They had a football game in Toronto last night, big crowd too. Featuring a 31, 212 fans in the stands and seven on the sidelines. In an understandable, but controversial decision, Pinball Clemons chose to sit out seven regulars of his Argonaut squad, putting out the B squad to entertain, er, perform, and well uh show the flag for the home side.
Montreal was there too, Don Matthews putting his regulars through their paces, showcasing Anthony Calvillo’s passing arm, matter of fact he was so successful he put himself into some pretty select company. Calvillo went over the 6,000 yard mark in a lopsided contest as his Als humiliated the Argos 58-20.
Calvillo was a one man aerial assault as he launched wave after wave of passes downfield, by the time the bombardment had stopped on the Argo secondary Calvillo had 354 yards tossed in the game and 6,041 for the year. With the achievement Calvillo became only the fourth QB in CFL history to achieve that mark in a season. A little bit more time on Thursday and he could have hit for another 6,000, such was the resistance of the Argo defence. Choosing to rest regulars the Argo line up was dotted with guys cutting their teeth in their first CFL game, needless to say the learning curve was steep and at times brutal.
Peppered by sloppy play and indifference by some of the veterans the Argo sideline was a contradiction at times. There was offensive co-ordinator Kent Austin looking like he was chewing on glass, while Michael Bishop exchanged laughs and slaps with Alouette players after another interceptions. Ah it’s just another pick in a meaningless game, nothing to worry about coach. At least until he reached the sidelines!
The Als dominated the play, recording their 14th win of the season for a franchise best 14-4 record. With the final gun the Als now sit back and relax for nine days before returning to practice for the Eastern final in two weeks. Having locked up first place a few weeks ago, the Als will await the winner of next Friday’s Eastern semi final when the Ti Cats return to the Skydome for a rematch with their arch rivals.
With the hated Cats coming to town the Argo marketing gamble taken Thursday night may prove to be worthwhile. Over 31,000 attended what in effect was a meaningless game, Argo management must be hoping none went away too disappointed at paying regular season prices for what effectively was treated like a pre season game. If a well rested, very loose Argo team should prevail over the Cats all will be forgiven. Then perhaps memories of the 58-20 embarrassment might come back in time for the Eastern final. One interesting point about the Argo strategy was voiced by Anthony Cavillo who observed that with so many irregular Argos in the lineup, this film won't even be worth watching for any Argo/Alouette match up. There is nothing for the Alouettes to learn from this game, knowing full well that should the Argos get past the Cats, the team they saw tonight won't be the same one on the plane to Montreal in two weeks.
But it’s a dangerous approach this turn it on, turn it off strategy. In a sport where every down, every play, every hit is to be treated as vital the casual approach to work habits exhibited Thursday may come back to haunt.
More importantly the fickle nature of a football fan in Toronto may not take kindly to a P T Barnum approach to fan loyalty. Thursday night was very much like a third down gamble for a touchdown on the goal line.
We all find out next Friday if Pinball made the right call, if the Argos win and the crowd is big the gamble was successful. If the Cats win or the crowd is less than 30,000 he made the wrong call.
We’ll go to the tape Friday night!