The Argo Bounce
Rick Boulton was a Contributing Editor, TV Guide.
Jay Teitel is a fine writer. Twice he’s won National Magazine Awards for sports journalism. He added an award for fiction in 1977. Yet he makes a lot of media people uneasy. “He’s a very pompous writer,” writes newspaper columnist Joey Slinger. Adds one national magazine editor, Bill Marsano: “I read Teitel’s magazine piece on hockey’s Eric Nesterenko in Quest Magazine. It told more about Teitel than it did Nesterenko.” Now Teitel has written his first book, The Argo Bounce, a fan’s chronicle of Canada’s most famous losing team, the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. And, pompous or otherwise, he’s made it work.
Oh, he’s up to his old tricks — in describing the agonies of an Argo fan over the past 30 years, he tells as much about himself as he does about the hapless Argos (example: Teitel begins chapter seven by outlining the reasons for his trip to Europe in 1972). But, after all, Teitel is writing about “his” team, and he presents such an absorbing and amusing image of himself — caught up in momentary optimism but never forgetting that disaster might be right round the corner — that his so-called pompousness is never a serious liability.
His research is solid. The whole cast of magnificent loonies and sad-sacks is trotted out and lovingly examined, from Ronnie Knox, the quarterback-poet, to the Great Black Hopes, Anthony Davis, Leon McQuay, and Terry Metcalf (whose press clippings were longer than their rushing yardages), to the longtime, loyal sufferers such as Jim Corrigall, Mike Eben, Dan Nykoluk, and Zenon Andrusyshyn, to the Argo discards who went on to shine for other teams (quarterbacks Pete Liske, Tom Wilkinson, and Don Jonas, to name just three). Remember such zanies as Harry Abofs, the Argo punt returner who kicked the ball out of bounds instead of falling on it, costing the Argos a last-ditch attempt at winning the 1971 Grey Cup? The Sleeper Play? Faloney’s run? It’s all here, a history of The Bounce (which in olden days used to mean a lucky bounce which went Argos’ way but since 1952, when the Argos last won the Grey Cup, has meant just the opposite).
And, of course, the coaches (ouch!) who promised much but delivered little, from Russ Jackson to Leo Cahill (twice), to Bud Riley, John Rauch, Forrest Gregg, and Willie Wood. Not to mention what Teitel labels “the overnight visitors,” whose celebrity was matched only by the brevity of their stays, from quarterbacks Greg Barton to Karl Sweetan to Sandy Stephens to George Mira. Names, games and incidents certainly make this a fan’s book, but Teitel is also able to weave a flowing story in an amusing manner: a compendium of the moments Argo fans would like to forget but never will.
Along the rocky road that helped originate Toronto’s image as “Loser City,” the author hasn’t failed to notice that the Argos have been one of the most successful teams at the box office — due in no small part to the vast number of rabid, loyal, and neurotic fans such as himself. The irony is not lost on the reader.