iraq on false pretenses. And the early 1920s might be more remembered for the Chicago "Black Sox" dumping a World Series than the Teapot Dome scandal, and so on and so on.
  7. Call this 6B. It's high-larious to see MLB's water-bearers make Mark McGwire the go-to guy for a testimonial about baseball's new crop of sluggers. It definitely reads like an attempt to rehabilitate the Great American Home Run Chase of  1998, when McGwire and Sammy Sosa, both goosed on steroids, shattered Roger Maris' seasonal standard. It's also funny since Bonds actually coached Giancarlo Stanton for a season in Miami.

    McGwire gets that, because white privilege, and Bonds never will. One can see the not-so-subtle attempt to convince people that the 70 homers McGwire hit in '98 is the real record. Either every stat from the 1993-2003 ArenaBall era is valid, or all are invalid.
  8. Back to our bailiwick; contact to the head is a topic du semaine after video circulated of some of the shots Concordia's skill players took from Laval defenders last Sunday. The one hit on a Stingers receiver would have been a targeting foul in the NCAA and resulted in ejection for the offending defender.
    People have received one-game suspensions for far, far less.

    Speaking of Concordia ... Shrine Bowl week!
  9. Kickoffs are on the endangered special teams play list. On The Athletic, there is a non-paywalled piece by Nicole Auerbach detailing how the Ivy League's experimental kickoff rule has reduced brain injuries among players. Brain injuries happen more often on kickoffs than on scrimmage plays due to the speed with which players collide.

    The Ivies moved the kickoff spot up to the 40-yard line, reducing the number of returnable kicks.
    Mea culpa; I've long beefed about U Sports placing kickoffs on the 45-yard line instead of the 35, as in the CFL, without giving enough space to player safety. Too often, it contributes to a snowball effect for the straggler teams; returner gets downed shy of the 20, offence goes short run-incomplete pass, and the defence is right back out trying to defend a short field. But that's a small thing compared to making football safer.

    That said, the kickoff cannot be eliminated entirely, since coaches still need the option of trying to recover a short kickoff. This is a topic perhaps better expanded upon at a later date, but here's a modest proposal:

    • Kickoff to start each half;
    • Kickoff after the first touchdown of the second and fourth quarters, if it comes before the 10-minute mark (10:00 to play). This allows for a chance to flip field position shortly after changing ends and a chance to recover a short kickoff. It can also be woven into the mid-quarter media timeout. Granted, it's an arbitrary cut-off point, but you want any rule to be easy enough for competitors and officials to remember.
    • Kickoff after any score after the three-minute warning of each half. That's the CFL and national rule in U Sports. There could be a waiver on it if the lead is 25 or more points. Twenty-five seems like a good number since most coaches would concede defeat by that point.  
    • Possession begins at the 35 after a field goal and on the 25 after a touchdown in all other scenarios. Do more coaches try for the first down/touchdown if it helps them on other side of the ball?
    The Laurier-Waterloo game (as it were) had 13 kickoffs. With my suggestion, there would have been three. (Start of each half, and after a Laurier touchdown with 27 seconds left in the second quarter).

    On Sept. 16, when Waterloo won that 45-43 scorefest against Carleton, the game had 17 kickoffs. This rule would have cut it to eight (start of each half, two after touchdowns early in the second and fourth quarters, four after scores in the last three minutes).

    Those are cherry-picked convenience samples, granted, but there's probably a minimum 50-per-cent reduction of the most dangerous play in the game.
  10. Ahead of No. 4 Western at No. 5 Laurier on Saturday, the key stat to fixate upon is probably the touchdown-to-interception ratios of the purple powerhouses' passers. It is 8-to-7 for the Mustangs' Chris Merchant and change-up quarterback Stevenson Bone, compared to the 10-to-3 for the Golden Hawks' Michael Knevel and backup Tristan Arndt.
  11. In terms of story and setting in Canada West, UBC needs to defeat on Calgary on Friday. That's not to say it will happen, since the Dinos offence is the Golden State Warriors on fake grass in its capacity to go to another option when one is nullified. If Calgary wins, it's pretty much wrapped up home-field advantage straight through the Hardy and Mitchell Bowl playoffs. The Thunderbirds would wrest away the first-place tiebreaker if they win, although they would also have to win out to get top spot.

    Point being, the compact on-campus confines of Thunderbird Stadium >  utilitarian McMahon Stadium. That's all. Both Calgary's Adam Sinagra and UBC's Michael O'Connor have run hot and cold, and whoever makes the fewest damaging mistakes will probably get the W.
  12. Handicapping the Hec Crighton. At this writing, Saint Mary's dual threat Kaleb Scott is akin to Louisville's Lamar Jackson down south in 2016: the eye-popping yardage totals, the wow factor, the drawback of playing for a team that doesn't have a big national profile, relatively speaking.

    It's hard to ignore Scott, and AUS has not had a Hec winner since Erik Glavic in 2007. An Atlantic conference player also won in 1997, '87 and '77, incidentally.

    Sticking with strained similes, Laurier is like Penn State — do you pump the passer's tires or the rusher's? Knevel has an adjusted net yards average of 9.89 and his floor is likely a 2,500-yard regular season, presuming good health. But Levondre Gordon is also a beast. Western's Alex Taylor will have the career achievement case.

    The big four's quarterbacks — Sam Caron of Montréal, Hugo Richard of Laval, O'Connor of UBC and Sinagra of Calgary — are not really standing out in any way.
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