Say it ain't so, Joe

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Maybe if Lonnie Glieberman promised to buy the entire team booze on the trip home. Maybe that would work.

It did the last time.

That was back in 1983. You have to go back that far to find the last Ottawa win in Commonwealth Stadium.

Ottawa has a 17-game losing streak here. But 22 years ago, when they were the Rough Riders, they came in here and won.

Actually won!

"We had a fullback by the name of Jim Reid back then and on the way off the plane he made an off-the-cuff remark to Don Holtby who was our GM," remembers defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall.

"We had to fly back to Ottawa on the red-eye right after the game. Reid said, 'If we win, will you buy the drinks on the way home?' Don, knowing the record of teams winning in Commonwealth Stadium, especially Ottawa teams, said, 'Sure, no problem.'

"Well, we won. And he was good for it. He bought the drinks all the way home.

"That's the only time in my playing career I beat Warren Moon. I didn't beat him in college or any game in pro, except that one."

You could make a case that Ottawa has never needed to beat the Eskimos this bad since then.

I mean, how would you like to be Joe Paopao?

RIDICULOUSLY LATE

Tonight he takes a 5-13 team he didn't even know if he was going to coach again until they dug up the Glieberguys to return as owners. This was a team which started planning for this season ridiculously late and with several player defections, including a couple of key ones to the Eskimos.

And tonight he takes the Renegades against a team which clobbered them 57-16 here last year.

Which is one thing. The rub is that tomorrow, the Glieberguys have decided to hold a one-day only, $99 season-ticket sale.

Say it ain't so, Joe. So far the Glieberguys have sold fewer than 5,000 season tickets - about 21,000 fewer than the Eskimos. You get the idea. If they lose like they did here last year ...

Paopao has been around the CFL 28 years. He's seen guys coach from the edge of a cliff before. Now he sees one in the mirror.

"I'm not sure there is such a thing as job security," he said. "I've seen guys get to the Grey Cup back-to-back and get a slow start the next year and be in hot water."

A dig at the Eskimos, who sent Tom Higgins down the road after he had a 0-3 start and failed to get to the Western Final last year?

"In this line of work, you have to win."

Coaching off the edge of the cliff is one thing. But Paopao, with a 5-13 team, a ridiculous late start and defections galore, was wearing handcuffs and wearing a blindfold even before they came out with the schedule and a killer first three games.

Away. Edmonton.

Home. Montreal.

Away. British Columbia.

"We need a fast start, absolutely."

GOOD LUCK

With those games? You know about Edmonton and Commonwealth Stadium. You know about Montreal, a team which usually wins its first six or seven every season. And if you don't know, since Ottawa returned to the CFL, they have yet to beat B.C. Good luck, Joe.

"I think the one-day $99 ticket is an outstanding idea," he says, avoiding the issue about the timing of it. "I'll be curious how Saturday turns out."

Might depend on how tonight turns out.

"We haven't done well," he said of Ottawa's three seasons back in the league. "We know there's wait-and-see. But we can't be worried about a ticket sale when we go out there at 7:05."

Just getting to this game has been an accomplishment for everybody involved on the football side.

"It's been a long road. In January, we couldn't see this day. We had to re-invent ourselves. Our coaches went five months with one weekend off."

It's hard to find positives.

"Our quarterback coach has returned for the second year in a row," he said. "Yahoo for me."

Paopao says nobody should feel sorry for him, though. "It's the job of a lifetime to be a head coach."

With this outfit?


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