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Rick Zamperin: Toronto Argonauts dangerously close to point of no return

Mike "Pinball" Clemons speaks as he is announced as the new general manager of the Toronto Argonauts during a press conference at BMO Field in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019.
Mike "Pinball" Clemons speaks as he is announced as the new general manager of the Toronto Argonauts during a press conference at BMO Field in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston

One of the biggest stories in the Canadian Football League this season came down on Tuesday when the Toronto Argonauts named Michael “Pinball” Clemons as their new general manager.

The Argos legend on the field takes over for Jim Popp, a CFL legend off of it, as Toronto limps towards the finish line of what has been one of the franchise’s worst seasons.

Toronto is 2-12 this year (last in the league), a year removed from a 4-14 record, and the boatmen are coming off yet another lopsided loss — this time a 55-8 drubbing at the hands of the B.C. Lions. The Argonauts opened the season with a 64-14 loss against their arch-rivals from Hamilton.

Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons named new GM of the Toronto Argonauts
Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons named new GM of the Toronto Argonauts

Enter Pinball, a superstar running back and kick returner for the double blue from 1989-2000 who later coached the team and has also served as the club’s GM, vice chair, president and CEO.

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Clemons has won six Grey Cup titles during his career with Toronto, three times as a player, and Argos president Bill Manning is hoping that Pinball can help turn the franchise’s fortunes around.

Vice president of player personnel John Murphy, a longtime talent evaluator in Calgary and Saskatchewan, will be helping Clemons along the way.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Blue Bombers acquire quarterback Zach Collaros in deadline deal

Things can turn around quickly in the CFL. One year you can be staring up at the rest of the league, the next, you’re the one at the top of the heap.

In 2016, the Argos finished in last place and won the Grey Cup the following season. But whatever on-field success the team has enjoyed over the last couple of decades (they’ve won three championships in the last 20 years) attendance at Argos games has dwindled.

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Sports fans in the GTA are choosing to spend their time and money on the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays and TFC instead of the Argonauts, and I would suggest there is nothing Pinball or anyone else can do that will change that.

Despite winning championships, acquiring star players like future Hall of Fame QB Ricky Ray, and bringing back franchise icons such as Mike Clemons to run the team, the Argos have plummeted down the ladder of Toronto’s sports hierarchy.

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Plenty at stake as CFL teams race down the stretch

I’d hate to think of where this team would be if they were not owned by the deep-pocketed Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (who also own the Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC).

Sadly, the answer might be nowhere, which the Argos are dangerously close to now.

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