Toronto Argonauts





 Paul Masotti - Wide Receiver - 1988-99 - Acadia


excerpted Small is Beautiful - James Deacon - Macleans - 01-12-1997

On the Toronto set of CBC's Royal Canadian Air Farce, Mike (Pinball) Clemons, Doug Flutie and Paul Masotti do what they always do-goof around. Instead of the usual locker-room banter, however, they are cast in a skit about a cable-access TV show with Air Farce regular Don Ferguson playing the host. The three Toronto Argonauts, fresh off their team's Grey Cup victory, fit right in-Pinball is a ham, Flutie is Mr. Smooth and Masotti is a natural straight man. The slotback, quarterback and wide receiver, respectively, handle their lines with such ease that Ferguson, playing the thick-necked leather-voiced star of "Man's World," is moved to look into the camera and growl: "These guys are good." They are-they tape the segment in one take. Afterward, on their way to a Maple Leafs-Philadelphia Flyers hockey game, where they are to appear with the Cup at centre ice, Masotti and Flutie stop by a Tex-Mex bar for a quick dinner and TV post-mortem. Weren't they nervous? "Nah," scoffs Flutie between bites of a chicken enchilada, "we're used to performing under pressure."

Only a year ago, having the Grey Cup champions on Air Farce would have cut too close to the bone. In 1996, the Canadian Football League was funny only to those who enjoy a good train wreck-it made a profit of about $4 million but spent more than $7 million propping up teetering franchises. The handouts didn't pay off for the neediest team-the Ottawa Rough Riders died-and almost weekly the league itself seemed in danger of collapse.

What a difference a year makes. The Grey Cup game in Edmonton on Nov. 16-the Argos hammered the Saskatchewan Roughriders 47-23 to win their second straight championship-was a financial windfall for its organizers, who banked $7.5 million in gate receipts as hosts of the week-long festivities. The league, meanwhile, hauled in a profit of about $4 million for the season, which enabled it to pay off the previous year's deficit and distribute the remainder among its eight teams. More important, there were no in-season calamities to distract fans from the game. "There haven't been fires burning everywhere you look," said Clemons, a

 Dunedin, Fla., native who is one of the game's most popular players. "The focus has been on football."

While a one-year winning streak does not remake the CFL, the league made a significant comeback and began to erase the memory not only of the previous season, but also of its desperate expansion into the United States in 1993. Why? "There's nothing like a near-death experience to focus your mind," understates league chairman John Tory. The near-insolvency of 1996 convinced team owners to stick to the league-mandated $2.1-million-per-team salary cap-the average player's salary this season was $45,000-and Tory enforced his small-is-beautiful financial model with independent audits. Having arrested the CFL's slide, Tory now wants to build league revenues by coaxing corporate Canada into the sponsorship huddle. Most big companies have so far stayed on the sidelines, but Tory is not discouraged. "We have to earn their support," he says, "and we have started that process."

League officials will spend the off-season working to restore interest in eastern teams. While home attendance for Western Conference teams rose 13 per cent in 1997, Montreal had a league-low average of 9,585 per game in 1997. And in Toronto, where so many head-office sponsorship decisions are made, the Argos attracted an average of only 18,300 fans to SkyDome despite a stellar 15-3 regular-season record. But the Argos drew 32,085 for their nail-biting 37-30 victory over Montreal in the eastern final, and more than 10,000 fans turned out for the Grey Cup victory parade. Adrian Watt took an afternoon off from his job with a courier company to cheer the champs with his wife, Sharon, and their two children. "Torontonians can be so fickle," Watt said, "but if you like football, you've got to love the CFL."

Without a contract, Flutie, who lives in Natick, Mass., in the off-season, could seek out a job in the National Football League. But he has been well-paid in the CFL-thanks to the so-called marquee player rule that exempts his income from the salary cap, he earned $1 million from the Argos in 1997 -and the Canadian game suits his scrambling style of play. "I really think I'll be back here," he says. "This is the best situation for me." So, too, for Masotti, a resident of Stoney Creek, Ont., who, as the Argos' players union representative, knew of the league's perilous state better than most. "I can't believe how much they turned it around in one year," Masotti says. "I mean, I'm excited about next year already." CFL officials hope he's not alone.


Masotti and Flutie would share a strong friendship. This was evidenced when Flutie gave his awarded truck for Most Valuable Player in the Grey Cup in 1997 to Masotti the games Most Outstanding Canadian. Over 12 season the Hamilton native would break the 1,000 yard receiving plateau 4 seasons in a row 1994-97. He was an Eastern All-Star on four occasions and a league all-star in 1994 when he posted 1,280 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He captured the Grey Cup with Toronto in 1991, 1996 and 1997.


Paul Masotti would retire in 1999 at the time the club leader in all-time receiving yards (since surpassed by Derrel 'Mookie' Mitchell). He would serve as the teams General Manager in 2000.


-- statistics --



Paul Masotti   Acadia  
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1988 Tor 2 50 25.0 33 1
1989 Tor 31 443 14.3 55 4
1990 Tor 37 592 16.0 60 5
1991 Tor 23 360 0.0 36 2
1992 Tor 44 801 18.2 45 2
1993 Tor 36 606 16.8 72 3
1994 Tor 67 1,280 19.1 67 9
1995 Tor 70 1,336 19.1 80 3
1996 Tor 73 1,023 14.0 97 7
1997 Tor 77 1,011 13.1 51 5
1998 Tor 66 897 13.6 66 2
1999 Tor 30 373 12.4 31 1
Total 12 556 8,772 15.8 80 44



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