Showdown stirs emotion

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Circling the field shaking hands and embracing members of both teams following Saturday's west final win, the tears in Scott Ackles' eyes could easily have been mistaken for joy.

But while the thoughts of his players, coaches and colleagues revolved around a trip to Montreal for the Grey Cup, the first-year Stamps president could only think of his father, Bobby.

With his club having beaten a B.C. Lions team that meant so much to his father over 50 years when he was everything from water boy to president, Scott thought of the one handshake that would've meant the most -- from president to president, father to son.

"That would've been pretty cool ..." said Ackles yesterday, unable to fight back the tears he's shed so often since a July 6 heart attack took his father at age 69 and sent the CFL into mourning.

"One of the last times we spoke was when we beat the Lions June 26. He called about two hours after the game to congratulate me, and when I was driving home last night, it would have been nice to get a phone call."

Again, more tears. Far too emotional to share his thoughts immediately following Saturday's 22-18 win, Ackles was happy to honour the memory of his hero yesterday in an impromptu interview conducted in the team's laundry room, of all places.

"Funny we're standing here, because when I was a kid, dad would have the laundry basket here and I'd jump in and he'd pour all the warm socks and jocks on top of me right out of the dryer," said Ackles, offering a glimpse into the type of memories a lifetime alongside his father provided.

"This is overwhelming, but at the same time, it's an empty feeling -- only because of my father. It's not about me. It's about him."

Grabbing a Gatorade towel to dry his eyes, Ackles struggled to continue.

"It's tough for anybody to lose a parent, I'm sure, but he was such an icon in the sport and so respected ... it generated so much media attention, the outpouring of support from everybody has been overwhelming for a long time," said Ackles whose nickname in high school was 'Son of Bob.'

"There's an excerpt in his book The Water Boy where he talks about how there's nothing like walking onto a football field where it's fresh-cut grass and the sun is shining. As much as I don't want to be emotional in front of other people, I saw the field when I got here yesterday morning, and I just started walking on it. I thought at that moment how much I wished he was here. After that, I had to go away for an hour because there was a lot of stuff you can't turn off."

And while he'd told his grieving mother months ago fate would see the Stamps face the Lions in the playoffs, he still could never have prepared for the emotion of it all.

On a night when his father was shown on the Jumbotron amongst all the other luminaries the league lost this year and against a team wearing tributes to his dad, he dealt with a head-swelling mixture of pride, sadness, excitement and loneliness. And when the final gun sounded, he was sought out by several Lions players feeling his pain.

"That means a lot because I spent a lot of time with those guys, and at the end of the day, we're all human beings and we have relationships ... I thought it was first class," said the former Lions VP. "(Coach) Mark Washington said, 'Your dad would have been proud' and that my father was looking down at me."

With his father credited with quickly turning around a struggling Lions franchise that went on to win the 2006 Grey Cup, Scott finds himself in charge of a Stamps squad on the verge of similar greatness.

"As hard as it is for me to talk about, I want to talk about it," said Ackles, an example of his father's brilliant legacy.

"It's just so overwhelming."

Something he'd likely say even if his father was here to share his accomplishment.


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