August 13, 2019

The Bo Factor

Out at McMahon Stadium, post-practice, an exercise in fill-in-the-blanks.

The question being posed:

Having Bo Levi Mitchell back at the helm of the Calgary Stampeders’ attack is like ———.

“Like sugar in our Kool-Aid,’’ reckons wideout Reggie Begelton. “Sweetens it up.

“Makes it taste right.”

The Bonecrusher, Derek Dennis, pondered a while before articulating an answer.

“I’d say … like LeBron back from injury and in the starting lineup for the Lakers,’’ equated the burly left offensive tackle. “It’s a whole different team when LeBron’s not on the court.

“When he is, it’s just a different product. Same with Bo.”

Another of Mitchell’s pitch-and-catch pals, slotback Eric Rogers, went big-screen/small screen in his response.

“Like a healthy Boobie Miles in Friday Night Lights,” he reckoned.

The impending (this weekend quite probably if not an iron-clad, wager-the-kids-college-education-money-on-it certainty) return of the reigning MOP is naturally a trending topic around the CFL.

In an extended relief appearance, Nick Arbuckle has done yeoman service, igniting that ‘what the ….?’ comeback over B.C. the evening Mitchell was hurt the righted the ship, then piecing together a 4-2 record during the absence of the the two-time Grey Cup winning starter.

Arbuckle has proven he can not only play but excel at this level, which has to be of no end of comfort to the Stamps’ brass, just in case.

But, well, there is that indefinable, unquantifiable sugar-in-the-Kool-Aid factor Begeleton spoke of to consider.

“Who,’’ asks Dennis, in all earnestness, “wouldn’t be excited to have probably the best player in the league back in their lineup?

“A talent like that is not common in the QB position, especially in a nine-team league. You’ve seen other teams struggle without their starter, let alone a perennial all-star. His leadership, the way he runs the huddle, the respect he commands …

“The man’s been doing it a long time. You can’t deny what he brings to the table.

“If he is in fact back, it’d be lovely. Awesome. This team has been fortunate to have him all these years.”

On flip side of the line of scrimmage, Jamar Wall, one of the defensive co-captains, is also heralding the pending return of a franchise icon.

“Nick,’’ lauded the eight-year Stampeder veteran, “has been amazing for us. That comeback win, then taking over the reins from from a guy that’s accomplished pretty much everything in this league, has proven just how good he really is.

“But everyone fears 19.

“That’s who Bo is. That’s what he adds.

“He has that experience, seen it all, and that makes everyone think a little differently. He brings that unpredictability. He keeps defences off balance, challenges them.

“I mean, he named himself The Gunslinger for a reason.”

What must be guarded against when Mitchell does in fact mark his competitive return is the presumption, the possible unspoken, unconscious belief, that his presence alone will be more than enough to cover up every blemish, fix every fault, right every wrong.

In short: Cure all the ills of mankind.

“Just because Bo’s back – when he’s back – doesn’t necessarily mean: ‘OK, it’s going to be easy. Now we’re going to start blowing teams out’,’’ cautions Wall. “If we believe that, we’re wrong.

“You should never do that as a professional athlete. Guys are going to be excited that Bo’s back, yeah, because as I said he brings a different element.

“But the rest of us still have to do our jobs.”

Nothing regarding Mitchell’s availability, of course, is etched in stone this early in the week, given that kick-off versus the Montreal Alouettes remains a full four days away.

“Depends if he can go or not,’’ reminded Rogers. “You never know. We have a bye week coming up so it might be good to get him those extra days to rehab and be as well prepared as possible.

“If he’s good enough to go this week, though, I’m sure he will. If he’s not, Nick’s doing well. He’s in a groove. As long as he continues to build on what he’s doing, continues to make plays and compete the way he has in games, we’ll still be fine.

“We’re looking forward to having Bo back but we want it to be at the right time.”

Until that moment, these Stampeders feel in Allstate-calibre-coverage good hands holding the Arbuckle Insurance policy.

“Nick’s done a great job,’’ says Begelton. “We know he’s going to do the right things. He’s expected to do the right things.

“Bo has a little bit longer leash.

“If he’s back this week, great. If he’s not, we’ll be fine.

“We have faith in both of those guys, no matter who it is behind centre.”