Former Riders share bond

EARL MCRAE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

As they do at noon on the first Tuesday of every month they've come to this temple of the sporting culture on Clyde Ave., Local Heroes, the eatery owned by Mark Kosmos and, as always, the years fade from their faces, they're again the boys of the game they loved when it ruled the city and they walked as kings among its adoring people.

It is impossible for outsiders to truly understand the special camaraderie that will never die, when --as these aging men sit eating, talking, laughing, teasing, remembering -- Ted is Teddy, Bob is Bobby, Dan is Danny, Joe is "The Fox," Kosmos is Kos, Dave is Davey.

Never should it be forgotten what they meant to this city. They are living heritage sentinels of a long-gone football team in the years when it was one of pride, glory, Grey Cup victories, all-star awards, and mattered to our everyday lives.

It is important for you to know that these men still exist in the vacuum of generational forgottenness, these soldiers of yesteryear, these members of the CFL Alumni, Ottawa, who fought in the red, the white, the black of the Ottawa Rough Riders.

38 ACTIVE MEMBERS

"We have about 38 active alumni members, but there are many more out there who played for the team, some of them we've not been able to find, others who are around and we'd welcome," says treasurer Ted Smale, offensive end and defensive back with the Riders from 1956-62. "They can e-mail me for information." (Smale@magma.ca).

Membership is $25 a year to cover costs such as a regular newsletter of events, one upcoming being the annual golf tournament Friday, July 31 at Highlands.

"Even if they played for a CFL team other than Ottawa, but live in the area, they can still join because we're the Ottawa branch of the CFL Alumni. Sportswriters can join too."

But at Local Heroes this day, they're all ex-Rough Riders: Bob McKeown (centre, 1971-75). Dave Thelen (fullback, 1958-64). Whit Tucker (wide receiver, 1962-70). Joe Poirier (defensive back, 1959-70). Merv Collins (guard, 1956-65). Gilles Archambault (offensive tackle, 1957-63). Dan Dever (linebacker, 1967-74). Gary Schreider (halfback/ kicker, 1956-64). Alex Saunders (centre, 1948-49). Moe Levesque (defensive tackle, 1967). Mark Kosmos (linebacker, 1970-77).

And Rudy Gittens (former team physician). Gord Bunke (former team marketing manager/communications director). Jim McAuley (Ottawa sports historian).

Bob McKeown, he tells of the time he got into a fist fight with teammate Tom Laputka, built like Adonis, and who outweighed him considerably. "Yeah, but you didn't back down, Bobby, you didn't back down," says Dever.

ONLY FIGHT

Smale tells of his one and only fight: "I get tackled and Hamilton's Ralph Goldston kicks me in the balls. I jump up to punch him when Hardeman Cureton on our team steps in to stop me so I won't get thrown out, and my swinging punch hits Hardeman."

Kosmos tells of the time he was having the performance of his life in Calgary, but so was Stampeders running back Larry Cates, renowned for his incessant trash talk. "Larry was going at me that there was no way I could tackle him. I told him to bring it on, baby. He's having a hell of a game, running wild, and all of a sudden, the first time in the game, he's coming my way.

"I'm thinking 'Oh no.' I managed to get an arm out as he was running by, grabbed a piece of his thigh pad with my fingers, and brought him down. He says, 'You can't tackle me, Kosmos.I says, 'Oh yeah? How'd you get on the ground?,' Kosmos laughs. "Larry lives in Ottawa. When we see each other, we still talk about it. He still claims I didn't tackle him."

From the kings of once-upon-a-time, the memories and laughter flow.


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