Argos Show The Way
This is the time of year when the Argonauts, in a perfect world for the CFL, should own the headlines and capture the attention of the GTA.
Are they doing that? Sort of, although some terrific Blue Jay pitching performances on a team that once again won't be playing important baseball in September have created waves, and you couldn't exactly say the entire city is glued to every move the Argos make. This isn't 1972, after all, and the football team long ago was relegated to fourth on the GTA sporting list. The soccer folks would even argue fifth behind Toronto FC.
Still, this much is true. The Argos are by far the most successful team in town right now, and they're doing it in a way that shines a beacon for the Leafs, Raptors and Jays. There's a no-nonsense, no excuses regime in place, plus a sense of resourcefulness in the air. There aren't bodies flying in an out of town, but rather an honest attempt to build continuity and success through the players acquired and signed during the off-season.
The headlines concerning David Braley's purchase of the Argos, and the departure of former owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski, weren't flattering, and the B.C. Lions are evidence of the reality that the the CFL that Braley touches does not turn to gold. But for any number of reasons the Cynamon-Sokolowski tandem wasn't producing winning teams any more, and these days there's a greater sense that all are on the same page with the Argo front office after several years in which key decision makers seemed to be working at cross-purposes.
At the centre of all of this is head coach Jim Barker. Barker has stepped willingly and aggressively into the leadership vaccum of this team as though it was the opportunity of a lifetime, or at least of his football lifetime. No shrinking violent, no CFL clueless sort as was predecessor Bart Andrus, Barker has been loud and difficult to ignore, from his catchy radio commercials to his televison presence on the sidelines to his general unwillingness to quietly accept an unsuccessful season just because the club had been so doggone awful in recent years.
He's made some good choices - Cleo Lemon - had some good luck - Cory Boyd - and received some magnificent play out of players who were here when he arrived, like Kevin Huntley.
But he's has stood up and hollered, "Follow me!", and the players have responded. All the negatives surrounding this team have disappeared, replaced, at least for now, by the unyielding, upbeat nature of the new football front man in town, and that's Barker.
An awful football team, one which fell into chaos and disrepair after the departure of Pinball Clemons as head coach several years ago, is now an engaging team worth watching. The Argos are demonstrating to the other teams in town how not to accept defeat.