Argos Express finds right track

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

The Argonauts arrived back home yesterday the way champions used to and, for my money, still should.

Not in 50 separate cabs. Not in the plush insulation of a private jet.

No, they arrived by train.

Mark it down. The Argos Express arrived home at about 5:10 p.m., bearing the same number of players as flew out Thursday. But now, everyone is on board.

Finally, without eliciting giggles, the Argos were able to say they knew where they were going all along.

"Not too many other people believed it, but our core group, our family, we believed it," linebacker Michael Fletcher said.

What better way to cap the experience than a long, satisfying ride back home?

"This was better than any plane ride," middle linebacker Mike O'Shea said. "Unless you've played a team sport, you can't imagine what it means to be involved with so many people working for the same thing. I mean, movies don't use casts this big because you couldn't make it happen. That's what it's like playing on a team like this."

So many disparate personalities on such a rollicking train.

The Argos Express was 15 cars long and it brought the silver cup that bore countless fingerprints.

The Argos Express doesn't usually run on time and you're never quite sure what track the thing is on. That the team came home from Ottawa on Via Rail, a nationally beloved but wildly erratic carrier, somehow fit perfectly.

"It was fantastic," kicker Noel Prefontaine said. "Four and half more hours to spend with family."

The Argos gave up a near record 196 rushing yards on the ground in the Grey Cup game against the B.C. Lions, shattering the tenet, as they have all year, that great defences stop the run.

"Yards, man," Fletcher said. "We gave up yards, we didn't give up points.That's the mark of a championship defence. You may move the ball on us, but when you get close to the end zone, we keep you out."

The train runs on 41-year-old grandfather Damon Allen and, as such, it's powered not by diesel but by a player whose lineage traces back to the steam era.

Allen held up the Cup and the passersby and commuters and hundreds of people who made the trip to Ottawa cheered.

"If feels great," he said. "To win it in the best city in Canada is wonderful. There has been talk that Toronto is a tough city to play in, that the people are tough on you, but my experience here has been wonderful."

They run on an old-school defence and an aged secondary.

But the Argos Express is durable. It doesn't break down and it operates regardless of conditions.

It is run by the irrepressible Pinball Clemons who beat the don of CFL coaches, Don Matthews, one week and then the equally well-regarded Wally Buono the next. Along the way he has gone from star, to local -- and then national -- treasure.

"I am captivated by this country," Clemons said, "and I have been from the first day I came. To play the way you should play in the biggest sporting event in the country, it's a great, great feeling."

The Love Train came home last night. Everywhere you looked, there were people who wanted on. Nobody wanted to go home.


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