Hugh and cry

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

A Chicago grand jury indicts eight members of the Chicago White Sox on charges of fixing the 1919 World Series, known as the Black Sox Scandal. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey suspends the eight players.

As a rule, the boss of the local professional football team and the sports columnist who covers it don't use the same language.

Where the scribe would call Saturday's loss to Toronto a "stink bomb," Hugh Campbell would call it a "clunker."

In fact, that's exactly the word Campbell used for that debacle which ran off 41,113 fans from Commonwealth Stadium long before the final gun Saturday night.

"We had a clunker," said Campbell in that soft-spoken way of his.

"It was the biggest clunker at home in quite a few years ... "

Despite the choice of adjectives we're talking about the same game and the same squad. And as Campbell's club returns to work today after having two days to lick their wounds following the loss to Toronto, which dropped them back into a dogfight for playoff positions two points ahead of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, the CEO has a few observations about his football team.

From here, says Campbell, the Eskimos have to play with a little bit of fear.

'Play afraid, very afraid would be how the columnist would put it. Either way "It'll be interesting to see how we do in this situation. If we don't watch it here, we could be knocked clear out of the playoffs." Campbell didn't soft-soap something which hasn't happened here in 33 years.

NOT THE SAME TEAM

"Hamilton isn't the same team as last year. They're a tough team now. Montreal has only lost one game this year. Regina is a tough team again. Winnipeg really improved their team with the Joe Fleming trade," he said of Edmonton's four remaining games.

"At this point in the last couple of seasons we had our playoff position put away. All of a sudden our last four games have become critical games.

"We're where most teams are most years at this time of year," says the boss who looked like he was coaching the team on the sidelines in B.C. Place two weeks ago, even stepping on the field to argue with an official at one point, but who backed off to a less-visible vantage point the last game.

"One thing I will say and stand behind is that this team is not lazy. It's not that they're not working hard. They played hard five straight weeks and took a week off. And by that I don't mean they took a week off from playing hard. They just took a week off from a sense of urgency and played in that kind of a zone where everything happens to you instead of you making everything happen. It takes a group to reverse it. It's the psychology of sport."

The Eskimos are 1-5 against the three top teams in this league for a reason, he says.

"That's the level we've played at," he says. "When I say that, I must also say I'm happy with the way we've played against B.C., despite what our record may say. And I don't think we're at the point where teams are hoping to play us.

"But we are what we are. We're a team which can lose any given game and we're a team which can win any given game."

Campbell says now isn't a time to panic. But it is a time to maybe pull the fire alarm to get everybody's attention again.

"Everything is still in range. If we put the clunker behind us and go back to playing like we were playing, if the right guys come to the fore, if the guys capable of making the big plays make 'em ..."

Jason Tucker, the Eskimos Grey Cup MVP and top talent this season, turned turkey against Toronto, he admits. My adjective.

DROPPED PASSES

"I'm not down on him one bit," said Campbell. "But he dropped passes in a game when we had a lack of big plays."

Then there's Terry Vaughn who is suddenly under the microscope.

"Terry Vaughn still has a big role to play," said Campbell. "He hasn't been a prominent player this year but he still has leadership, still has the ability to be an inspiration."

Campbell admits Vaughn is getting to the age where you start to wonder, but believes top players who look after themselves last longer these days.

"We used to look at the age of 31 as being the 'drop off the cliff' age.

"We have two defensive backs you might say are too old. One of them is Malcolm Frank who is probably having the best year of his career."

Campbell says he knows the coaching staff is beating themselves up about the game.

"Everybody questions themselves after a clunker, after a game where you keep waiting for the spark. But I go further down the chain of command. I look at the players."

From quarterback down, nobody provided spark, nobody grabbed the game by the throat.

A breakdown in belief is one area of very real concern to Campbell as the Eskimos head East to Hamilton for the Hall of Fame Game and suddenly begin to play for their playoff lives.

"If everybody believes in the system ...

"It's one thing to play hard, but to play hard and not believe in where your teammate is supposed to be is something else again.

"My challenge to this team is to come back - every coach and every player - and concentrate on their own job first and depend on the other guy to do his job."


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