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Dirty Bird Blog: From Sherbrooke to Montreal
Posted By Clifford Pine On Jun 15 2012 @ 12:48 pm In Montreal Alouettes | 2 Comments
The 2012 CFL pre-season is officially underway as the Alouettes lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 22-10 yesterday at the lone pre-season game played at Percival Molson Stadium. A few stars got the chance to shine while others didn’t have the right mechanics. Some thoughts on those who stood out:
- Noel Devine: From day one of training camp, the word amongst insiders was “Keep an eye on this guy!” and sure enough, he delivered in an actual game-day setting. With 3 punt returns for 64 yards as well as 5 carries for 32 yards, he got to showcase the speed that made him a star at West Virginia University. The Als need a good return man and Devine could be the one.
- Josh Neiswander: Of the three quarterbacks who played yesterday, he was the only one to throw for a touchdown. Despite being picked off once, he showed steady poise and was able to march the team down the field on a number of occasions. With the departure of Ricky Santos, Neiswander is looking to cement himself as the 3rd QB on this team behind Anthony Calvillo & Adrian McPherson.
- Kyle Graves: Anyone who wanted to see a high profile Canadian QB play in the CFL got their wish last night, albeit as a punter. Graves handled punting duties when he was playing for Acadia and got some playing time yesterday in that capacity, giving the Alouettes another foot to allow Sean Whyte to focus more on field goals.
Now that the coaching staff has some film to work with, they will be taking the weekend to further evaluate who they have in camp and who will be among the cuts they need to make by Tuesday’s game versus the Argonauts.
Quickly becoming a personal tradition of mine, I attended the first day of Alouettes training camp in Sherbrooke. Normally, this day has gotten a ton of hype not just through the team, but all over the CFL at each team’s respective camps as a sort of unofficial start to the football season. But this year with the Als, it almost felt like an after-thought.
In years past, there were planned events tied in with the camp itself. But this year, barely any mention on the team’s web site other than where it would be located and that the public was welcome to attend. Contrast that with places like Winnipeg & Edmonton, whose opening day events were hyped with almost as much passion as a regular-season game.
To be fair, the inclement weather on the first day did the Als no favours at all. But surely some concessions could have been made to accommodate the fans that made the trek 2 hours from Montreal to see their players. I had gotten the initial impression that the team’s brass was not expecting any fans to show up at all. Which would really be a shame as training camp is not just an event for players, but for fans as well.
If camp was held in the main city like what other CFL teams do, would it have made a difference? Winnipeg & Edmonton drew huge crowds to their opening days and with the early exit of the Canadiens combined with the underwhelming appeal of the Impact, the Alouettes could have staked their claim for Montreal’s sports fix. Maybe even the team planning a day trip from Montreal to Sherbrooke for the fans would have been a step in the right direction.
The team wants to be free of distractions and that’s why they hold camp in a sleepy little college town versus the lurid appeals that Montreal offers. But why not do more to get the fans excited? If the team brass treats these events like after-thoughts, eventually so will the people whose disposable income they crave.
This weekend is the last weekend in Sherbrooke so if you haven’t yet checked out the goings-on of the Alouettes training camp, it starts bright and early Saturday at 7:50AM and Sunday at 8:30am.
Yesterday’s game was not televised and neither will Tuesday’s be. In fact, the only way you’d know what had happened was by attending the game or listening to it on the radio. Amazing that in 2012 with all the technology we have at our disposal, that no one from the league thought to set up a couple of cameras and do a live webcast of every single pre-season game.
TSN is broadcasting a few of these games, but Montreal was left off the list. Strange when you consider that last year every single pre-season game was shown on the network. As the league’s top broadcaster (and RDS as the sole French broadcaster for the Alouettes), you would think every market would be vital. But alas, the NBA Finals and PGA golf were a much more pressing matter to the folks at Bell Media.
By and large, pre-season games don’t matter much unless you’re on the field playing for a roster spot. So I understand not devoting 100% of one’s time & resources to it. But why not be innovative and build a small, established core audience by streaming all the pre-season games online? If no one wants to sponsor it, I’m sure the diehard CFL fans would gladly pay a small fee to watch the games at home on their computers/tablets/smartphones. Not to mention out-of-town fans who can’t see the games by simply visiting the stadium.
For a league that prides itself on being a fan friendly one (and it is, for all intents and purposes), this is an avenue that needs exploring.
The Alouettes are doing one thing right so far in 2012: a new fan club! One for younger fans aged 5-17 & for those 18+. Make sure you check it out at montrealalouettes.com 
As the season draws closer, I’ll be back into the swing of things, with a blog before and after each Alouettes games, with some extras thrown in. Be sure to follow me on Twitter  on game days for live tweets and other assorted news.
Until Tuesday, GO ALS GO!!!
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