In times like these, Toronto Argonauts president Bill Manning said that there is no playbook for how to deal with what’s going on in the world.
Manning, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment and the entire sporting world have been swept up by the recent COVID-19 outbreak and everyone is trying to work together to make sure that people remain safe and healthy.
On the latest episode of The Waggle presented by Sport Clips, Davis Sanchez and Donnovan Bennett talked to Manning about what he and MLSE are doing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Episode 203: Navigating the unknown w/ Bill Manning
EPISODE OVERVIEW: This week on the Waggle, we’re joined by Bill Manning, president of the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Football Club to discuss the uncertain times ahead for MLSE and the rest of the sports world, and his optimism that sport will be there to reunite us when the time is right.
EPISODE RUNDOWN: Giving back in a time of need (5:51); Interview with Bill Manning (9:19); Final thoughts on this week (31:46).
“The biggest thing is staying in touch and collaborating, but it’s scary and it’s stressful and at the same time, it’s amazing to see people come together. So that’s the difficult part in terms of best practices,” Manning said. “Just within MLSE, I’m on a daily call with the Leafs and the Raps. Our folks in the business offices downtown just to make sure we’re all connected.
“I’ve spoken with Brendan (Shanahan) and Masai (Ujiri) and Kyle (Dubas) and Teresa (Resch) and we’re just trying to make sure that we help each other.”
Manning has seen what the COVID-19 outbreak has done to sports as a member of MLSE. Four Toronto teams under the MLSE banner — the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and Marlies — have all seen their respective seasons put on hold for the time being.
Toronto FC has taken to virtually communicating among the players, as many of them have gotten together in a video call to work out as a group, something that Manning is considering doing with the Argos for the time being. The Argos do have more local flavour than a season prior. Management made it a point of going out and bringing in a slew of National players to the team ahead of the 2020 season, so while they cannot get together to get work in, the players may know each other a little better right from the start.
The Argonauts were one of the busiest teams in the league when it came to adding bodies in the opening week of free agency. However, their additions didn’t stop with just the players on the field.
With new general manager Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons heading into his first full season since returning to the organization’s front office, there’s also a completely new coaching staff in place, headlined by Ryan Dinwiddie.
Dinwiddie and his family have made the move to the city full-time, however, some coaches are still in the process of coming to Toronto. One of those individuals is defensive line coach Mike Davis — who still lives in Regina. Manning recalled a conversation that the two had about how his off-season is going while living outside the city he’ll be coaching in for the 2020 campaign.
“He’s like ‘Bill, this is normal for us in the off-season … Look, our off-season is spent at home and where we’re with our families but we’re watching film and we’re devising plays and looking at personnel and obviously the coaches are speaking,” Manning said. “And he goes “You know, the only difference is I can’t go out and I can’t go to a restaurant but this normal cost of business for the CFL this time of year.’
“That was good to hear because there’s a sense of normalcy there for some of the CFL staff.”
Manning mentioned that the teams have been working closely with the league and players’ association to be able to keep players informed and answer any questions they may have.
“Right now I think the biggest focus for the CFL led by Randy is just to make sure guys are staying at home and are safe and just making sure everyone is healthy,” Manning said. “…The world will be in a much better place when sports is back on the field because that means people are healthy. Because obviously, we won’t take a chance of playing in stadiums with crowds if it’s going to be dangerous to the public and so when we’re playing again that that’s going to be a good day for everybody.”
Rather than focusing on the negatives in the world currently, the Argos are focusing on trying to get back on track following two straight 4-14 campaigns after winning the Grey Cup in 2017.
“I remember I was talking to john Murphy and trying to make decisions on who to bring on board and what to do and he said to me ‘Look, you’ve been doing the same thing two years in a row with the same players, and you finished four and 14 the last two years. You got to do something different,'” Manning said. “So he and Pinball have clearly changed up the roster and you know, in the coaching situation with Ryan.
“… I’m excited to see where the Argos can go this year because the last couple of years have been really humbling, to say the least.”
With the new personnel, front office and coaching staff in place, it seems as though the Double Blue are on the right track towards being a playoff contender in 2020. Only time will tell, however.
Next on the docket for the Argonauts will be the impending Global Draft and CFL Draft, where the team will have the chance to add another crop of young talent to their roster ahead of the season.
For now, Manning says that he’ll enjoy the time with his family, and suggests that others do the same.
“My biggest message is hug your wife, your husband, your kids, pick up the phone and call your friends and your loved ones and just make sure they’re safe and they’re doing the right thing,” he said. “Many times during our busy lives, we lose focus sometimes on what is the most important, and there’s no one more important than the loved ones in your life.”