Rita comfortably numb

Even after losing three players to the NFL, Argos GM Adam Rita is still optimistic. (Sun Media/Stan...

Even after losing three players to the NFL, Argos GM Adam Rita is still optimistic. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

STEVE SIMMONS,SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

Adam Rita is the Gary Bettman of the Canadian Football League, with a far more engaging personality.

On a freezing cold day, he sees only sunshine. Every bite he takes tastes better than the last one. There are no Phoenix Coyotes in his world, only happy days, and we don't mean the DVD version.

Rita loses Dominque Dorsey, the only Argo worth paying to watch, to the National Football League and he gives you one of those Alfred E. Neuman "What, Me Worry?" looks.

He loses his top cornerback, Byron Parker, to the Philadelphia Eagles and doesn't seem the least bit concerned.

He loses the emerging receiver P.K. Sam, on a team pencil-thin at import receiver, to the Buffalo Bills and wishes him luck.

And somewhere, that rabid breed of Argo fan -- yes, they still exist -- has to be banging his head on a goal post, watching a bad football team get worse.

Of course, Adam Rita, the general manager, doesn't see it that way. He won't allow himself to be anything but optimistic. Never mind that Mike O'Shea is pretty well shot and centre Chad Folk is all but certain to call it quits and Jude St. John hasn't really given indication of whether he will play anymore. This once was the Canadian core of a Grey Cup champion: Now, in a league where Canadian talent distinguishes the difference between champion and also-ran, the Argos' Canadians got old and slow, too many at the same time.

This is something Bart Andrus, and every American who comes to coach in Canada, comes to understand. Some just understand it quicker than others. You live by the quality of your Canadian players and your quarterback and your difference-makers.

Dominque Dorsey, gone, was a difference-maker. Byron Parker, gone, was a difference-maker. P.K. Sam, gone, was just beginning in that role.

The very team Andrus signed up to coach has gotten worse since he was hired, and he has had nothing to do with it, although he hasn't helped much either. Andrus, who won a championship coaching in NFL Europe, basically has hired the best of unemployed NFL Europe coaches to fill out his staff. He may, in fact, have a wonderful coaching staff. But ask one of them who Russ Jackson is and you're bound to get a blank look.

Rita is offended that we're offended by the coaching choices the Argos have made. He hired Andrus, believes in him, is impressed with his thoroughness, his background, his personality and the staff he has chosen and signed off on. And in typical Bettman fashion he says without condescension: "We always talk about the ones (American coaches) who were unsuccessful in Canada. I like to think about the ones who were successful."

Here Rita tells a self-deprecating story: "I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and when I came up to coach in Canada, I didn't know the rules. I always figured, if you're an American, just treat first down like it's second down in the States. And you adjust from that. The real change isn't with the downs, it's how the game is played, the motion, the crispness, the different style of athletes.

"What I like about the NFL Europe coaches is they had to do things quickly. They didn't have long training camps. They got rule changes thrown at them at the last minute they had to adjust to. They had to think on their feet. That's what coaching in the CFL is a lot of the time."

Then Rita scared Argo fans slightly. He said if Andrus needs advice he can always turn to three coaches in Argoland who have gone to the Grey Cup. He included himself, Greg Mohns and Steve Buratto in that group.

"I like our team," Rita said in the middle of winter. He just lost 2,892 yards for the team that was last in the league in offence and he likes his team. Maybe it's his built-in optimism. Or maybe he's just been hanging around with Michael Phelps.


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