Repeating a tough feat

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

There is something unique when a championship team loses because their previous success automatically suggests a repeat victory.

More often than not the victor will be vanquished, through no other reason than the law of averages. Few teams repeat, even the great ones, because of the enormity of the task.

A year ago the Argonauts were cleaning out their lockers after winning the Grey Cup, followed by a parade through downtown Toronto. On a bitterly cold day yesterday, the Argos were cleaning out their lockers, still smarting from a crushing 33-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division final the day before.

"It's the complete other end of the spectrum," linebacker Ray Mariuz said. "We knew how good of a team we were. We know we should have been in the Cup. It makes it that much harder, I think, to accept the way things turned out.

"A lot of people go through it. People say it's harder on the players, but for the fans, the coaches, everyone involved with the team, it's tough for everyone. Everyone handles it a different way."

DARK DAYS OF 2003

This was more than just a loss for a football team. It was the loss for an organization that had come so far since the dark days of the 2003 season when the ownership collapsed. A year later under a new masthead, the Argos won the Grey Cup. And this year, the team became the talk of the town, as much for what it did off the field with its Stop The Violence campaign as for its success on the field winning the East Division.

Now it is over. The champions dethroned.

"It was a little bit of a surreal experience," head coach Pinball Clemons said. "As an organization, we have grown so much and it is great to be in a situation where we expect to be in the Grey Cup. A lot of times (in the past) we were hoping to get into the playoffs and put up a good showing and now we have gotten to the point where we expect to be in the Grey Cup and expect to win. We had a great opportunity to do that this year.

"As an organization it is hard to grow after a Grey Cup victory. It is hard to find an upside after a Grey Cup victory, but we did that. We bettered ourselves in the regular season, we hosted the Eastern Division final for the first time in eight years. We came in first place for the first time in eight years. We beat Montreal in the season series for the first time in eight years. We did a lot of really good things, and not only that, our desire is to be Toronto's ultimate role model -- Toronto's community team -- and I think we took some great strides in that area this year.

"Although we had a great year as an organization, as a team we suffered a loss that will never change. It's permanent."

Quarterback Damon Allen, a veteran of 21 seasons, understood the feeling as well, if not more, than anybody.

"When you think about the support you have from the city, the type of year we had as a football team, it's just disappointing and you'll feel that way a long time until you start playing again," Allen said. "You'll obviously have a bad taste in your mouth throughout the year and hopefully that will motivate guys to want to finish it the way we should finish it."

Clemons, as always, tried to sum up the situation in philosophical terms.

"Ten per cent of life is what happens to you, the other 90% is how you deal with it," he said. "We're looking forward to coming back strong and to get this chance to not have this feeling again. We want to use this to drive us, not to bury us."


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