TORONTO - So much for nostalgia and the possibility of one day returning for another pre-season game.
On the surface, it seemed like a good idea for a storied football franchise to revisit its original home at a time when the Argos have been rendered basically homeless.
If anything, the atmosphere at Varsity Stadium on Thursday night was eerily similar to any home game played at the Rogers Centre. The occasion lacked that football buzz when many thought it would resonate.
The absence of alcohol may have contributed to the sombre setting, but Varsity had this detached feeling, a small-time look with no quick remedies.
Only in the absolute worst-case scenarios should the Argos ever reconvene here, unless it’s for some intrasquad game or glorified scrimmage.
New Varsity bears little resemblance to the old venue, which rocked during his pigskin heyday, a field that would usher in some of the most timeless moments in CFL history.
Thursday’s pre-season game, in which the Argos defeated the Montreal Alouettes 24-20, will not be among them.
On the field, some eye-popping plays were produced: Darvin Adams’ back of the end zone catch among them, some crushing injuries, namely to halfback Brent Vinson, who left early in the evening with an ankle injury.
In the stands, the crowd was bored. There was no intimacy and nothing cosmetic was done to create any. There was no youthful exuberance, which speaks only to the age group that craves three-down football in these parts.
The sad truth about the Argos is that nothing can be done in the short term or even in the foreseeable future.
About the only avenue worth exploring is for some kind of arrangement that sees the Argos bought by a company such as Rogers or MLSE as part of a big-picture plan to bring the NFL to town.
But the Argos have always been able to persevere and they’ll continue to do as much in the absence of not having a field to call their own.
Lest anyone forget, it was U of T that nixed a revitalized Varsity Stadium earlier this decade when a deal to liberate the Argos was in place.
If the Rogers Centre is once again a no-go next season for a pre-season game, BMO Field must be explored.
In the unlikely event Varsity looms as the only alternative, then dramatic changes must be initiated to provide a better feel for football.
On the field, the Argos didn’t play as fast as they did last week in Winnipeg.
In retrospect, though, last week must be viewed as a stinging indictment on the state of the Blue Bombers and not necessarily an endorsement on how the Argos played.
Unlike last week, when virtually every known player did not accompany the team, the Argos played their veterans against the Als, going with Ricky Ray as their starting quarterback. Ray didn’t last long, heaving a few deep balls that fell incomplete. Three attempts later, he was pulled, which was understandable.
The loss of Vinson could prove devastating. He was looking very good in Toronto’s revamped secondary, poised to lock up a starter’s spot, but he’s now in limbo.
As fate would have it, on Montreal’s first play from scrimmage, Vinson was hurt, unable to get to his feet. As he was helped off the field, he couldn’t put any weight on his left leg.
Later, veteran Romby Bryant would be injured.
The Argos have depth at the receiver spot, but decisions will soon have to be made as cutdown date looms and Romby is now vulnerable.
Officially, teams have until Saturday night to compile their 46-man roster for the start of next week’s regular season, but the Argos have never been the type to wait.
Under GM Jim Barker, the team is very pro-active and cuts may be made by as early as Friday.
There’s talent and the Argos are athletic, but tough decisions must now be made.
Zach Collaros may have separated himself from Trevor Harris in the battle to serve as Ray’s backup. Collaros has this moxy about him and an ability to make plays on the run.
Strip away all the different lineups and stretches of poor play and the game did have some drama at the end.
With the Argos trailing in the fourth quarter, Collaros led the team on a scoring drive that would give them the winning points.
Toronto was then able to extend the chains with 1:17 left and the ball on Montreal’s 46 yard line. From there, they would run out the clock, winners for the second straight week.
The slate is now clean.