October is supposed to be the beginning of the NHL season (it actually starts next week technically, sorry if I put anyone on a ledge with that reminder) to add to an already packed month of sports in what is one of the busiest times of the sports schedule.
NBA training camps started on Monday, the NFL and American college football are in full gear and in Canada the CFL is in a full fledged playoff race, and of course the MLB playoffs are an early October staple. So after a few weeks hiatus it is time top turn on the clock and get into Ruttig’s Rants: Rapid Fire Edition.
On Saturday I took the benefit of not having anything to cover at night and having Rider tickets and headed to Taylor Field for what was a pivotal game for the Riders as they hosted the Western Division Lions. The Riders had early season success against B.C. at Taylor Field and after a win against Calgary had a chance to build some momentum going into the regular season’s final month.
The Riders took advantage of great pass coverage on defense and a legendary performance from Weston Dressler which included two second half touchdowns as well as a third one called back in what was one of the best Rider receiving performances in the past two seasons.
Of course things got interesting as they always do and after what seemed like a game winning touchdown followed by some “B.C. Sucks” chants turned into a six point Rider lead with ample time for Travis Lulay, the Riders needed their defense to step up one more time. They did just that and secured the win in what was a turning point for the Riders season and helped them out massively in gaining confidence heading into the standings and playoff race in October.
After a hot start to the season followed by some roadblocks, it is hard to tell if this Rider team has the magic of all the great Rider teams of the 00’s that always made things interesting and were constantly knocking on the door to crash the Grey Cup or Western Division Finals party. One thing is for sure though, these Riders have the fight and the confidence that last year’s rendition sorely lacked.
As for the American league, the NFL hosted Week Four action as teams playoff pictures continue to take shape. The Houston Texans survived undefeated after a dominant performance against the Titans, the New York Jets look like they might not make the playoffs this season as they received a thrashing at the hands of NFC contenders San Francisco.
The defending champion Giants did not fare much better as a missed last second field goal by Lawrence Tynes gave them a second loss of the season on the road to NFC East rivals Philadelphia. Monday Night Football saw the Chicago Bears make a statement to a tight NFC North that includes hot starts from the Vikings, Packers, and Lions with a defensive clinic against the Cowboys.
After four weeks the NFL looks as even as ever and with a return to the real referees it is nice to see a return to a product that never fails to disappoint.
While the NFL season heats up, it was time for the NBA to finally lace up the sneakers and kick off their training camps in anticipation for the beginning of the season. New faces are all over this season as Dwight Howard and Steve Nash head to Los Angeles to build a superteam to rival the Miami Heat, who also added a star of their own in all-time 3 point leader Ray Allen in the offseason.
However, it is the team Nash spurned that intrigues me the most as Canada’s, and my team, the Toronto Raptors opened their training camp with high hopes and saying all the right things.
They have a new point guard and shooting guard in Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields and a team that is dead set on making the playoffs, not just improving. With one of the league’s best defenses last season and a healthy Andrea Bargnani looking for an 82 game season this year, the Raptors may just be able to get back on the post-Chris Bosh playoff schedule early than expected.
Speaking of playoffs it is October which means it is time for the MLB playoffs. With two one game playoffs to determine the Wild Card places in this year’s playoffs it is hard to give a full comprehensive preview of the series which start on the weekend. However it will be exciting to see teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals play must win baseball for the first time in years as they both are guaranteed a role in October.
The Nationals have already shut down pitching prodigy Stephen Strasburg for the year to preserve is arm in a controversial decision that has severely hurt the Nationals odds as favorites to win the NL pennant which will serve die hard former Expos fans just fine as the sting of them winning a World Series might just be too much for some Canadians to bear.
At the time of writing the evil empire that is the New York Yankees are in a battle for first place in the AL East with the Orioles to avoid the one game Wild Card playoff and will once again be expecting a return to the World Series. With potential one of the best lineups from 1-9 and clutch role players like Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki hungry for their first ever World Series ring.
They look like they might just anger the baseball world with another run at the title. However the Texas Rangers do have bats of their own as well as the last two American League pennants and will want to take the monkey off their back and prove that the third time is the charm this postseason.
The team that I will be pulling for in the play in game and the playoffs will be the Atlanta Braves and Chipper Jones. Jones has been one of the National League’s best players for the better part of two decades and is one of the most stand up guys in baseball. The Braves have had attendance issues for years now, but Turner Field was sold out for every single one of the last series of the regular season and Jones received a standing ovation on numerous occasions.
The Braves might not even make it into the real deal after the Wild Card game, but they will be the team to watch as a true legend says goodbye to the game in the only way that fits. In a Braves uniform in October.