Pinball: Representing Canada ‘sentimentally sacred’

June 27, 2017
Senior Writer
CFL.ca

Seventeen years after retiring as a player, the accolades continue to pile up for Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons. That doesn’t mean he gets used to them.

Upon learning that the Toronto Argonauts had selected him as the player they’d honour Canada Day weekend with a t-shirt, Clemons said he felt honoured and overwhelmed.

“Fundamentally flawed but sentimentally sacred,” he says of the distinction.

“Football is a game, more than any other game I know of, where you don’t do anything by yourself. With that, trying to look at one person, or even five people or 10 people to represent a team a brand, it’s a physical impossibility to accurately represent any portion of that.

“It’s awkward but I appreciate it. At the same time for me, I hope (the name) represents every player that loved and was passionate about this organization. That it represents every fan that cheered, for 50 years or for five minutes; that it represents all of those in the organization like the Ian Sandersons (the Argos director of football operations who has been with the team 26 years). The Danny Webbs in the equipment room that worked so diligently and have been with us so long and were so loyal and don’t get the credit. All of those coaches who gave their time. For me, it’s my hope that this is symbolic, not ceremonial.

“We are celebrating who we are as a team, as a franchise, as a part of our great league and not the individual. So I am again, overwhelmed at the thought and the sentiment but also embarrassed to represent all of who we are.”

“I’d like to say that I speak up for Canada but the reality is Canada, our great nation, speaks for itself. Canadian culture, Canadian society, all that we are presents itself just fine. It doesn’t need help from Pinball.”

Pinball Clemons

Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons runs on the field before a game at BMO in Toronto (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

Clemons is that rare person who, seventeen years after hanging up his cleats, remains the face of the team he played so well for. He’s a hall of famer as a player, he’s coached the Argos, served as team president and has sat as the team’s vice chair now for the last eight years.

He’s long said that he’s an American by birth and a Canadian by choice. Born in Dunedin, Fla., Clemons has lived in Canada for the last 28 years and has said for many of them that he felt more Canadian than he did American. He made it official two years ago, when he and his wife, Diane, became Canadian citizens.

“Who I am, the way I live, my thought processes, how I engage, all of those things have been predominantly Canadian for a long, long time,” he says. “I heard someone effectively say it’s like the U.S. is my mom. She gave me birth, I was born there, but now I live with my wife. My wife and I just celebrated our 25th anniversary and it really is very similar to that.

“That doesn’t mean I still don’t love my mom, but I live with my wife.”

Clemons has traveled across the country as a motivational speaker, and he routinely speaks with the Argos at the start of their seasons. He doesn’t have a cut-and-paste speech each year, but he does make sure he instills the significance of the Argos’ history; that the team was founded in 1873 and is the oldest existing pro sports team in North America still using its original name.

He doesn’t try to tell the American rookies in the room what to expect from Canada. If football is too much of a team game to give any one man all of the credit, a country is too big and varied to try to encapsulate its experience.

“The Canadiana has a little bit of life of its own. It’s easier for people to see it than for me to tell them,” he says.

“I’d like to say that I speak up for Canada but the reality is Canada, our great nation, speaks for itself. Canadian culture, Canadian society, all that we are presents itself just fine. It doesn’t need help from Pinball.”

VIA: https://www.cfl.ca/2017/06/27/pinball-representing-canada-sentimentally-sacred/

Photo Courtesy of David Chidley/CFL.ca

No Replies to "Pinball: Representing Canada ‘sentimentally sacred’"