They say revenge is a dish best served cold. I don’t know about you but I admit that I hope that’s true. Got some stuff chilling in my figurative refrigerator that would make a decent snack down the road. Don’t we all like a good comeuppance?
In football, of course it exists, the revenge factor. It can motivate a player and a team to try to erase the memories of a humbling experience. A couple of Toronto Argonauts’ veterans admit that avenging an opening night loss in Winnipeg would be a tasty morsel for them.
One that they will attempt to snack on when the two teams meet, in Toronto, on Tuesday night.
“Yeah, there are definitely some games where they kicked your butt a bit and you wanna try and find some extra motivation to get a little revenge,” says sixth year receiver Mike Bradwell, who will likely see plenty of action at the slotback position against Winnipeg.
Another Argos vet, second year linebacker Jamie Robinson, takes a thoughtful pause after being asked whether revenge can play a healthy role in football. After careful consideration, he allows for the concept.
“You know, I think it can,” he replies. “You definitely want to go out and play well against a team that played really well against you. You definitely wanna go out and show them your best when you know the last time wasn’t your best.”
Enter those Bombers, who manhandled the Argonauts in the CFL’s season opener, back on June 28th. Running up a 24 – nothing first half lead, Winnipeg coasted to a 45 – 21 win, leaving the Boatmen with bruised egos and football observers shocked.
Remember, that game saw Toronto as big favourites. We didn’t know then what we do now – that the Blue Bombers are for real.
The Argonauts might well have revenge on their minds as they return from the bye week and continue prep for Tuesday night’s game. “That’s probably in our mind a little bit,” admits Bradwell. “That they got us good that first game.”
Bradwell knows humiliation can be a powerful motivator. He recalls it having an effect on Argos’ special teams, back in 2012.
“We played Hamilton a few years ago and they had a couple of return touchdowns on us. The next game we played them was definitely in our minds. That’s a game that sticks in my mind.”
July 14, 2012. Ticats’ returner Chris Williams brought back both a punt (87 yards) and a missed field goal (119 yards) for touchdowns. The thing is, the next time the two teams hooked up, on September 4th that year, Williams returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.
Maybe revenge is a dish best served warm. Because the following Friday night, September 8th, Williams had one punt return and the Argos smothered him after a 5-yard gain.
After that, Toronto’s punt and kick coverage teams took off and were a large reason why the Argos marched to a Grey Cup championship that season.
Both Bradwell and Robinson agree that there is a fine line involved in managing revenge. Take it a bit too far and it can rob you of its focussing characteristics and, instead, make you crazy. Crazy is not good in football, if it means your clarity and discipline go bye bye.
“Exactly,” agrees Robinson. “If you start to lose focus on the big picture and you get small-minded, you’ve gotta remind yourself that it’s a long season.”
The Argos know they aren’t owed anything. While they may have been guilty of taking Winnipeg lightly in the opener, they also know that the Bombers were full value for the lopsided win.
“You gotta give them credit. They played a good football game that game,” says Bradwell. “They just made the plays,” adds Robinson. “They just made the plays that they needed to make.”
Seeking revenge and making it so requires more than just that desire, of course. On the night of the blowout, the Argos were fully stocked on offence, personnel-wise, while the defence was filled with fresh faces, beginning the challenge of coming together as a unit.
Robinson believes they are a different group now, and there have been encouraging signs of increased cohesion.
“Everybody’s starting to pay more attention to detail,” he says. “Everybody’s starting to settle in more. Get comfortable with the defence as a whole. Everybody’s starting to play fast and play to their instincts now.”
Asked if the defence is where it ought to be now, Robinson is enthused. “We’re close. We’re not far off,” he promises.
Bradwell’s road to avenging the opening night loss has taken a turn. As mentioned, he’s likely to see more action at slot, where both Andre Durie and his replacement – rookie Anthony Coombs – are sidelined with injuries.
With head coach Scott Milanovich bemoaning his team’s blocking on the short passes to the edge, even in the wake of a 31 – 5 win over Montreal, Bradwell’s skills and dedication to the physical game will be important against a Winnipeg team that will be snarly, after coughing up a tough one to Saskatchewan on Thursday night.
“I enjoy blocking,” Bradwell says. “I enjoy the physical side of that. Playing (wide) receiver and running routes can be a little finesse (oriented) sometimes. It can feel good to go in there and lay a pancake and lay a guy out. It’s something I pride myself on being able to do, for sure.”
As for lingering memories of June 28th and the appetite to erase them with a win over Winnipeg, Bradwell agrees that revenge can add a little salt and pepper to the dish. “Exactly,” he says.
“We know them well and, obviously, with Osh (Bombers’ head coach and former Argo Mike O’Shea) there, we wanna take it to them. They’re on a good run but we feel it’s time for us to put a run together as well.”
Then, a reminder that seeking revenge for that opening night pasting needs to be tempered with plain ol’ run of the mill duty.
“But this is like any other game where we want to beat whoever we’re playing,” he adds.
THE EXTRA POINT
Bradwell was pressed into punt return duty – for the first time in his career – in the Montreal game. Previously, he’d returned three kick-offs in five seasons, but never a punt. Against the Alouettes, he brought back 6 punts, averaging 7.7 yards per return. Not half bad.
“It was exciting. I actually enjoyed it a lot. It definitely adds a new dimension to my game and is something I enjoy doing and hope to have success doing in the future.”
So, he’d like to do more of it. He’s been lugging back some punts in practice this week, but that’s no guarantee he’ll be fielding them when the Blue Bombers come calling Tuesday night.
“I’m not sure of the game plan is this week, but I’m always ready when they call my number to go back there,” he said.