'Twas a love unrequited

Argonauts co-owner David Cynamon is on the verge of selling the team to David Braley. (REUTERS/Mike...

Argonauts co-owner David Cynamon is on the verge of selling the team to David Braley. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

Today it is expected to become official, but not without heartache, and certainly not without regrets. Today, Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon become the former owners of the Toronto Argonauts and this isn't an easy place for either of them to be.

But that's what the Argos do in this market: They break your heart and, in the case of Sokolowski and Cynamon, the affection was that much deeper and in the end, that much more expensive.

They tried to make the Argos work. They tried to make money on their investment, or at least not lose money. They tried to make Off-Broadway popular in a city where Broadway matters. They made some remarkable strides from where they began. For a while it seemed that they took the franchise mainstream. But sadly in the end, they almost took the team back to the same sorry state in which they began.

"It hurts," Sokolowski said, in a rare but brief interview from the one of the co-owners who have basically gone incommunicado since Grey Cup Week. "I'm sorry to see it go at this stage. We had the best of intentions.

"But we didn't build a stadium. We promised we'd build a stadium. That's our fault."

It wasn't for lack of trying. They thought they had a deal at the University of Toronto. That didn't work out. They thought they had a deal at York University. That didn't come to be. Before giving up on playing outdoors, making the Argos quaint, playing in a stadium small enough to create both demand and atmosphere, they made one final attempt to move the team to BMO Field, a stadium too small with a field not long enough. In the end, that got shot down and, when they turned to the Canadian Football League for some kind of financial help, they got none. And when they looked for what they called a strategic partner -- not just an investor, but someone who could bring value to the Argos operation -- they couldn't convince them to jump aboard.

At that point, their decision was clear: They couldn't afford, or didn't want to afford, to own the Argonauts anymore.

Sokolowski and Cynamon had purchased the team out of bankruptcy. At the time, owner Sherwood Schwarz had left a mess behind. The two new owners were a breath of fresh air, bringing in the energizer bunny, Keith Pelley, to run their show, letting Pinball Clemons wow people from the coaching end, winning a Grey Cup in their first very season. That was the high. The rest was the unfortunate reality.

This is what happens with Argos owners, but they all end up the same, walking away frustrated, disappointed, all the while with the hope they could make the difference. Schwarz, Interbrew, Harry Ornest, Bruce McNall, Carling O'Keefe. Should David Braley be approved today, he becomes the Argos' sixth owner in 20 years, and that's not counting the five months the CFL operated the team in bankruptcy. Maybe he has an answer. Maybe his pockets are deeper. But he won't, or can't, love this team the way Sokolowski and Cynamon do. They loved the excitement of standing on the sidelines for games, getting to know players, being Double Blue.

They loved it until they realized it made no economic sense anymore.

During their tenure, the Argos season tickets jumped from 2,200 to 10,000. The corporate sponsorship money went from $250,000 to $2.8 million and still it wasn't enough. The last two seasons, on the field, have been disastrous. A revolving door of coaches. A quarterback who can't play. A team that couldn't win or excite. Fans put on hold while the team determines its direction.

"I wish it was different," said Sokolowski, as nice a man as you'd want to meet. "I wish we could have made this work."

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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