Argos learn from mistakes

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

For an organization that is preaching against violence, the Argonauts are finding themselves the subjects of a couple recent violent acts by their own players.

Yet these clearly are negatives that can be turned into positives for the team to campaign about self control.

Back in July in a game in Calgary, receiver Robert Baker reacted violently to a player from the Stampeders allegedly spitting on him in a game.

The coaching staff removed Baker from the field to cool off, but he engaged in an altercation on the sideline with teammate Noel Prefontaine, who approached him to talk and received a slug in the face.

The ugly incident was captured live on the nationally broadcast game and replayed endlessly on the nightly sports telecasts.

The team immediately addressed the situation by instructing Baker to apologize publicly and to do community service, while also suspending him for one game.

Then came an incident following the Labour Day game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The fans rejoiced following the home team's 33-30 win, but one fan apparently spat on return specialist Bashir Levingston.

The Argo threw his helmet at the individual, but inadvertently hit and slightly injured a young boy.

Once again the team addressed the situation by disciplining Levingston with an undisclosed fine and instructing him to apologize to the boy.

Coach Pinball Clemons talked to the boy and the police at length after the incident.

Ironically, a few minutes before the helmet-throwing incident, another fan accosted Baker while he did an interview on the field and made some remarks about the incident in Calgary.

But Baker did his best to restrain himself, a product of learning to control his temper following his angry outburst in July.

Now football is a sport with controlled violence, but things happen on and off the field to challenge the tempers of the people involved, specifically the players. They are held accountable for their actions, and as a result of the Argos' anti-violence campaign, launched publicly last month in the Greater Toronto Area, these latest actions have to viewed somewhat in context. A player acting violently after a play or after a game clearly is showing a lack of self-control, which is part of the message the Argos are preaching.

And yet Clemons said something positive can come from this, both for his team and for the message it is delivering.

"Our society could go a long way in our character education simply understanding why we do what we do," Clemons said yesterday. "You don't respect people so you get respect back because if that's the case, as soon as disrespect enters then you'll disrespect the other person back.

"That was the case (with Levingston). Bashir is a respectful guy and he was disrespected, and so he acted out in disrespect. But we have to understand why we do what we do, not just do what we do. Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

"We had action without vision (following the game) and those kinds of things can be a nightmare. We have to be able to understand at all times that we have respect because we are respectful. We don't have problems when everybody respects each other. Challenges crop up when disrespect enters the picture.

"It's a learning curve for us. It's an example that we will be able to share and show our own humanity in that we're learning and we will get better."


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