Toronto Argonauts' Jan Carinci (right) and Dan Ferrone parade around B.C. Place with the Grey Cup after defeating the B.C. Lions in Vancouver on Nov. 27, 1983. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Clark
It was an idea that seemed far-fetched when it first came to mind. How exactly could you come up with the Top 150 Moments in the history of a team that is in its 150th anniversary season?
With a lot of help that’s how.
There was a gigantic opportunity to screw up a list like this; especially when most people’s knowledge of the Toronto Argonauts goes back as far as their own fandom. It meant that a panel of people with a passion for the team and a keen sense of history would have to be assembled.
It didn’t take too long to come up with a list of people that would be invaluable to a selection committee like this. Fortunately, everyone who was asked accepted quickly and with a great deal of enthusiasm.
The Toronto Argonauts 150th Historical Subcommittee was formed in early January with the following members:
James Fraser. A history professor at the University of Guelph. His passion lies with Toronto Argonauts history prior to the formation of the CFL in 1958. He is the man behind the @BygoneBoatmen Twitter account and quickly became the most important person on the committee because of his extensive knowledge of that era in team history. He is a season ticket holder.
Paul Woods. A longtime sportswriter and editor who is the author of two books about the Argos. Bouncing Back is a spectacular look at the team leading up to and including the 1983 season. The Year of the Rocket focuses on the 1991 campaign. Both are incredibly well detailed. He is currently authoring a third book, this one about the career of McLeod Bethel-Thompson. He’s a lifelong Argos fan and long-time season ticket holder.
Don Landry. Currently a writer for CFL.ca. Landry spent almost two decades working as a sports radio talk-show host in Toronto. He has served in the past as the public address announcer for Argos games at both the Rogers Centre and BMO Field.
Danny Webb. Nobody knows the history of the last 40 years of the Argos like Webb. The team’s equipment manager is the longest serving employee of the team. He was hired by the Argonauts back in 1985. He provided invaluable insight to the committee.
Your humble typist. The Argos Communications Manager and the team’s radio play-by-play voice for 18 years, first getting the opportunity to call games in 2000. A sports radio talk-show host for 25 years in Toronto before being hired by the Argos in 2018. A former season ticket holder who has been an Argos fan since watching his first game (that I can remember), the 1971 Grey Cup.
The quintet came at things from different angles; all had strengths, while everyone admitted to having blind spots, especially in the era of Argo football that Fraser was so incredibly well-versed in.
With the committee a reality, the next question became how to assemble a list.
The first thing was to define what a “moment” was. It was determined that it could be a play, a game, a trade, a signing, a season as a whole, a non-football event; anything that was deemed worthy of discussion by the panel.
To start the process, members of the committee were asked to submit an initial list of their top 25 moments. These would be perhaps the easiest ones to put together as in many cases they were the most obvious. The lists were compiled and ranked on a 25-to-1-point system; 25 points for a person’s first pick, 24 points for their second pick, right down to one point for their 25th pick.
There were 46 different moments that received votes for the Top 25. A list that ranked those 46 in order of point total was returned to the committee and a Zoom call was later held. Members would then make their case for or against a certain moment being on the list, or perhaps needing to be ranked higher. A second vote was then held. Using the same 25-1 weighted voting system, the initial Top 25 moments would be placed on a list.
Moments that didn’t crack the initial list were then eligible for the 26-50 list, along with any other new nominations.
This procedure happened every week for the next five weeks, using the same method for picks 26-50, 51-75 and so on until a list of 150 moments was created.
That initial list of 150 was then sent out and the committee had a couple of weeks to think about potential changes. In retrospect, was something ranked too high? Too low? Was something completely missed?
The local members of the panel gathered in person in late April, with Landry joining the other members of the quartet via phone. Each of the moments was discussed one at a time. After debating the merits of that moment, it would either be placed in its original spot, or moved. There was actually some pretty significant movement in some cases after some at times lengthy and passionate conversation.
After roughly six hours of discussion – and hundreds of hours of preparation – the final list was complete.
At the conclusion of the evening there was a universal feeling that the list was fair. It represented every decade aside from the 1890s. The best players in franchise history were respected, as were the best teams to don Double Blue.
There will no doubt be criticism. Someone’s favourite moment may be ranked too low in their opinion, or it may not appear on the list at all. They may also think a moment was ranked too highly.
One member of the committee has experienced a quarter of the team’s history from field level. For Danny Webb, the exercise brought back a torrent of memories.
“I was extremely pleased with the final 150 list,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about the bygone Boatmen from the past. I’m most proud that I’ve been lucky enough to have been on the sidelines for a lot of these events in my Argo career. We’ve found some hidden gems for that list; what a wonderful experience it was.”
It was not an easy task to compile the list.
“We all knew the Argonauts have an incredible history spanning almost the entire lifespan of Canada,” Woods told Argonauts.ca. “But I don’t think any of us realized quite how incredible it is until we started pooling our suggestions for greatest moments. My own ‘final’ list of contenders for the top 150 included more than 250, and any of the 100 or so that didn’t make the cut could easily have been on this list.”
Woods admitted that the process of whittling the list down to the 150 final choices was not easy.
“Narrowing it down was hard enough; assigning a rank to events that in some cases happened decades apart was a mind-boggling – albeit fun and invigorating – challenge. But while arguments will no doubt ensue, both about rankings and about moments that have been overlooked, I believe we got it right.”
Fraser agreed with Woods that the group did a good job of digging through a century-and-a-half’s worth of Argonaut “moments” to celebrate the most memorable.
“I am really happy and satisfied with our list of 150 moments from Argonaut history,” he said. “Reaction to ‘greatest’ lists mostly revolve around details like X being ranked before or after Y, and it will be fun to continue those debates – which we had ourselves – with the wider public. However, from my perspective the primary aim of the exercise was to try and encapsulate the incredible depth, breadth and unique richness of the history of the Argos across fifteen decades, and to tell as many stories from as many eras as we could. And that aim, I think, has been very successfully achieved.”
The debates can begin as the list is revealed bit by bit over the next few months. The countdown will continue until the committee’s choice for top moment in the team’s history will be unveiled on October 4, the official birthdate of the franchise.
Landry was not only thrilled with the final list, but with the way that it was compiled.
“The terrific, respectful collaboration among the committee members makes me feel proud,” said Landry. “We spent hours and hour and hours talking and shaping and reshaping this list. Each and every one of us has an immense love for football and passionate opinions. I think we all felt heard during this process. I did, anyway.”
He certainly was, as was each member of the committee.
When seeing the list please accept – as Landry says – that there was a great deal of time put into this compilation, it was not thrown together haphazardly.
Each member of the group learned a great deal from one other; specifically from Professor Fraser. What we did learn as a group is something that all Argo fans can agree upon; this organization has a long, rich history filled with some incredible success and some amazing personalities who have been pulling together for 150 years.
Landry mused about the vast number of moments that could have made the list, “I think we need a bigger boat.”
As the Chair of the committee it should be noted that the four members selected to join me could not have been better to work with. They took the assignment extremely seriously; in part because of the intense scrutiny we know the list will be subject to, but also because of our collective passion for the organization.
We desperately wanted to get it right.
Many of these stories were new to us. We wanted to make sure that this list brought life to a number of moments that time has forgotten, but thankfully James Fraser hasn’t.
We wanted to expose Argo fans to the glories of not only more famous Argos like Krol, Shatto and Conacher, but of Glad Murphy, The Invincibles, Frank Turville and Ab Box.
If nothing else, the list will allow you to revisit some of your favourite moments while at the same time celebrating the entire 150 years of Toronto Argonauts football.