Polar opposites

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

For all the championships won and all the astonishing records set, there remains this great insecurity within Damon Allen.

He plays quarterback and lives life with a giant-sized chip on his shoulder pads.

He has little of the legendary quarterbacking swagger, not much of the egotistical bravado -- the kind that usually accompanies success at football's most important position.

At least externally he doesn't show it. At least publicly.

For all the awards, all the Grey Cup MVPs, Damon Allen seems an astonishing study in self-doubt, the doubt raised again as he was pulled last Sunday in favour of Michael Bishop, of all quarterbacks, in the Argos' come-from-behind playoff win over Winnipeg.

Fighting

In a way, Allen can look a few stalls down in the Argos locker-room and see in Bishop a player he once was. A marvellous athlete still fighting to be a quarterback. A quarterback waiting for his opportunity. All Allen needed was coaching and a chance. He always could run -- he just had to learn how to run a team.

Last season, it seemed as though the game halted all around him and he was alone on the field, able to command the Argos in whatever direction necessary. This season, through injuries and other difficulties, Allen has conducted the orchestra but the music mostly has been out of tune.

This is where Bishop factors in as potentially a quarterback with no future or possibly the Argos future quarterback. With Bishop, you just don't know. Someone once said of him rather harshly, "He has everything but a clue."

On Sunday, he will have a seat on the Argos bench. He won't start, may not play at all unless summoned in to quarterback sneak on third down and short yardage situations and is content to play that role in victory.

Allen, for the record, isn't saying anything.

He never has been very comfortable or trusting with the media and that certainly hasn't changed this week of the East final. He wouldn't answer questions yesterday, even in his usual string of cliches, and Pinball Clemons, the coach and media darling, wouldn't have it any other way.

When asked how Allen responded to being pulled last Sunday -- something he accepted that day but hasn't talked about since -- Clemons said that was out of his "control."

"I don't think he is troubled by it as much as he is troubled by the attention people are giving him on it," Clemons said. "I don't think it's a big deal to him. He understands. He just doesn't want to deal with it.

"I said then there is no challenge (for the starting job). He's going to be the starter. So everyone wants to ask him, 'Are you going to be the starter?'

"Well, you know he's going to be the starter. Why do you ask the question?

"Then they ask, 'Is this potentially your last game?' ... One, as starting quarterback, I don't want him to have to deal with those things. This week is no different than last week. He doesn't like talking to the media. He talks the first day and he talks to the media again on the final day before the game "I actually applaud the fact you guys have made this a little bit of an issue. Because he does well with adversity. It challenges him and he responds well to it."

Finality

Every playoff game Damon Allen plays now has a certain sense of finality, with the Argos caught in two diverse places. They need him to win now and they need, as a team, to win next year as Grey Cup host. If Allen can't win now, after not winning last year, how can it be assumed he can win next year?

So Allen is playing for today and maybe for tomorrow and at the same time trying to shut out the distractions as Sunday approaches. And Bishop does what he has always done: He waits, sometimes patiently, sometimes not.

"It's another week and another game," Bishop said. "I don't feel any different. This is what I do."


Videos

Photos