There has been an uneasy alliance at BMO since the Argos moved in to TFC’s stadium. The gameday operations have done an admirable job creating a homefield environment but I think it is time for this marriage of convenience to become permanent. The BMO field is a perfect place for the Argos, and I would love to see their permanent residence recognized with the installation of statues celebrating the Argos long history surrounding the stadium.
Why statues? Well, although it seems to be a slow process, the celebration of Leafs legends outside the ACC (Yes, I still use Skydome, as well) has been a success and created a sense of the building being the home of the Leafs and not just a concert venue that the Leafs use. Montreal, which is as good as any franchise at understanding how to celebrate the past, has the Bell Center surround with terrific statues of Habs greats. Adding in four statues to the area around BMO would be a concrete or bronze, I guess, move to show that the franchise is there to stay and it would be a big step to building a sense of ownership over the building (YES, shared ownership to any TFC fan who might be reading this)
So where to start when choosing who will be immortalized outside the stadium. I think that four statues is a good even number and allows for them to be around a number of areas and gets across that they are about creating an environment not just for recognizing an iconic player. (Obviously, I don’t know cost, but I m sure there must be a cheaper but still attractive way to create a statue than just bronze.) The statues should try to cover a variety of positions and eras, and although I’m sure there are many options fans will prefer, these do not have to be the end. Without further ado, here are my suggestions for the statues.
Statue 1 - Touchdown
The first statue will be Doug Flutie throwing to Derrell Mitchell. The first statue brings up an issue in Argos lore; they do not have a definitive franchise quarterback. Partly this is a league issue, as players are far more likely to play for a variety of teams in the CFL for budgetary reasons but even though he only played for two seasons, Doug Flutie is making the cut as one of two quarterbacks in the statues. His two years are unmatched. He led the Double Blue to back to back Grey Cups and the 1997 team is considered by many as the greatest in Argonaut history. Flutie will be throwing a deep bomb to his statue receiver, Derrell Mitchell. It was a close competition between Mitchell and DK Smith but the career stats leaned Mitchell’s way with 74 touchdowns and 9047 receiving yards, both tops for Argo receivers.
Statue 2 – The Return of the King
Although I’m sure he would balk at the idea being understated about his fame, the second statue will be of Michael “Pinball” Clemons. He is an iconic Argonaut and probably the most popular ever, at the very minimum of the last fifty years. Pinball setting with a kickoff just hitting his hands is a terrific way to remember the all-time returning leader for the team. I like that it touches on the importance of special teams and it captures him where he was so devastating for Toronto. He did of course have over 5000 yards rushing in his career, but to capture that second before he exploded down the field will be a moment all fans can savour as they head into the stadium.
Statue 3 – The Defense Never Rests
The third statue will be Mike O’Shea and Rodney Harding attacking an imaginary quarterback. The defense gets its time in the spotlight here and I would bet this would be a fan favourite for photographs. There were a lot of candidates for this, and as much as I wanted to include a statue of Reggie Pleasant picking off a pass, the fact that I could have a two for one for players in this one, sold it for me. I think it is important for the Argo’s to solidify their claim to O’Shea as he becomes an all-time coach for Winnipeg. The image of O’Shea who had 822 tackles in his Argos career and truth be told would have been the coach of the franchise but for bad timing, diving for some poor quarterback is an electric one. Admittedly, sacks were not an O’Shea strength, but some artistic license is needed here. And to have defensive lineman Rodney Harding as the other half of this Hall of Fame rush, makes this the statue I would be the most excited about to stand in front of. Harding of course was a force of nature from 1985 to 94. He absolutely is a player who must not be lost to the sands of time which is so easy in the media overwhelmed world. Harding racked up 94 sacks in his career almost double the next player and a monument to his talent is overdue.
Statue 4 – Icons at Play-Action
The last statue dips back into the quarterback debate. The final statue I am proposing is quarterback Condredge Holloway handing the ball off to all time great running back Dick Shatto. Of course, it would be great to have a quarterback throwing the ball, but I’m trying to keep the number of statues to a manageable number. This decision came down to a debate between Holloway and Ricky Ray. Ray won two Grey Cups and he leads the franchise in almost every passing category, so how can I leave him out? Partially my argument is there is an inflation in the yardage Ray has, as the modern game is far more passing friendly, and the stats are close, with Condredge just short of 15 touchdowns and 3,500 yards behind Ray with about 500 fewer attempts. There is also an intangible aspect to this debate. Ray was a good quarterback and he won two Grey Cups but was he ever a star? Was he ever the type of player who made young kids fall in love with the Argos and electrify a fan base? I am saying no. Holloway was an iconic player who electrified the fan base in the early 1980’s as he led the team that won its first Grey Cup in 31 years. And Holloway was a powerful answer to all of those who thought that a black athlete could not be a quarterback, especially the NFL who only had interest in him as a defensive back. Holloway handing off to Dick Shatto, is a no-brainer as Shatto is one of only four Argos with his number retired and still the franchise leader in rushing yards and touchdowns. Shatto was a dominant player from 1954 to 65, a time when the Argos were frankly not good, but he was a constant team nominee for the League MVP and his numbers speak for themselves.
There it is. Some obvious, some debatable and likely none to happen but it is July and a man can dream. I offer my apologies to all-time scoring leader Lance Chomyc, if it were up to me there would be a kicking statue but that is not a fight I’m going to jump into here. And of course, honour is due to quarterback Kerwin Bell whose iconic spike and fall deserves the bronze treatment, but that will have to be saved for Phase Two.