Sunday’s Grey Cup clash between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and B.C. Lions will mark the 20th anniversary of the Toronto Argonauts’ 1991 CFL Championship, a title won under the stewardship of former co-owner, the late John Candy. On Saturday, TSN will screen a documentary on Candy’s tenure with the team (alongside partners Wayne Gretzky and the later-disgraced Bruce McNall), said telecast coming during a period in which “a whiff of formaldehyde” permeates the contemporary Argos in the view of the Globe & Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin ;
The film highlights Candy’s manic efforts to make the Argos the coolest kid in class once again, reviving them in a Toronto market infatuated with the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs. Employing Hollywood pals ranging from Jim Belushi to Mariel Hemingway, Candy single-handedly lifted the team and the entire league for a brief moment of gridiron Camelot.
Watching him on the frigid Winnipeg sideline in November of 1991, we vividly recall looking up from our desk at CBC to see the ample Candy bounding across the newsroom toward us, massive paw outstretched as slack-jawed reporters sat stunned to see the movie star in their midst. As the many voices in the piece recall, Candy was everywhere in the brief years between buying the team and selling it days before his death in March of 1994. We were on his list and he made it memorable.
Producer Matt Dunn deftly captures Candy’s enthusiasm for a team that, as now, was being rendered passé by Toronto’s cultural elites. In those days, however, there was no NFL pressing at the gates of Canada’s largest market, threatening the viability of the entire league. As the CFL takes the Grey Cup game to Toronto next year, it’s hard not to lament the shabby condition of the storied tradition Candy so believed in.