Argos Are Cheating Their Fans

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Aug. 27) – We are nicely into our fourth day since the best player in the Canadian Football League went down with an injury at Rogers Centre. And, we still cannot tell you what has befallen Ricky Ray – quarterback of the defending Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts; flirting with historic passing numbers at the time he was bulldozed from behind by a pair of beefy Calgary Stampeder defenders on Friday night.

Why can’t we tell you? Simple: the Argonauts won’t tell us – comportment lacking even a shred of justification or dignity.

Unless Ray has contracted some form of rare, Tropical disease requiring a clandestine visit to the Mayo Clinic, I can assure you the Argonauts have known precisely the nature of his injury since Saturday. That the club has chosen to keep its modest, yet ardent fan base in the dark is nothing shy of deplorable. Even if it is the “Argonaut way”.

Writing this bothers me to some extent because I have personal and professional respect for Argos’ GM Jim Barker. He’s a good man; fundamentally decent to the core. But, Jim is dropping the ball here.

MY PHOTOS ?? OF ARGO QUARTERBACK RICKY RAY LAYING PRONE ON THE ROGERS CENTRE TURF EARLY IN FRIDAY NIGHT’S LOSS TO CALGARY STAMPEDERS. THROWING THE BALL AT SOMETHING CLOSE TO A 90 PERCENT COMPLETION RATE IN HIS PREVIOUS TWO GAMES, RAY WAS PERFORMING OTHERWORLDLY WHEN HE WENT DOWN.

There can be only three “reasons” why Barker and head coach Scott Milanovich are clammed up about the star pivot, and none have a smidgen of merit. More than likely, their silence is a way of sticking it to the dastardly media; showing who is “boss” when it comes to factual conversation about the football club. In this regard, the Argos are hardly unique. Professional sports teams garner almost perverse enjoyment in withholding information; it is their lone measure of control.

Barker and Milanovich may think they are playing “possum” with Argos’ next opponent – Montreal Alouettes – who visit the ‘Dome one week from tonight. What better strategy than to keep the Als guessing over which quarterback they will face: Ray, or scuffling back-up Zach Collaros? As if the Montreal club doesn’t intimately know the former and will not be able to study copious videotape of the latter.

A third reason would be next to criminal: That Argos are withholding a grim update to avoid negative impact on ticket sales for the Montreal game, which the club is actively promoting.

One can only assume that if Ray were capable of squaring off against the Als, the Boatmen would be gushing forth with such wonderful news. Especially on the cusp of an horrendous performance against Calgary (35-14 loss), which toyed with the Double Blue after Ray left the match late in the opening quarter. Next week’s encounter is extremely critical, as Argos sit atop the Eastern Conference only two points up on Hamilton and four ahead of the Alouettes. How better to enhance a holiday weekend ticket drive than to inform anxious Argo supporters that Ray’s injury will not prevent him from playing in the big game?

It is difficult to imagine that Argos have not had knowledge of Ray’s status – or at least a very strong inkling – for the better part of three days now. The cone of silence, therefore, is simply appalling. It would be the same with any team, but is more odious given the obstacle Argos have encountered in trying to expand their root of followers.

I come from an era when football fans were turned away at the gates of old CNE Stadium – its capacity of 33,135 not nearly sufficient to accommodate those wishing to attend games. As we speak, there may be 33,135 Argo fans in total – so many of them having stuck with the team for decades. The football demographic in this city, as a result, is rather aged; men and women in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are common at home games. If the club has even a prayer of attracting a younger audience, it will fail miserably by pulling mindless stunts.

Even if Barker and Milanovich don’t know the full extent of Ray’s apparent shoulder injury – a plausible scenario – they should be communicating, frequently and forthrightly, with their spirited fans.

Most pathetically would be a circumstance whereby Argos simply no longer care – figuring their stable of followers will never escalate; and that any and all publicity, good or bad, will fall on deaf ears. That still would not justify dishonoring those that remain staunchly loyal to the team, regardless of number.  

A GORGEOUS EVENING GREETED FANS AT ROGERS CENTRE LAST FRIDAY AND THE GAME STARTED WONDERFULLY FOR ARGOS WHEN RICKY RAY THREW AN EARLY TOUCHDOWN PASS (BELOW) TO GIVE HIS CLUB A 7-0 LEAD. YOU COULD FEEL THE EXCITEMENT BURST LIKE A GIANT BALLOON WHEN RAY LEFT MOMENTS LATER. 

