Revelling in the rivalry

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:58 PM ET

Canadian Forces paratroopers parachuted from the sky and CF-18 fighter jets scorched through a limpid-blue, water-coloured sky.

They had the old lady of the CFL, Ivor Wynne Stadium, all dressed up in her finery to welcome yet another season. Thousands of tiny Canadian flags waved from the stands.

It is an hour before game time and Mike Bradwell stands at the 40-yard line. He steps right, then left and gentle as those parachutists, the pass from Kerry Joseph floats into his hands.

It is minutes to game time and on the sidelines, Jason Pottinger stands with his helmet tucked into the crux of elbow as the final strains of O Canada are replaced by the chant of Oskee-Wee-Wee. Sublime to the ridiculous in perfect harmony.

There are fans who have waited weeks, months for this moment -- the renewal of a football rivalry that has battled time like Joan Rivers armed with a cosmetic scalpel. Pottinger and Bradwell have waited a lifetime.

They were born and grew up in Toronto, watched, heard and read Argonauts.

"I watched the Argos growing up," Pottinger said.

"I remember being eight years old seeing Pinball bouncing around. The Argos used to come out to Oshawa once a year to run a practice and I remember going up to Chris Schultz with his player card and asking him for his autograph. I remember thinking how big he was."

On the opening kickoff, Pottinger is part of the committee waiting to usher Tre Smith out of bounds. Pottinger is a linebacker by trade; a special teams kamakazi by reputation.

"The job is to be reckless and to have no care for my body whatsoever," said Pottinger, who spent his first three seasons with B.C.

He was No. 2 in the league in special teams tackles in 2008 with 30, second only to teammate Jason Arakgi. This pre-season he played for injured linebacker Zeke Moreno.

Last night, he was used whenever Hamilton faced second and long.

REBUILDING PIECES

Pottinger and Bradwell are part of the rebuilding process that has seen the departure of 19 Argos from the 2008 team that went 4-14.

"I was just one of those kids, and there's a million of us out there, who just want to grow up and be an athlete. By the time I got to high school I knew I wanted to play in the CFL," said Pottinger, "and to be here now ... it's a kick."

Just over three minutes left in the first half, the Ticats are threatening -- second and 15 on the Toronto 20.

Quinton Porter scrambles to the 11 where Pottinger wraps his arms around him.

Just like when he was an Oshawa Hawkeye. Somewhere in the stands, his mom and pop, Annette and Paul, are smiling.

Eight minutes into the quarter, Bradwell lines up in the slot to Joseph's right, he lopes downfield, feints slightly towards the sideline then steps inside and catches a bullet from Joseph over the middle of the field.

Bradwell had to overcome injuries that ended his hopes of joining the Argos when he was the 13th pick in the draft in 2008.

This spring he broke his hand the second day of rookie camp.

"At first I thought: 'Here we go again,'" he told reporters at the time.

"You start to question whether you're going to be able to make it back."

But he had eight catches and 73 yards in a pre-season game against Hamilton and has filled in nicely at the slotback spot usually occupied by the injured Tyler Scott.

"He's got real good hands, but probably more than that he's smart and he's picked things up fast," said head coach Bart Andrus.

His first CFL reception goes for 22 yards.

Somewhere the Leaside High School alumni is smiling.

The stands ring with the sound of "Argos Suck".

Players trade punches. There are facemask penalties. There is ill will and the pop of muscle on muscle.

"This is," said Pottinger of living the rivalry, "the coolest thing ever."


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