November 24, 2012

Landry: Adriano Belli and the art of intimidation

Adam Gagnon/

You know Adriano Belli is the stylish type.

Showing up Saturday for the Argos’ final walk-through session ahead of the 100th Grey Cup Game, Belli was adorned with a leather cap and a tasteful scarf, loosely knotted around the neck that he so usually sticks out during any interview.

Maybe the scarf was more than fashion statement. Belli had missed all Argo practices this week, kept away by head coach Scott Milanovich because the Kissing Bandit had been battling some kind of bug. Best to keep warm, then.

Still, the point is a salient one; Adriano Belli knows style. And he knows trash talk. Who better to ask the question:

Is intimidation an art form?

“Without question,” he replied. “True intimidation isn’t about yelling at somebody. It’s not about hooting and hollering. It’s about backing up what you’re saying to the other person.”

Belli, the Toronto native who retired after the 2010 season but felt the call to return as the 2012 stretch drive arrived, re-signed with the Argos in time to see action in the final 6 games of the regular season.

He returned with the same defiant gridiron attitude and potty mouth that were every bit as much of his CFL legacy prior to his retirement.

He’s still chirping, unapologetically.

“The offence works all week, preparing magnificent schemes and magnificent plays that need all twelve people working as one,” he said, with a sweep of his arm.

“If you can (expletive) that up, it’s a beautiful thing,” he concluded, smiling.

Belli’s art of intimidation can take on many forms. For instance, just before the Eastern Semi-Final against Edmonton, he walked over towards the Eskimo bench, just before the national anthem. He stopped, about 10 yards away and just stared. Forever, it seemed. No words.

Last week, the cameras caught him blabbing away at Anthony Calvillo, as the Montreal quarterback did his best to ignore Belli completely.

“I was just trying to help him remember that he’s not perfect. We’re all men out here. That anybody can choke.”

I asked him: Were those your exact words?

“It was a little more aggressive than that.”

For Belli, intimidation is all about an edge gained, not an attempt to disrespect the opponent.

“I have a great amount of respect for Anthony,” he said, of Calvillo. “I think he’s the best quarterback to ever play in the CFL. But, he’s a man.
(Calgary quarterback) Kevin Glenn is a man. (Stamps’ running back) Jon Cornish is a man. And anybody can be broken.”

So, Belli will explore the art of intimidation, once again, during the Grey Cup Game. Cornish will be a target of this, though what that will entail, Belli’s either unsure or unwilling to say.

“I have no plan,” he said with a smirk. “We’ll see what happens. I think he’s an incredible back and I can’t wait to get my hands on him.”

On a football field, as in life, turnabout is fair play and Belli knows it. Asked which Stampeder is most likely to feed him a little of his own medicine, he surprises with his answer.

“I think Kevin Glenn’s got a little spunk to him.”

The essence of intimidation has its roots in a fairly simple observation, which Belli holds to be true.

“Most football players are insecure young men. They play football because they wanna be the big tough guy. But everybody has insecurities, even myself. If you can get somebody on a bad day, might as well it be a bad day when you’re playing against them.”

When all has been said and done – with Belli there is a lot of saying and doing – the art of intimidation may not matter at all.

“I like to get under a guy’s skin and talk dirt,” began Belli. “But, at the end of the day, if you’re throwing a man on the ground, like he’s a little kid, that’s enough intimidation, isn’t it?”

With that, art class was dismissed.