Pinball continues to see positives

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

It has come to this, in this season of Argos despair: Even Mrs. Pinball stopped believing.

True story.

Diane Clemons was talking long distance on the telephone, away with the girls at a dance competition, when she called to check in on her husband and her favourite football team.

It was then she heard the news.

Ricky Williams had a broken arm. Damon Allen was still out. Spergon Wynn was going for tests. Tony Miles was out. Michael Fletcher may or may not have been ready.

That was just the beginning.

And even the fourth-string Argo quarterback who nobody knows -- this is how deep the Argo pain goes -- has some kind of viral problem involving his heart.

"This is not your year," Diane Clemons said into a phone line, talking to the ultimate optimist.

"When your wife starts to have some disbelief, well, I had to re-focus her right on the phone," the coach said.

That's what Michael (Pinball) Clemons does best and most often. He finds an answer when there isn't one. He finds a body when he's out of bodies. He looks at a spill on the floor and when everyone else sees a mess, he sees art.

The rest of the world just gets discouraged and wipes up. He'll quote or misquote some pastor or playwright and everything for the moment will seem all right.

"All right," Clemons says almost every time you see him. Even when everything isn't.

"I love my garden," said Pinball, making his latest analogy about the Argo injury troubles. "But it has to rain before you see the flowers."

Some bad has to happen before some good. This Argos season, there has been more bad than good, more losses than wins.

Two facts. One, the Argos have run three plays this season with what was intended to be their first string offence. When next they have their entire first team on the field is anyone's guess.

Two, they have played part of one game with their first string defence.

Game 6 will be played tomorrow against the B.C. Lions.

How bad has the health of the Argos been this season? Well, let's put it this way. Co-owner David Cynamon gets an injury update every morning on his desk. For purposes of expediency, he has asked the team to send the shorter list -- the list of those who are healthy.

"We're a better football team because of this," said Pinball, using Pinball logic on this one. The injuries, he argues, forces the team to get deeper in the long run.

Spergon Wynn, who hadn't played for the Argos before this year, has started five games at quarterback. That wouldn't have happened without an injury or the disappearance of Michael Bishop.

Tomorrow, while Clemons remains coy about his quarterbacking situation, he may start Allen, who still is wearing a splint on his broken finger; he may start Eric Crouch, whose entire professional experience at quarterback consists of part of one game; it's highly unlikely Wynn, who is still looking for his helmet, can play; all of which makes Noel Prefontaine one hit away from doing punt, pass and kick all in the same evening.

Williams was supposed to be the running back. But he's gone for a month. John Avery was supposed to take his place. But he got banged up in the first practice and may be ready tomorrow. Failing that, Jeff Johnson starts at running back.

This isn't the Argo lineup anyone intended.

"We're in the midst of it,' said Clemons, his way of saying they're paddling as hard as they can. And the good thing is, in the Canadian Football League, you can afford to paddle.

The Argos have to be better than only two teams in order make the playoffs. So far, they're better than one, tied with two others. This is still July. October -- the month, not the football player -- is what really matters.

Maybe then, Allen won't have a splint and Williams won't have his arm in a sling and Miles will be able. But until then, there is a game tomorrow with the Lions, a game on Thursday in Montreal.

Can you say two-and-five?

Pinball Clemons can't.

"This is the Canadian Football League," he said with great pride. "Every team has a chance."

A.J. MISERY

Being exasperated with A.J. Burnett has been a part of his history. Only now, when the Blue Jays really need him to be significant, it seems worse. He has made nine starts for the Jays, four of them masterful, five of them troubling. Little wonder he was a .500 pitcher in the NL. In the tougher AL, .500 may be a challenge.

TOUGH JOB

You've probably never heard of Curtis Bell, but he just happens to have the toughest job in hockey. Bell is the trainer for the Florida Panthers. The Panthers have three old ex-Leafs, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour and Gary Roberts, with bad backs, bad knees, and bad groins. His hands, not to mention his training room, will be busy this season.

FORGETTABLE FLOYD

For about a moment, Floyd Landis was a fascinating figure. The guy with the bad hip who somehow won the Tour de France. The American cyclist who almost came from nowhere. Now it appears he will go back there with the other drug cheats of his game and any other. Gone and soon forgotten.


Videos

Photos