For the first time in recent memory, the football game Friday between the Toronto Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats actually means something.
Argos, the surprise of the season (so far) at 5-2 wins, against Ticats at 3-4 (also a surprise), will likely be one of those games to remember.
At least those of us who pay attention hope so.
Sports rivalry is wonderful. Contagious. Anticipation makes the week worth living, but only if the result isn’t certain and the outcome important.
Sadly, in recent years it’s seemed that when both Argos and Ticats were in the dumps, who cared who won? Or when one team was hot, the other was sagging it was like kicking a cripple. Embarrassing.
So it’s a relief to be uncertain again and looking forward to the game. Both have a chance to excel.
Looking back, I used to attend games with John Bassett when he owned the Argos. In those days I was an Ottawa Roughriders fan. When Toronto hosted Ottawa my cheers were silent when Ottawa scored — not just politeness but advisable when you were Bassett’s guest.
The late Charlie Dubin was a Hamilton fan and had seats near Bassett. At one game when Ticats came from behind to win and Dubin’s enthusiasm overflowed, Bassett loudly proclaimed that next year, Dubin’s reserved seats would be on the roofless side of CNE Stadium.
Dubin had been the Toronto Telegram’s lawyer when Bassett was publisher, and his elevated status as Chief Justice cut no ice with Bassett at Ticat-Argos football games. The pair were forever dear — occasionally feuding— friends.
It could be uncomfortable watching football games with Bassett.
Exciting as Joe Theismann was when he quarterbacked the Argos (before he went to the Washington Redskins), Bassett would always grumble that if he, Theismann, could cover as much ground carrying the ball forward, as he did running side to side across the field to avoid tacklers, the Argos would have a winning instead of losing record.
One Ticat game my wife Yvonne and I attended with Bassett, after he sold the team and it lost even more, The Toronto Star’s Gary Lautens was in the row ahead. At half-time he wistfully turned to Bassett: “Who’d have ever thunk that the Bassett years would be remembered as the glory years of the Argos.”
Bassett howled with laughter.
As for Friday’s upcoming game, I hope for Argos but I also fear for them.
Statistically, they look okay. Maybe. But against Hamilton? Hmm. Not so sure.
The most exciting football game I remember was Argos vs. Ticats in 1961. The Argos were strong, but Jim Trimble’s Ticats were a powerhouse.
A two-game, total point series would determine the East’s Grey Cup contender. Argos handily won the first game 25-7. They only had to not lose the next game in Hamilton by 18 points.
Tobin Rote was Argo quarterback, Bernie Faloney the Ticat QB. Ticats solved the Argos, and with some 30 seconds left in the game, the teams were tied with an aggregate score of 27-27. Argos were on the Ticats 30-yard line on third down, and needed one point to win and go to the Grey Cup.
Argo’s Dave Mann (a nice guy who also worked at the Tely)punted.
Hamilton’s Don Sutherin, in the end zone, caught the ball and promptly punted it out. Man caught it an re-punted into the end zone where Bernie Faloney caught it and proceeding to run and weave 111-yards for a touchdown — that was called back for an illegal block (in those days there was no blocking on runbacks).
In a 30-minute overtime, Hamilton scored four unanswered touchdowns to win 55-27 – the greatest upset loss ever endured by the Argos.
So as a converted Argo fan, I’m understandably uneasy about Friday.
Maybe Cory Boyd can do a Cookie Gilchrist, or Ryan Christian can repeat last week’s 110-yard kickoff return against Alouettes to match for Faloney’s
111-yard heart-stopper in 1961.