Golden in green

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Maybe this time he's got the timing right.

Maybe this is the year the short guy in the ball cap and sweats is part of the last team standing in the CFL playoffs.

And how ironic would that be, considering he had to be coaxed out of a sabbatical and still doesn't feel completely at home in his new surroundings?

Over his 23-year career finding football players, Brendan Taman has been the master of the ill-timed move.

He left his first gig, in Saskatchewan, just before the Riders won the 1989 Grey Cup.

His next stint in Regina, from '93 to '96, ended the year before the Riders returned to the Cup, albeit it in a losing effort.

The guy also blew it in B.C., coming to Winnipeg in '99 and watching the Lions win it all a year later.

Not that Taman didn't get his chance to make things right here.

Ten years as the Blue Bomber personnel boss/GM, including two trips to the Grey Cup, produced nothing but broken hearts -- and one very poorly timed broken arm, attached to quarterback Kevin Glenn.

Citing burnout, the Saskatchewan native resigned early this year, only to be summoned back to the Riders for a third go-round, this time in a support role to GM Eric Tillman, who runs the team from his home while awaiting trial on a sexual assault charge.

After all this time on the job, you'd think he'd feel like a Rider.

"Still not, actually," Taman was saying yesterday. "After six months, I'm still adjusting."

Sure, he drives a car plastered with Riders logos, but he takes the side streets, preferring to remain "under the radar" amidst the bedlam around him.

And make no mistake, bedlam resides in Regina this week, as the Green and White prepare to host the West Final for the first time since 1976. That is not a misprint.

"Oh, man, you drive down the street and you've got Rider flags flying everywhere," Taman said. "Every second car seems to have one. And you've got bulletin boards, 'Go Riders Go' -- every second business has them. And we're early in the week.

"This environment's a little different. Thirty-three years they've waited for it. It's pretty hyped up."

And sold out -- like virtually every Riders home game the last three years.

But Taman treads carefully through the euphoria, perhaps recalling the ghosts of playoffs past.

But that he's even one win away from a third shot at that elusive title is something nobody would have seen coming six months ago.

His plan was to take a year off to play golf and get his unhealthy lifestyle back in order. Then the Riders called.

Handling front-office duties that Tillman can't, Taman weighs in on personnel, occasionally.

"If Eric asks my opinion" he said. "I pull out my napkin and see if I've got a report on him."

Ah yes, the Napkin Caper.

Bomber head coach Mike Kelly's preseason shot that Taman must have done his work on napkins, the Bomber personnel cupboard was so bare, is still worth a laugh.

But Taman insists he's derived no pleasure from the constant stream of controversial news, usually generated by Kelly, from his old stomping grounds this season.

"Nah, that's not me," he said. "I don't know the inner workings or how it's going down there, but it seems like there's always a controversy... and that's never good. I know too many people over there that I have respect for and like. And I hate seeing them go through that."

Truth is, Taman's heart, or at least a chunk of it, remains in the 'Peg.

So much so, that if he were to finally get that championship ring this year, he's not sure how it would fit.

"Honestly, my intentions were to have it with a 'W' on it."

The timing wasn't right, I guess.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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