November 18, 2012
Argos more about performance than destiny
By Steve Simmons, QMI Agency
MONTREAL - The screams were heard on the field, and underneath the stands, and all the way down the hallway as the Double Blue danced their way into the Argos dressing room late on a championship Sunday afternoon.
“We’re going to The Show” several players shouted.
“It’s our time now.”
“One more to go.”
“See y’all at the Cup.”
“Suck that, Montreal.”
They ran and yelled, hugged and skipped their way off the field at the Olympic Stadium, strutting shockingly into the historic 100th Grey Cup. The appearance that seemed so impossible a year ago. The plan that seemed so far fetched, so far a reach. The symmetry that all the Grey Cup people had hopes for, but couldn’t have seen it delivered.
But here are the Argos, from last place to first in the East, with a rookie coach and an old quarterback, with the smallest big man in the Canadian Football League, with the owner of two teams in an eight-team league, at home, playing next Sunday before the kind of sellout crowd they can never generate on their own.
Here are the Argos, back in Toronto for a Grey Cup game. How long has it been in this championship-starved city? It has been 30 years since Toronto played a Grey Cup game at home. They lost that one to Edmonton.
And it's been 60 years since they won a championship at home. That was against Edmonton, also. This is Toronto playing host to the Grey Cup for the 46th time. It’s been forever since it mattered the way this week seems to matter.
And here are the Argos, forever looking to be loved, fighting for a headline in a city that doesn’t always pay attention or pay for tickets, back on the front pages. Relevant, in the mainstream, if only for seven more days.
This is precisely why the club went out and paid heavily for quarterback Ricky Ray, why they invested in the rookie coach, Milanovich. On the first day of training camp, Milanovich asked his room full of players and coaches to raise their hands if they had ever won the Grey Cup. A whole lot of hands went up.
He knew then they had a chance to get this far, to get to the most elaborate Grey Cup Week in history. He knew it. No one else seemed to believe.
“It’s destiny,” said Chad Owens, the most outstanding player in the East and the most outstanding in Sunday’s Eastern final 27-20 defeat of Montreal. He caught a record 11 passes for 207 yards, ran back kicks and punts for another 139 yards and had more individual yards than the legendary Anthony Calvillo passed for. The yardage leader put up 346 yards and he was the guy Montreal had gameplanned to stop.
“I believe in that, destiny, man,” Owens screamed in the dressing room. “I believe coach Milanovich was brought here for a reason. I believe Ricky Ray got here for a reason. All this, everything that happened this year, happened for a reason. Adriano Belli, coming back, everything, everything for a reason.”
Destiny, maybe: But the best of the Argos came out to play on Sunday, the way the best players must come out when it matters most. It was more performance than it was destiny.
Ray was unflappable, even more than usual, passing for just under 400 yards on an afternoon of pressure and even more pressure. And he threw no interceptions, despite the seven and eight man rushes he faced all game long.
The Chads, Owens and running back Kackert, bounced back and forth, rotating which was going to make the great play. Owens’ largest gain was as 70-yard catch and run. Kackert’s largest was a 51-yard run: He also had a 49-yard touchdown run. Kackert ended up with 139 yards on the ground.
Ray, Owens and Kackert: The big offensive guns, at their best on the biggest day.
On defence, if it wasn’t Marcus Ball making a big play, it was Armond Armstead or Ronald Flemons or by barely tipping a football that could have sent the game to overtime, the defensive back, Pacino Horne.
It was, as Kackert pointed out loudly in the noise of the locker room, “everyone. Everyone contributed something.”
But it all goes back to the trade announced last December, with Ray coming to Toronto in the confusing deal that got Eric Tillman fired in Edmonton. You can’t win without a quarterback and finally the Argos had one.
“To know that we’d be at this point,” said Ray, “nobody knew that. We just tried to do what we needed to do.
“There’s a lot of good players out there they could have traded for. All I know is, one team wanted me, one team believed in me. I was never going to be coming in here and taking this anywhere on my own. I’m just one guy. If I were that great, I’d be going to the Grey Cup every year.”
He may be that great and he is going to the Grey Cup this year. Just as it was planned by dreamers and schemers who wanted the 100th Grey Cup to be about history, and be about Toronto.
DRINK IT UP: BELLI
Adriano Belli wants to take his Argo teammates out on the town, have them “drink like fools until Wednesday and then start to focus on winning the Grey Cup.”
That’s the plan of the veteran defensive tackle, who has been this route before, and who came out of retirement late in the regular season to join the Argos, not knowing then whether they would get this far.
Belli, who says he’s old and slow, “with a great burst of slow” came to add some personality and some Canadian defensive line play to an Argo team in need of both.
So, why come back?
“A chance to play in the 100th Grey Cup, in my home town, a home town kid, for my home town team. How could I pass that up?” said Belli.
“Thousands of kids would jump at that chance. Even though I’m old and slow, I can add to the mix here and hopefully get a Cup ring.”
But first, a drink or three. And then time to get serious about Sunday’s championship game.