Never a dull moment

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

There's rarely a dull moment in the Crazy Football League, as all-time touchdown and receiving king Milt Stegall likes to call the three-down loop.

And while the top story of 2008 is yet to be told, there were plenty of doozies through the 18-game regular season.

They are tales of conquest, tales of woe -- six broken legs on the same team, are you kidding me? -- and tales that just make you go, huh?.

We bring you the top-10 stories of the CFL season.

10. WHO'S RUNNING THE ASYLUM?

In a surprisingly candid revelation, chief operating officer Michael Copeland acknowledged the CFL was powerless to suspend players for dirty hits because of an appeal process that was based on precedent. The admission came after Edmonton's Agustin Barrenechea's head-to-head collision with Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn in late September. In an attempt to regain control of a volatile situation, commissioner Mark Cohon later announced automatic suspensions for attempts to injure. So far, the new measures haven't been tested on appeal.

9. PUTRID PIVOTS

In a typical year you can count the number of quarterback controversies on one or two arms. In 2008 it seemed there was a pivotal issue in the league every week. The Argonauts got things started with the Kerry Joseph/Michael Bishop mess, and Winnipeg quickly followed, benching starter Kevin Glenn for three games. Glenn and Joseph were last year's Most Outstanding Player Award finalists, and both spent time riding the pine. Only Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton managed to avoid this trend.

8. ALL HAIL THE ALOUETTES

A GM who had his head coaching job stripped from him, and who had no say in the hiring of his replacement.

A new head coach who's never worked in the CFL.

And an aging quarterback coming off a trying, and personally draining, campaign.

Hands up, everybody who predicted a first-place finish for the Alouettes.

With a rejuvenated Anthony Calvillo running rookie coach Marc Trestman's new offence, the Als scored more points than any team in the CFL.

That Calvillo is up for the top player award a year after leaving the team to be with his wife as she battled cancer makes this one of the feel-good stories of the season.

7. ONTARI-WOE

Two fired head coaches, another who quit, two benched starting quarterbacks, another traded, and a combined 7-29 record.

Yes, football in the Golden Horseshoe was pure horse---- this season.

The Argonauts and Tiger-Cats canned their head coaches within days of each other in September, but not even that turned things around.

Both missed the playoffs, marking the first time that's happened in CFL history.

We're talking 80-plus years, folks.

6. THE WEST RULES

It's never happened before and it may never happen again: all four teams from the same division with a winning record.

Calgary (13-5), Saskatchewan (12-6), B.C. (11-7) and Edmonton (10-8) took us on the wildest first-place race we've ever seen, and when the dust settled all four were in the playoffs thanks to the CFL's unique crossover rule, which allows a fourth-place team to take the third playoff spot in the opposite division. The Eskimos went one further, bettering the mark of second-place Winnipeg in the CFL (L)East. Overall, the West was 26-6 in interlocking play.

5. BLINK, AND HE'S GONE

He's one of the top running backs in CFL history, Winnipeg's franchise leader and a fan favourite, but Blue Bomber GM Brendan Taman didn't blink when he traded Charles "Blink" Roberts to the B.C. Lions at the end of the Labour Day weekend.

The biggest trade of the season on Roberts' name alone -- the little guy ranks fifth, all-time, in league rushing -- Taman increased the shock value by acquiring Joe Smith, last season's CFL rushing leader.

The move helped jolt the 2-7 Bombers into a 6-3 second half.

4. MIGHTY CASEY STRIKES OUT

He was to revive the CFL's most moribund franchise, a former Most Outstanding Player who came back from the NFL, had a year under his belt and was ready to cut loose.

Now they're wondering if the Hamilton Tiger-Cats might do just that with quarterback Casey Printers.

We can't remember the last time the league's highest-paid player ($500,000) has looked this bad: a 1-9 record as a starter, five touchdowns, 10 interceptions and the worst passer rating in the league.

Sure, the Ticats don't have the best supporting cast.

But Printers has been a bust, plain and simple.

3. TARNISHED LEGEND

His place firmly entrenched in CFL history, the most successful coach of all time tried one too many comebacks.

And now Don Matthews will be remembered not just for the championships, for his abrasive style, his girlfriends and his bikes, but for his inability to coax even a single victory from the Argonauts in his final (surely, this time it is) kick at the CFL can.

It's not pretty watching a legend, beaten down and waving a white flag, 0-8 written all over it, retreat in such a way.

But The Don never did know when to quit.

2. TRAGEDY, THEN TRIUMPH

On July 25, in Hamilton, Edmonton Eskimos receiver Jason Tucker collided with the Ticats' Jykine Bradley and crumpled to the turf.

Sometime after midnight, in a Hamilton hospital, Tucker, a wonderfully gifted, levelheaded and loved player, received the diagnosis: two fractured and dislocated vertebrae near the base of his neck.

Four hours of surgery and two days later, Tucker was walking, and less than a week after his surgery he made an emotional return to the Eskimos locker-room, inspiring his teammates to a win over the Lions.

He may never play again, but he won't be forgotten.

1. GANG GREEN

Let's face it, the Saskatchewan Roughriders should be the ones with the 3-15 record, not Hamilton.

I mean, take a Grey Cup champion, remove the league's most outstanding player and replace him with a revolving door of, say, four different quarterbacks, wave goodbye to its brilliant head coach, then saddle it with not one, not two, not three, but six broken legs, and what should you get?

Certainly not a team battling for first place right down to the wire.

But that's what the Riders did in '08, earning our nod as the CFL's story of the year.

Oh, and how about a string of sellouts (29,000-plus) that's now at 18 straight?

Take a bow, Ken Miller and the rest of Rider Nation.


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