Football is a cruel, unfair business that often makes us recoil in shock at what we see in front of our eyes.
That was not exactly the opening sentence you were expecting to read, was it? On the flip side the game gives us so many unbelievable moments.
Taj Smith racing 65 yards downfield for the game-tying score after Darian Durant executed the best pump fake of the season, freezing half the Alouettes secondary rates a 10 out of 10 on the Sports-Fun-O-Metre.
How about the zig zagging Tim Brown? His 77-yard kickoff return touchdown was not only breath-taking but also reinforced the very accurate stereotype that kickers (with the exception of Noel Prefontaine) can't tackle. Rene Parades hang your head in shame. Week 8 accurately illustrated the kind of emotional roller coaster that football is.
Back to the "cruel" part of this column.
After watching this weekend's game, how could I not write about all the injuries we saw on the field? Let's start with the Montreal vs. Saskatchewan game that resembled an episode of 'Mash'.
My initial reaction upon seeing Anthony Calvillo lying on the ground after being taking down hard by Ricky Foley was not shock. This isn't to say I was not concerned for Calvillo, because I was. In this day in age any head injury is taken far more seriously than it was even five years ago.
Rather, that moment filled me with a horrible sense of the inevitable. Calvillo's play has started to decline and the biggest factor for this downward trend is the number of hits he has sustained over the past two seasons.
The second biggest factor is of course age, he'll be 41 by the end of the summer. Watching him on the sidelines discussing strategy with a bunch of unknown backups, I was left wondering is this the last time we'll see Calvillo on the field?
Of course if I had to bet, I'd wager my mortgage that he'll return and that his play will improve from what we have seen in the first half of the season. But I am starting to wonder if I really want to see that again. Calvillo isn't at that Buck Pierce, "please stop playing level" but he's getting there.
The thing about football is rarely do we get to witness a gradual decline in play. The physical nature of the game dictates that one day you are top and the next your fighting to stay on the field. Football players rarely get the option to age gracefully.
They are allowed a relatively short period of glory only to be shuffled out of the league before they know it while the fans have already moved on to the next star. I hated seeing Calvillo on the bench.
Not just because I was concerned about his health but also because of the realization that very soon I will never again get to see him fool a cornerback, fluster a defensive end or lead his team on yet another complicated touchdown drive.
On the other end of the spectrum is Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Rob Bagg. He's the exact opposite of Calvillo. His career has been drenched by injury the past couple of seasons, as he's gone from being a part of the "Canadian Air Force" to being outside of the spotlight, quietly rehabbing his left knee.
I'm betting his injury, on a routine play no less, made you sick to your stomach the moment it happened. Bagg is a guy that we all root for. He missed the entire 2011 season and most of 2012 with a torn ACL injury to his left knee. 2013 was supposed to be a new chapter for Bagg.
He had a great game against Hamilton for 125 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4. I even cheered (sort of) when he scored against my Argonauts in Week 3. So watching him in tears walking off the field after re-injuring that same knee while blocking down field was just so emotionally jarring to witness.
This was the equivalent of watching David injure himself in his sling shot arm right before he took on Goliath.
This injury was even more chilling because of Nik Lewis' tweet soon after the incident:
4 someone to go thru what Rob Bagg has been thru and to keep coming back is amazing. #GreatTalent. PRAYERS GOING OUT 4 U.— Nik Lewis (@nikel18) August 17, 2013
Foreshadowing alert, more on that later.
Clearly Bagg was a guy that was well liked throughout the league. Bagg's 2013 season had all the makings of one of those feel good comeback stories where the protagonist overcomes major obstacles to once again succeed. In Hollywood it always works out; usually with several montage scenes, some uplifting music and Mark Wahlberg topless.
|Tough blow for Lewis|
But in real life, in the harsh reality that is football the final act is rarely as uplifting. Seeing him limp off the field, just like with Calvillo, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the last time we would see Bagg catching passes. The difference is that Calvillo has reached the pinnacle of his career arch; Bagg was just starting his journey back.
Let's conclude this trilogy of woe with the injury that will have the greatest impact in regards to playoff posturing, Lewis' broken fibula.
The conventional wisdom is that a quarterback injury is more devastating to a team than any other position. And 99.9 per cent of the time I would agree. But let's face it, even with Calvillo in the lineup the Alouettes offence has fluctuated from inconsistent to far less so.
We saw that on Saturday with the team unable to execute in the red zone. Calgary though, was starting to look like the best team in the West. A Grey Cup finalist last season they had dominated the BC Lions to start the season and had knocked off the previously unbeaten Roughriders.
Jon Cornish is the best player on Calgary's offence but when the Stampeders need a big play the first option is usually Lewis. That's the football side to this injury. Then their is the emotional aspect.
Calvillo's injury felt predictable, Bagg's was tragic. Lewis' injury left me feeling confused and with a profound sense of loss. How the heck could Nik Lewis get hurt? This guy is a machine, he never gets injured.
He takes more abuse than any receiver in the league, he delivers more punishment than any wide receiver in the league, no way could anyone hurt him. But there he was being helped off the field. Seeing him on the golf cart, in obvious pain, doing everything he could to keep himself together was jarring for any football fan.
I'll be honest the entire league suffers when Lewis is not on the field. I have written about him more than just about any other player, and there is a reason why.
Because he dominates in such a unique way. Receivers are not supposed to be categorized as "bowling balls", that is a term we save for fullbacks, yet that is the best analogy I could think of whenever describing the havoc he would wreck on opposing secondaries.
I think Chad Owens' tweet sums up best what most of us are thinking about this injury:
Lord please be w @nikel18 right now! Man! Get well soon bro! Praying for you!— Chad Owens (@ChadOwens2) August 18, 2013
Ugh. It was such a lousy weekend for the league in regards to players going down I didn't even have time to mention Kyries Hebert, Brandon London or Josh Bourke who all suffered significant injuries as well.
Now I don't want to finish this column on a down note so I'll conclude on a not so quick note about Henry Burris. Right now there is no more consistent fantasy quarterback in the league than Burris.
Burris is a sure bet for a 300-yard passing game. He has four through seven games including his 333-yard passing outing on Friday. What makes his production more remarkable is the lack of that legitimate #1 target. Andy Fantuz should be that guy but injuries has limited to him throughout the season. Consider through seven games Hamilton has had five different receivers lead the team in yardage.
It's a testament to Kent Austin's schemes and Burris' ability that he can put up these numbers. Now I could mention that a lack of running game could have something to do with it as well, but I shall not.
After so much depressing news I wanted to leave you on a high note. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go back and watch the Taj Smith touchdown catch or Charleston Hughes picking off Travis Lulay, I just need to cleanse the images of fallen football stars with some of the great moments from this past weekend. Here's hoping for a healthier Week Nine.
Matthew Cauz is the Weekend Host for 'GAME DAY' on TSN 1050 Radio. Previously, he was a producer and football analyst for SUN TV where he appeared regularly on the “Casino Rama Grill Room” and he spent seven years working for TSN's “Off The Record”. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mcauz56.