BLUE JAYS BEST A-ROD; DEREK AND YANKEES

TRAGICALLY FOR BASEBALL FANS IN THIS CITY, THE BLUE JAYS HAVE PROVIDED A 20th SEASON OF MEANINGLESS GAMES – DATING TO JOE CARTER’S FABLED WALK-OFF HOME RUN THAT WON THE 1993 WORLD SERIES AGAINST PHILADELPHIA. THIS SEASON WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DIFFERENT… REMEMBER? GIVEN THE WHEELING AND DEALING OF GENERAL MANAGER ALEX ANTHOPOULOS LAST WINTER – AND THE STAGGERING HYPE THAT FOLLOWED – ONE CAN REASONABLY REFER TO THE 2013 BLUE JAYS AS WORST CLUB IN THE 37-YEAR HISTORY OF THE FRANCHISE.

MONDAY NIGHT, HOWEVER, PROVIDED A BIT OF RELIEF, AS ALEX RODRIGUEZ, DEREK JETER AND THE NEW YORK YANKEES MADE THEIR SECOND-TO-LAST VISIT OF THE SCHEDULE (ANOTHER THREE-GAME SERIES FOLLOWS IN LATE-SEPTEMBER). THOUGH THE CROWD WAS SOMEWHAT DISAPPOINTING – GENEROUSLY ANNOUNCED AS 35,241 (71.5% OF CAPACITY) – I FELT A BUZZ IN THE AIR, AND THE BLUE JAYS PLAYED ONE OF THEIR BETTER GAMES OF THE SEASON IN A 5-2 VICTORY.

AS ALWAYS, I HAD MY TRUSTY NIKON IN HAND:   

PROLIFIC LEFT SIDE OF THE YANKEES’ INFIELD (ABOVE) – SHORTSTOP DEREK JETER (AT TOP) AND BELEAGUERED THIRD-BASEMAN ALEX RODRIGUEZ.

WHILE TAKING HIS DEFENSIVE POSITION IN BOTTOM OF THE FIRST, A-ROD GREETS “WELL-WISHER” IN THIRD-BASE SEATS (ABOVE) AND WARMS UP WITH TEAMMATES.

ODDLY, THE SOUTH ROOF-PANEL AT ROGERS CENTRE REMAINED IN PLACE.? IT NORMALLY SLIDES BEHIND THE STATIONARY NORTH PANEL ABOVE THE OUTFIELD.

THE DAREDEVIL CRAZIES WERE AT IT ONCE AGAIN ON THE C.N. TOWER (TOP-LEFT) AND TOO MANY SEATS WERE VACANT (RIGHT) FOR A VISIT BY A-ROD AND DEREK.

AMID A PARTIAL STANDING OVATION, INJURY-PRONE JETER CAME TO BAT IN THE FIRST INNING ? FLANKED BY JAYS CATCHER JOSH THOLE AND PLATE UMPIRE JIM REYNOLDS.

RODRIGUEZ TOOK HIS FIRST SWINGS IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE ? AND WAS GREETED WITH A CASCADE OF BOOS WHEN COMING TO THE PLATE FOR HIS ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT IN THE BIOGENISIS PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUG CASE. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL HAS SUSPENDED A-ROD UNTIL THE 2015 SEASON AND HE IS PLAYING UNDER AN APPEAL. RODRIGUEZ FLIED OUT TO RIGHT IN HIS FIRST AT-BAT AND WAS CONSOLED BY TEAMMATE ROBINSON CANO.? 

IT WAS A DIFFERENT STORY IN THE TOP OF THE FIFTH, WHEN A-ROD CAME TO THE PLATE ? AGAINST BLUE JAYS STARTER R.A. DICKEY.?

RODRIGUEZ UNLOADED A 391-FOOT HOME RUN TO RIGHT FIELD ?? – THE 650th OF HIS CAREER. HE IS 10 SHY OF TYING WILLIE MAYS FOR FOURTH ON THE ALL-TIME MAJOR LEAGUE LIST, A FEAT THAT WOULD EARN HIM A $6 MILLION BONUS.

DEMONSTRATIVE DICKEY ?? WENT 61/3 INNINGS FOR THE WIN – IMPROVING HIS DISAPPOINTING SEASON’S RECORD TO 10-and-12.

A-ROD WAS 1-FOR-4 ON THE NIGHT, WITH HIS HOME RUN AND RBI.

BAY ST. OFFICE TOWERS BEYOND ROGERS CENTRE ROOF ? AND ANOTHER LOOK ? AT SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE TURNOUT FOR SERIES OPENER WITH THE YANKEES.

YANKEES STAR SECOND BASEMAN ROBINSON CANO.?

A-ROD (13); JETER (2); LYLE OVERBAY (ARMS FOLDED) AND CANO (OBSTRUCTED BY RODRIGUEZ) GATHER DURING YANKEES PITCHING CHANGE IN FIFTH INNING.

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