Cup drought a crime

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

What's left to say about Milt Stegall that hasn't already been said?

According to our Sun Media archives, I've written 480 articles that have at least mentioned No. 85 since 1999, the year I began covering the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Most are a blur, a mishmash of words about long touchdowns and short ones, wins and losses, injuries and signings. There were interviews that seemed to go on forever, zigging this way, zagging another -- kind of like one of Stegall's patented touchdown catches -- and brush-offs that lasted five seconds.

But there are Milt Moments that stand out from the rest, and the man's official retirement is as good a time as any to revisit them.

So here's No. 481, for those of you scoring at home. And yes, that's probably another record.

MAJOR MILT: He'll forever be remembered for the last-play, 100-yard miracle in Edmonton, but the touchdown that stands out for me came in the 2001 Grey Cup, when Stegall went up like a corkscrew between two defenders and came down with the ball, a big-time play on the CFL's biggest stage.

MAGICAL MILT: As much as Stegall had a hold on CFL defensive backs, he had an even greater hold on kids. I never saw the guy turn down an autograph request, and I never saw a kid leave a visit with Stegall disappointed.

MOODY MILT: On the other hand, I've seen a few media types leave interviews with Stegall not only disappointed, but insulted and, occasionally, peeved. He had a reputation around the league as a media darling, but here in the 'Peg his act wore thin, at times.

MARGINAL MILT: I warned it could happen when Stegall didn't fulfill his 99.9% promise to retire after the 2007 season. Stegall's forgettable '08 campaign, when he was reduced to bit player on a lousy offence, is something nobody wants to remember. And we won't when we look back at the Hall of Famer's career.

MISLEADING MILT: For a God-fearing guy, Stegall could fib with the best of 'em, especially when the subject was an injury. If it occurred around playoff time, I swear the guy's tongue became forked.

MISSING MILT: In '02, Stegall missed both playoff games with a rib injury, and his career numbers suggest he wasn't always at his best when he did play in the money games. In 199 regular-season games, he averaged 4.3 receptions for 76 yards. In 10 playoff games, the averages are 3.2 catches and 53 yards. It was closer to Money Milt in the Grey Cup, though: two games, 12 grabs, 203 yards.

MISERABLE MILT: Most players hate to lose, but Stegall hated it like the taste of antifreeze.

MUTE MILT: Hard to forget the way Stegall went mum after the Bombers lost the '07 Grey Cup, after charming the masses in the days leading up to the game. We've come to the conclusion losing that game was simply too hard for him to talk about.

MISERLY MILT: You talk about pinching coins -- Stegall could make a penny cry uncle. For years he rented a local couple's basement for $300 a month. I remember his old teammate, Robert Gordon, describing how Stegall used to take restaurant leftovers back to his hotel room so he could pocket some of his per diem.

MISTAKE-PRONE MILT: Let's be honest: No. 85 dropped his share of passes, they just don't keep stats on that. He's a lot of things, but he's not the most sure-handed receiver in CFL history.

MAGNIFICENT MILT: That said, I've never seen anyone work as hard or get open as easily, and we're still waiting for somebody to catch the guy from behind. He's not the fastest in league history, but if they ran the 40-yard dash in a zigzag pattern, Stegall would hold the world record.

Add it all up, and Stegall earned (maybe even saved) every one of the pinched pennies the Bombers paid him over the years.

The biggest crime is that this franchise couldn't give him a Grey Cup.

That's one interview we'll never get.

Too bad, because it would have been a doozy.


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