Riders’ skid creates great radio discussions

FBO CFL Stampeders Roughriders 20150822

I used to love listening to call-in shows following Saskatchewan Roughriders games. The shows were especially entertaining after Roughriders losses.

After spending 25 years as a sports writer for the Regina Leader-Post, I now get to co-host the Green Zone, a call-in show on radio stations CJME and CKOM in Saskatchewan.

The Roughriders are winless in all eight games this season, after losing 34-31 to the visiting Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night. Do you think the shows are entertaining?

Oh, yeah!

There’s usually a caller who drank too much, rambles a bit, and won’t let us say anything. Jamie Nye, Warren Woods, Belton Johnson and I wait for an opportunity to politely respond before moving to a more sober caller.

A handful of callers want head coach Corey Chamblin fired immediately. General manager Brendan Taman is also on their hit list.

Our crew has not advocated their firings, primarily because they won a Grey Cup in 2013 and deserve a chance to show if they can build a contender to coincide with the opening of a new stadium in 2017.

Despite their record, the team continues playing hard for Chamblin, even though he continually makes boneheaded decisions. The defence, which Chamblin oversees, could not make one pivotal stop during Saturday’s game. He called for a meaningless and illogical two-point convert, going with the wind in the first quarter; it failed. And tried a 32-yard single-point convert going into the wind that ended Paul McCallum’s string of 801 consecutive converts. Punter Ray Early attempted a 65-yard field goal (with the wind; it would have been a CFL record), that was nearly returned for a touchdown until a Riders offensive lineman clotheslined Calgary’s returner, got ejected and penalized 25 yards to set up a Hail Mary touchdown against a defence designed specifically to stop that play.

There are also the ever-optimistic Rider Priders, who call the show and insist that everything should be positive because it’s only a game, everybody is trying their best and the team really deserves everyone’s support.

While some callers patiently wait on hold, there are also texts and Tweets being sent to us. As the most-skilled typist on the show, I try to answer all the texts, but sometimes get overwhelmed by the quantity.

“This losing streak is driving me to chocolate. That’s not good!’’

“When are the coaches going to do their pushups?”

“You guys are so snide and sarcastic! You’re not Home of the Fans. You’re home of the whiners. I’m so done with your show.’’

Our ratings are skyrocketing. Probably because of the guys I work with — Belton jokes about the team’s “slapdickery” and “mashed potatoes defence”: Woodsy chuckles about  the goings-on while astutely noting what the team is doing right and wrong; and Jamie, who Saturday night shredded the Riders’ excuses for losing with “replacements” while pointing out the Stampeders, reigning Grey Cup champions, had totally rebuilt their offensive line and were missing MVP tailback Jon Cornish, yet still ran roughshod through Saskatchewan’s vaunted defence.

It’s all so honest, so intense, so emotional. That’s why I love it.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.