Rant shows signing a big story

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Joe Theismann is a loud and blatant hypocrite who, like all pro football players of the 1970s, played on dope-smoking, party-happy, amphetamine-chomping teams.

That is just some of the conversation that has emerged in the wake of the signing of Ricky Williams. It seems everyone has a view of Ricky and the Argonauts, everyone has an opinion.

Theismann being Theismann, his radio criticism and disassociation of his former team and its newest running back became a story almost everywhere; it has taken on a life of its own. Virtually every sports radio station and network in North America has made reference to it. Almost every newspaper on both sides of the border has found room for the remarks.

If the signing of Williams by itself was a lightning rod for controversy, the Theismann comments have served only to inflame the process. Everyone now has chosen a side -- muddied or otherwise -- about what the Argos have done and what their former quarterback has said.

"Joe was a phoney back then and he's a phoney now," said Mike Blum, who spent 12 seasons as a linebacker in the Canadian Football League and played with Theismann in Toronto.

"Nobody really wanted him around, you know. Nobody, except a few of us, could stand the guy. Tricky (Dick Thornton) liked him. He had his locker beside him. I used to play gin with him. But that was about it.

"But for him to stand up now and be all moral about (the Ricky Williams signing) is so typical Joe. He can't help himself. It's all bull----."

A former teammate, who asked not to be identified said: "Are you telling me he didn't play on teams with guys smoking pot? What was he, blind? I can't honestly say I ever saw Joe smoking but he certainly knew guys who were doing it."

Blum also said it's hard for Theismann to be high and mighty about Williams' past drug use when Argos players at the time were "given amphetamines without prescriptions, like they were candy ...

"Those were different times. They were right there for anybody to take, no big deal at the time. Some people took them, some didn't. It's just the way it was.

"But you can't sit there and throw stones at people now and turn your back on what might have happened on the teams you played on." Or worse yet, what has happened in your life.

CRYPTIC

As Argos co-owner David Cynamon made rather cryptic reference to yesterday, how does Theismann, father of a son of the same name who was convicted of dealing cocaine and possessing drug paraphernalia just three years ago, take on the Argos is so scornful a manner?

If anything, the Williams signing has now taken on a life of its own. The pre-season game tonight seems almost circumstantial to the circus that has erupted around it. The Williams signing -- intentionally or not -- is reminiscent of another Argos era, when publicity stunts by Leo Cahill were staged all the time. Only this is no stunt and the only staging was fear of public outrage.

"We really did stage a lot of things back then," Cahill said yesterday, 35 years after signing Theismann to play in Toronto. "Blackie Johnston (assistant coach) would come in in the morning and say 'Coach, do we have a crisis today?'

"And I'd say, 'No, but we're going to create one.' "

Cahill, for the record, isn't about to cast aspersions upon anybody's place on any football team. In his mind, football is not, and never has been, a sport for the faint of heart. "At times, I think I had everybody on the football team but Jack the Ripper," he said jokingly.

Ricky Williams is no Jack the Ripper, but everyone wants to talk about him. In Calgary, Tom Higgins has called his signing "a black eye for the league." In Vancouver, Wally Buono believes the CFL is now "open to ridicule." Hamilton people have already gone on record objecting and the same Montreal management team that welcomed Lawrence Phillips to Canada -- and apparently made an attempt to put Williams on its own negotiation list -- now finds fault with the Argos.

All of this, of course, makes the stage that much greater. The noise that much louder.

The original idea of signing Ricky Williams has morphed into something larger than anyone anticipated: The evil Argos, hated by all, are once again the talk of the nation.

RAPTORS RUMOURS

Between now and the end of the month, you will hear just about every and scenario involving the Raptors. This is what happens in the NBA and happens even more often when you wind up with the first pick in the draft. There is no league so full of rumours and conspiracy theories -- and in this case, some of them may even be true.

TROTTIER HOME

The appointment of Bryan Trottier to a management position should be a positive story for the New York Islanders. Except for this: The Islanders have yet to hire a general manager. A GM should pick his own staff, even if that means former players. Unless the next GM approves of Trottier's hiring, this is a foolhardy move by a foolhardy organization.

VERNON TOUGH

Hitting three home runs in a big league game is a remarkable feat. Hitting the third one after injuring yourself is another matter entirely. It was clear by watching Vernon Wells' facial expression that he injured himself while swinging prior to hitting his third home run against the Red Sox Tuesday. That makes the accomplishment that much greater.


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