Bishop had faith in himself

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

There were eight minutes left in the Argonauts season when Adam Rita approached Michael Bishop on the sidelines and told him it was time.

"Are you serious?" Bishop turned to Rita, the Argos general manager and interim offensive co-ordinator.

For a few minutes on the sidelines of a playoff season slipping away, Pinball Clemons and Rita kept looking at each other and wondering, waiting for an answer. Clemons asked Rita to think about it. Rita says he asked Clemons to think about.

When was the time right?

"I don't know who came to who first," Rita said. "He said 'think about it,' I said 'think about it.' He said 'it's up to you.' "

Together, Clemons and Rita, longtime friends and associates, one used to coach the other, decided to pull the all-time leading passer in professional football history from the game when the Argos looked all but defeated.

"You've got to make ballsy changes," Rita said. "Either you're a hero or a s**thead"

Yesterday, they were gambling fools and ended up heroes, all of them.

Michael Bishop, the quarterback who has everything but a resume of success, came first from the Arena League, then from semi-retirement, then from third-down sneaker, and then from the bench to personally lead the Argonauts to the Eastern Division championship this Sunday against the Montreal Alouettes.

"We're all heroes today," a smiling Bishop said. "Them for making the calls. Us for doing them. Chuck (Winters) for what he did. (Orlondo) Steinauer for what he did."

And then he reassessed his position.

"Today is about a victory for me."

A victory that makes almost no sense, which is the opposite of what happened lately for the Argos. It happened with the Argos squandering a first-half lead and too many opportunities. It happened with the Argos unable to handle Charles Roberts, who danced for 179 yards and one huge fumble yesterday. It happened with the Blue Bombers taking over the game in the fourth quarter and victory all but assured.

It happened when a highwire act named Bishop, big arm and small production, only here because Spergon Wynn got hurt before he was deemed not good enough, came in and threw two touchdown passes almost in a matter of seconds to alter the Argos fortunes on an afternoon they appeared to have none.

The touchdown pass to Arland Bruce that started it was thrown into double coverage. That's what Bishop does. The longtime book on Bishop: The only one who can stop him is himself.

This time he got away with it. Sometimes he doesn't. That makes the decision all the more intriguing.

"It's a big gamble." said Clemons, who normally isn't the gambling type. "That's what we're paid to do. Michael's a risk taker. That's a bigger risk (than we normally take.)"

This is how woeful the Argos offence has been when it comes to scoring. In almost three consecutive home games -- against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Montreal Alouettes and yesterday against Winnipeg, the Argos had managed all of two touchdowns.

In just over two minutes, Bishop threw touchdown passes to the incredible Bruce and the erratic R. Jay Soward. In just over two minutes, the possibility of another Grey Cup for the Argos came alive.

Michael Bishop understands what happens today. He'll get his reps in at practice, but he isn't about to supplant Damon Allen, even if the veteran seems all but ready to be supplanted. He might have looked at his situation differently in the past, but this year changed him. Death of a loved one usually does.

When the Argos first called Bishop on the phone and asked him to return mid-season, his immediate reaction was no. He had lost his mother. He played his season in the Arena League. He wasn't interested in carrying a clipboard again.

"I wasn't going to come back," Bishop said. "I could have said I wasn't interested. Sitting at home in Texas, it didn't feel right."

He decided to do it for himself and for his mom. "I knew how she felt about this. I knew how she felt about me. There was no doubt in my mind (it would work). No doubt at all."


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