Peril started with perfection

JIM TAYLOR -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

You want to know when the B.C. Lions' troubles really began? The first time someone in the media raised the ludicrous possibility of an undefeated season.

The players insisted they weren't giving it a thought. But as the wins piled up, it was like trying not to think about elephants ... elephants ... elephants. Or, once it was pointed out, looking at the Olympic Games rings logo without thinking about Mickey and Minnie Mouse. (You hadn't noticed? You will now).

Never mind that they had every break in the book, or that the 11-0 start could easily have been 8-3. The more they won, the more they heard about the '48 Calgary Stampeders, the only CFL team ever to post a perfect regular season. What no one mentioned was that in '48 the season was 12 games long, not 18, there was no interlocking schedule, and only three teams in the west. The mighty Stamps beat lousy Winnipeg and Saskatchewan teams six times each, and there was your perfect season.

Will it happen again? Never. But there were the Lions, cruising along virtually injury free, getting almost every break, and winning as though perfection was pre-ordained. The crowds grew, the city came alive, and the only thing left to be decided was who the Lions would meet in the Grey Cup game. How easy, then, to believe themselves better than they were.

Turns out, there was one other thing about the Grey Cup game: Getting into it. Which now seems problematic.

Forget that for a moment. Consider the regular season. Had someone told you in pre-season that the Lions would go 12-6, finish first and play the western final at home, would you have settled for that? Of course. It's not the 12-6 that has everyone upset, it's the manner in which it was compiled: Soaring aerial opening and a kamikaze finish. Better they'd lost a couple early, forcing a closer look at their deficiencies as the season became a dogfight.

Yet...

They're in the division final with two weeks to make repairs. Seven other teams cannot make that statement.

All right, there's a quarterback controversy. Excuse me for not falling into a swoon over choosing between two first-stringers. Perhaps it comes of remembering all the years when the controversy was that they didn't have one, and the choice was the evil of two lessers.

Besides, this choice is obvious. If Dave Dickenson is healthy, he starts and stays in as long as he remains conscious. The team has to know that's the way it will be, and get on the bus or under it.

Why Dickenson over Casey Printers? Because in playoffs, when opponents have a season of tapes to study, experience beats ad-lib brilliance. Because Dickenson, despite the pounding and the sometimes suicidal impulse to hold the ball as though his right hand is Velcro, will take what the defence gives him and beat them to death with it. Because he has just set an all-time passing efficiency record. Because, had positions been reversed and HE'D been told at halftime he was being benched, I doubt he'd have sulked outside the dressing-room door.

Put it to bed, Wally. You've got bigger problems than that.


Videos

Photos