Pinball rallies Argos with pep talk

Jarious Jackson was among the Argos inspired after a pep talk from Michael (Pinball) Clemons during...

Jarious Jackson was among the Argos inspired after a pep talk from Michael (Pinball) Clemons during practice on Thursday. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:29 PM ET

Jarious Jackson was itching to get on a flight and get to Winnipeg on Thursday, a full 19 hours before the team West Jet booking was even scheduled to leave.

Barring that, his next plan was to phone the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and have them get on a flight to Toronto.

He was ready to take them on right then and there on the Argos practice field if need be.

Not having started a CFL game since Aug. 12, 2010, this veteran CFL quarterback is understandably excited about making Saturday’s start in place of the injured Ricky Ray, but he had a little extra motivation following practice Thursday.

Stoking the fire was one Michael Pinball Clemons, the former player, one-time head coach and face of the franchise, who was asked to bring his unique brand of football fire and brimstone to the Argos in its time of need.

“Just being around him gives you goosebumps, gets you excited,” Jackson said. “You don’t want to peak too soon before the game but how could you not think about playing a game after hearing that. He’s just a great motivational speaker.”

Saturday’s game is a big one for the Argos for a number of reasons. They’re coming off consecutive losses, head into enemy territory without Ray at the helm and have reached that point in the schedule where good CFL teams start to separate themselves from the chaff.

Clemons, as usual, delivered in spades when called upon.

Chunks of a 25-minute, fire-up-the-troops speech could be heard by members of the media some 80 yards away with Clemons imploring the Argos to believe in themselves and the guy beside them.

Typically, Clemons downplayed his role when asked about his message afterwards.

‘I get that fire’

“I’m just here trying to love them and support them because I love (the game) and I love them,” he said. “It’s just in me. I get that fire whenever I’m around the game.”

But there is no denying the impact a dynamic and impassioned speaker like Clemons can have on a team.

You only hope they could bottle it and uncork it just a little at a time in each of the weeks leading up to the 100th Grey Cup right here in Toronto Nov. 25

There is no question that Clemons had their collective attention. Clemons roared and the Argos answered in unison. You got the feeling had he asked them to run into the Erindale woods that line the east edge of the playing field and clear him a path, they would have come back with enough kindling to set the campus on fire.

Heck, even head coach Scott Milanovich, a guy who has heard more pre-game motivational speeches than he would probably care to admit, came away fired up.

“I just thought it might be time for (the team) to hear somebody else speak a little bit and he did a great job,” Milanovich said.

“Nobody is more pro-Argos, more supportive than Pinball,” Milanovich said. “He just has that kind of magnetic personality that very few people have. I can’t get enough of him.”

This was actually the second time the Argos have gone to the well with Clemons. He was also one of a handful of speakers the first time they all got together as a team at training camp, but this one was a little different.

This time around it was just the players and the coaching staff, half of them standing, half of them on one knee together as one in the middle of the practice field. And for 25 minutes Clemons was their sole focus.

Clemons is very much aware of what is at stake. This football club has put a lot into this season with an eye towards not just hosting, but playing in this Grey Cup.

At 6-6 they are comfortably in second place in the East, but now is not the time for a misstep. They need to finish up strong and Clemons having won three Grey Cups as a player and another as a head coach for the Argos knows that better than most. So even knowing members of the media were at least looking on, if not listening in to his words of inspiration, Clemons went ahead.

““I love you guys, but I hate that you saw it,” Clemons admitted afterwards. “I was hoping it was going to be inside because this is not about me. It really isn’t. It really is about them. I’m not the magic here. They are the magic and it truly is what they do and who they are. I just try to make it simple and understandable and put some passion behind it ... We’re really close but we have to get better. We have work to do.”

And while even a couple of weeks ago the Blue Bombers might have looked all but dead, the return of Buck Pierce appears to have given them a new life.

With or without Ray this game wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Bringing in Pinball to boost the troops at this time was a very good idea.


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