July 9, 2019

O’leary: All The Stamps Do Is Win, No Matter What

Calgary Stampeders running back Ka'Deem Carey (35), left, celebrates a touchdown with teammate Markeith Ambles (17) during first half CFL action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, in Regina on Saturday, July 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith

T-Pain and DJ Khaled sat in a recording studio in 2010, trying to make some music.

The problem, according to Khaled, the rapper and producer, was that his singer was preoccupied.

During an interview with Genius in March 2019, T-Pain was shown a clip of Khaled telling a story of how the studio was full of people and that T-Pain wanted to watch cartoons. T-Pain would later add that there was a lot of lobster served up in the room, which added to the distractions.

Khaled eventually cleared the room to try to kickstart the song.

“We’ve got to win. I’ve got to turn my album in. We’ve got to win, man. We’ve got to win.”

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T-Pain listened to the music Khaled had put together and started adding individual words. Up! Building. Yeah. He was piecing together a skeleton of what would become this generation’s in-arena victory celebration and a pop culture fixture for years to come.

The process may have been unconventional, but when talented people that know what they’re doing are working together, we should just let them work and give them the benefit of the doubt.

John Hufnagel and Dave Dickenson may not have the same outward swag of T-Pain and DJ Khaled, but they’ve built plenty of opportunities for the Calgary Stampeders to blast that song through the speakers at McMahon Stadium (last we checked, for the record, the Stamps were more of a Mo Bamba team).

Despite all of their success over the last decade, it’s almost become an annual tradition to spend the CFL off-season doubting that Huf and Dickenson will be able to continue to do what they did the year before (and the year before that and the year before that, etc.).

That gives way to an annual July/August tradition of looking at the Stamps record and the adjustments that they’ve made and realizing that maybe that big sky above the team isn’t falling on them, afterall. Going on a month into the 2019 season — admittedly it’s still early days — the Stamps are 2-1 and seem to be in position to clear some of their biggest off-season hurdles yet.

The defending Grey Cup champs let one get away in their season-opener against Ottawa but came back with a theft of their own, erasing a BC 11-point lead for a win a week ago. Then they went on the road and thumped Saskatchewan this past weekend. It’s a modest two-game win streak, but the Stamps are showing some of the familiar signs of an organization that always has the answers to the offseason questions that hover over them.

They lost Alex Singleton, Jameer Thurman and Marken Michel to the NFL. They lost Ja’Gared Davis, Lamar Durant, Ciante Evans and Micah Johnson to rival CFL teams in free agency. Then in the late stages of their epic comeback against the Lions, they lost Bo Levi Mitchell to a pectoral injury.


With Mitchell on the six-game injured list, the team turned to backup QB Nick Arbuckle. Heading into Saturday’s game in Saskatchewan — arguably the toughest for a quarterback to get his first-ever CFL start — Arbuckle had just 233 career yards in seven games (six in 2018, one in 2019). With Mitchell offering advice from the sideline, Arbuckle did the most Stamps thing possible and looked like a seasoned veteran in his debut as a starter, making 19-22 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Some adversity undoubtedly awaits Arbuckle in the coming weeks. If he starts the next five games he’ll get a tour of the East: Hamilton (2-1), Toronto (0-3), Ottawa (2-1) and Montreal (1-2) and a date against 3-0 Winnipeg. As a team, though, the Stamps seem to be trending toward the good things they’ve done year-in and year-out. Their 101 points for and 74 against are both second-best in the league.

Singleton’s replacement, Cory Greenwood, leads the league in tackles with 25. Cornerback Tre Roberson continues to grow into one of the top defensive players in the league and is in front of everyone with five interceptions. He scored his first touchdown of the season on Saturday, taking a Cody Fajardo pass and dancing into the end zone. The sacks aren’t there like they have been in the past and the offensive numbers, be it passing, receiving or rushing yards don’t have a big Calgary presence in the top-10, but the one thing that the Stampeders know — whoever they have playing on the field — is winning. Early in the season, it seems like the Stamps are poised to continue to do what they do best.