REGINA -- Brendan Taman wore a slightly constipated look most of the weekend, but late Sunday he was one of the most relaxed people in the nation, having lifted 26 years of frustration off his shoulders.
Taman's Saskatchewan Roughriders turned the 101st Grey Cup into their coronation, their party and their rumpled GM's redemption.
A 45-23 pasting of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats sent a province draped in green into bedlam and jubilation. At the fringe of the celebration, but at the heart of the construction of this team, stood a smiling Taman.
"Amazing. Real gratifying and a relief. I've waited a long time and it feels great," said Taman, the remains of a sideline soaking still dripping from his hair and clothes. "It's sort of like a dream. You never feel relaxed in a game like this and I was real nervous coming in. Losing would have been a pretty big pill to swallow for a lot of people. I wanted to win but I didn't want to lose, too. If you can understand that. They made that push in the third quarter and I was still nervous. For three quarters, I was scared crapless. But now... wow."
Four times Taman had come to this game and four times he'd left a loser. Not this night. The GM who was chased out of Winnipeg after spending 10 years with the Bombers won it. The man who was discredited by Bombers coach Mike Kelly and taunted with sneers about his scouting work being second-rate and recorded on "napkins," is a champion today.
'It's sort of like a dream. You never feel relaxed in a game like this and I was real nervous coming in'
Taman schemed and traded and drafted and built this team to win on this day. And they did. In professional sports, the work is one thing and the results another. Taman now has the glory to go with the grinding.
Hiring head coach Corey Chamblin. Rebuilding his defensive secondary. Stealing free agent offensive guard Brendon LaBatte. Drafting tackle Ben Heenan. Dealing for veteran receiver Geroy Simon. Taman put his fingerprints all over this Riders team and by late Sunday night he finally put his hands on the Grey Cup.
The Riders were absolutely dominant, turning their hometown advantage into a thorough thumping of the Tiger-Cats. The Riders owned the line of scrimmage, controlled time of possession and won the special teams battle.
Nothing went Hamilton's way. Riders quarterback Darian Durant put the ball on the field three times in the first half and lost just one of the fumbles. The Ticats realized no points as a result of those miscues and one of Durant's fumbles actually turned into a 42-yard gain for teammate Kory Sheets.
The story on the field boiled down to the work of Sheets and his offensive line. The Riders running back broke a 57-year-old record, romping for 197 yards to set a Grey Cup mark.
LaBatte, who Taman drafted when he was in Winnipeg and then lifted from under the nose of sleepy Bomber GM Joe Mack, led the way up front.
"This is incredible. We worked together for 23 weeks and kept chipping away. This is a great bunch of guys and a great football team," said LaBatte.
Taman, despite having the acumen to uncover talents such as LaBatte, Doug Brown, Khari Jones, Simon, Charles Roberts, Chamblin and Arland Bruce over the years, had previously been unable to work his way into the club of championship GMs.
Make room Wally Buono, Jim Popp, Jim Barker, Jon Hufnagel et al. There is a new man with a ring on his hand.
"That doesn't sound right," said Taman, asked what it was like be mentioned in the same sentence as such CFL luminaries. "But I guess it's a reality. It's an amazing feeling to do it here. Those names you mention, well, I guess I have a few days to enjoy it and then I have to get back to work."
Twenty-six years in the league and a man who got his start at the bottom of the food chain as a practise gopher for the Riders, Taman has paid his dues and dealt with his share of heartache.
"It's hard when you lose. But so gratifying to win," said Taman. "I have so many people to thank. I texted my parents and just said, 'we did it.' I can't name all the people who have helped me and given me a chance. People like Lyle (Bauer) in Winnipeg. He believed in me and gave me a chance to be a GM."
The 46-year-old Saskatoon native will take a ride in a parade this week and soon be handed a healthy contract extension by Riders GM Jim Hopson. The days of questioning Taman and his work are over. Respect is his.
Taman spotted Jones as a backup quarterback when the two were with the B.C. Lions and a few years later traded to bring him to Winnipeg.
"This is destiny for us. I was with Brendan in B.C. and Winnipeg. He took a chance on me. I told him we would one day win together and I'm so thrilled for him," said Jones, openly weeping in the arms of his wife Justine following the game.
Taman was handed a grenade when the Riders were awarded the rights to host this Grey Cup and nothing but a win on Sunday would put the pin back in.
"It was a lot of hard work and I won't say there wasn't a lot of pressure," said Taman, smiling up at a wall of green-clad fans singing the Riders fight song. "To do it here, like this, I won't ever forget it and I don't think they will either."
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