The few, the proud

Eskimo All-Star selections Malcolm Frank, left, Sean Fleming and Jason Tucker. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl...

Eskimo All-Star selections Malcolm Frank, left, Sean Fleming and Jason Tucker. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

You've heard of the three-star selection?

This isn't the same thing.

A three-star selection in the CFL West could be considered an insult. No other team had fewer than the Eskimos.

Put that together with no CFL Awards finalists, and some might suggest you have one seriously snubbed football team.

"I guess we'll just have to go win the Grey Cup with our three all-stars," said receiver Ed Hervey.

"Didn't we just finish in second place?" asked head coach Tom Higgins. "You'd think we'd have more than three when there are 26 or 27 spots."

B.C. placed eight players on the team, Saskatchewan six, Winnipeg five and Calgary four.

Higgins is not going to encourage his players to take their focus off Sunday's CFL West semi-final by getting their shorts in a knot because they only have three all-stars.

"I hope they don't need something like this to motivate them. I'm very happy for the three players selected. All that I'll remind those who weren't selected is that nobody votes on who wins or loses this football game," he said.

ONLY IN THE CFL

Only the CFL would choose to release results of voting on the same day as the U.S. presidential election, at about the time the polls were closing, without giving a heads-up to team P.R. directors.

There is more to debate on the election front this morning than why only three Edmonton players made the CFL West All-Star team - especially in a year when they were 9-9 and looking at missing the playoffs for the first time in 33 years at the time of voting.

And technically, the total is four. Sean Fleming made it as both kicker and punter. Receiver Jason Tucker and cornerback Malcolm Frank are the team's other West All-Stars.

"I thought there were a lot of years I should have been an all-star but I think a lot of people go by interceptions," said Frank.

"Last year I had three and I wasn't an all-star. This year I had seven, including five I ran back for touchdowns, and I am an all-star. Last year I didn't give up a touchdown in the regular season. This year I've given up at least three.

"But I made the big play this year. I think this might be the first time a short-side cornerback has ever led the league in interceptions. Whatever, I'm happy. I'm finally an all-star. I always wanted to be named an all-star in this league."

Tucker, the MVP of last year's Grey Cup game, was a CFL All-Star in 2002 and figures he'll be one again.

"I had a bigger season this year," he said of finishing second in the league to Geroy Simon of the B.C. Lions with 1,632 yards on only 67 receptions - an average of 24.4 yards per catch (7.4 more than Simon's 103 passes for 1,750 yards).

Fleming won the scoring championship for the first time in his career with 180 points. He made 37 of 47 field goals to lead the league in percentage at 78.7.

"Obviously I'm happy about it," said Fleming. "I started the season slow, but I finished strong. I had a solid year punting. I'm never going to lead the league in punting because of what I'm asked to do - punting to position and out of bounds.

"I don't place a lot of stock in the scoring championship. I've scored more before than I did this year. But I never led the league until this year. It's more important to me to lead the league in field-goal percentage.

"Winning the scoring title doesn't mean you have had a great year."

HE'S NOT BOTHERED

Fleming isn't bothered by the Eskimos' lack of all-stars.

"I don't view it as a big negative. We have a lot of players that other players look to as all-stars. I think other players view all our receivers, for example, as all-stars."

I wouldn't use this year as an example for all-stars or award nominations. Edmonton had a so-so season because a lot of Eskimos had so-so seasons.

On a bigger picture, maybe there's something here to chew on.

Having a list of CFL All-Stars you can count on one hand without using the thumb is becoming normal around here.

Last year and in 2001 there were four. In 2000 there were two. And in 1999 and 1998 there was one.

Whatever you make of the all-star selections, it's not a shock that there will be no Eskimos in tuxedos at the CFL Awards during Grey Cup week.

That's been the case a lot lately.

The last time the Eskimos had an award winner:

- Most outstanding - Tracy Ham, 1989.

- Top Canadian - Leroy Blugh, 1996.

- Defensive player - Elfrid Payton, 2002.

- Offensive lineman - Rod Connop, 1989.

- Top rookie - Shalon Baker, 1995.

Maybe it's becoming a fair question.

Why don't the stars come out in Edmonton, anymore?


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