VANCOUVER -- On. Off.
Can the B.C. Lions turn it on again?
Will the Leos find the key to restarting the engine which shut down after the Edmonton Eskimos stopped their winning streak? Can Wally Buono's team go back to being the team which started the season at 11-0 after losing six of their last seven?
Can you be in denial about what happened if you're going to return to being a team which can't be denied?
Will the arrival of sports psychologist Dr. Frank Lodato on the scene solve the Lions' mental mess or simply further enforce the idea by his mere presence that there is something wrong under their helmets?
Few teams have provided such a study going into the get-to-the-Grey-Cup-game as the Lions going into the one which would get them to their own Grey Cup.
Normally in this situation the talk is about the pressure which builds on the home team in the Grey Cup host city. But the Lions skid has managed to preempt almost all of that.
Quarterback Dave Dickenson says maybe the skid provides a positive that way.
"It took the pressure off us. No one thinks we're the favorite anymore.''
Actually, B.C. is a 3 1/2-point favorite.
LACK OF CHATTER
You can partially, perhaps, blame the Eskimos for the lack of chatter about the pressure. If the Eskimos hadn't made it to their own Grey Cup game in 2002, maybe that angle would have been a much bigger focus despite the skid.
In 2000 Edmonton beat first place Calgary to end up in the Calgary Grey Cup. In 1999 Calgary beat first place B.C. to get into the game here. In 1997 Saskatchewan beat first place Edmonton to make it into the Edmonton Grey Cup. In 1987 Edmonton beat first place B.C. to make the return trip to the Grey Cup here the following week ...
Talk like that could have been compounded by 'The Curse' except the last three teams - the Eskimos in 2002 and 2003 and the Lions in 2004 - finished first in the West and won the final. Only three of the previous 15 first place teams had managed to win this game!
But those are not the storylines here. And those are not the questions Buono and the Lions are getting asked over and over and over again. It's all about the skid and trying to turn this team which dominated the 2005 season around at the last possible moment.
Back when that 11-0 B.C. bunch came to Commonwealth Stadium, the theory was the big bonus of an Eskimo win would be that the Lions would have nothing to play for the rest of the way. First place had already been conceded to them.
"When we lost the first game to the Eskimos to stop the streak it did take the air out of the balloon,'' said Buono. "But you look at the games that followed and our quarterbacking was unstable, our secondary was unstable and in our last four games it went down to the last drive of the game.
"When we were on the 11-0 run, a lot of people were saying we were lucky. Maybe we were. But nobody is now saying in the last few games we were unlucky.''
'WE WEREN'T GETTING THE BREAKS'
Veteran offensive lineman Angus Reid said that's true. "In the second half we weren't getting the breaks we were getting in the first half. They didn't go out way.
"It hasn't been physical. It's been mental. We have to go out there and do the things we were doing to win. Instead of hoping to win, we have to get the mindset back.''
Thus the appearance of 78-year-old psychologist Lodato from West Palm Beach, Florida, who once wrote a book on the 1972 Miami Dolphins after working with the NFL team through it's undefeated season.
"I think they're back to where they were,'' the good doctor, who goes back with Buono to his playing days in Montreal, declared.
Of course, that's the idea, isn't it?
More than the Lions need to work on Xs and Os to beat the Eskimos, they need to sell themselves that they're back on track.
Every day here, Buono updates the quote.
"We're a better team than we were on (whatever day) last week,'' he says of being benefactors of having the bye week thanks to the Eskimos blowing the last regular season game in Calgary to drop to third.
The air may have come out of the balloon but Buono says he's convinced "it's blown up'' now.
"We're fresher, we're healed and we're better prepared mentally to play in and win the game.''