VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- It is somehow fitting that in the year of his revival, Tracy Ham has returned to the scene of one of his worst defeats.
In 1990, when he quarterbacked the Edmonton Eskimos, he committed five turnovers in a 50-11 Grey Cup loss to Winnipeg at B.C. Place.
Today, as a member of the Baltimore CFLs, he'll revisit the dome, but not the memory. That's because Ham doesn't acknowledge ghosts, let alone chase them.
"You can't play the game when you're trying to prove something," Ham said as he prepared for the B.C. Lions.
"Team goals are so much more important than personal goals. At my position, I can't be selfish."
If this is Ham's personal crucible, he appears oblivious to it. Miscast as a run-and-shoot quarterback, he endured his worst ++ CFL season in 1993 with the Toronto Argonauts.
"When Toronto traded for me, they were looking for a quick fix to some problem," Ham said. "But the problem was deeper than quarterback.
"In this league, you don't throw a lot of timing patterns. I was trying to play the game 3 yards from the line of scrimmage. Then people started to question my ability to play the game. And the previous year, I led the league in pass efficiency."
In Baltimore, Ham re-established himself as one of the league's best offensive leaders. His coach, Don Matthews, marvels at his approach: "His competitive spirit is just remarkable."
And his teammates know the reputation he must shed in today's game.
"This would be a great accomplishment for Tracy is he's able to win the game," said receiver Chris Armstrong. "The Canadian media has been on his back. He did what they said he couldn't do in Edmonton. They said he couldn't win a [division] final. Here we are at the Grey Cup, and [if he doesn't win], they'll say he can't win the Grey Cup."
There is perhaps no better place for Ham to exorcise the pTC demons of his playoff past than B.C. Place.
The price of success
Quarterback Doug Flutie knows about heightened expectations. His Calgary Stampeders were eliminated in the West final two years in a row, despite a 15-3 regular-season record.
After he won his fourth consecutive Most Outstanding Player Award last week, he acknowledged the accompanying pressure.
"I feel like I'm supposed to win it now," Flutie said. "And it's the same attitude of our football team.
"We are supposed to win. We don't enjoy winning as much as we used to. When you win a game, you should celebrate and enjoy it. We're getting criticized and we're feeling anxious about the fact that we only won by a touchdown, or only won by 10.
"All year long, it's the mentality. You have to win, and if you don't win, there's something wrong. There's nothing wrong if you don't win. If I hadn't won [the Most Outstanding Player Award], I shouldn't feel dejected."
No one-man band
The arrival of Federal Express founder Fred Smith and Memphis, Tenn., into the CFL this month has fueled speculation he may be able to land a lucrative TV deal with a major network.
Pepper Rodgers, managing general partner of Memphis' proposed team, said Smith was "the only one I know who can get in to see Larry Tisch [head of CBS]." But Rodgers draws the line at suggesting Smith will deliver the contract himself.
"He has 100,000 employees and 10 children," Rodgers said. "He doesn't have time to do it by himself."
Armed and dangerous
Dan Ferrone, president of the CFL Players' Association and a former tackle, knows where to start with credit for Baltimore's unrivaled success as an expansion team: with Matthews, for whom he once played.
"The key element, no question, was Don Matthews," Ferrone said. "He knows the Canadian game. He's a smart guy and he knows how to win, how to get into players' minds and motivate them."
Baltimore owner Jim Speros seconds that motion. "Anyplace we go, he [Matthews] has been there before and beaten them before. He's a loaded gun."
He's got a loud bark
B.C. Lions coach Dave Ritchie on veteran Less Browne, one of the league's most vociferous cornerbacks: "He's 5-10, but his mouth is 5-8." . . . Although quarterback Matt Dunigan says he became a free agent when Winnipeg lost to Baltimore a week ago, Bombers coach/general manager Cal Murphy said it doesn't happen until Feb. 15. Meanwhile, responding to reports Dunigan is bound for Shreveport (he played at Louisiana Tech), Murphy said he has talked to commissioner Larry Smith about tampering charges against the Pirates.
The Canada Cup
In anticipation of Canadian and American divisions, Smith suggested that the Grey Cup might become the championship game for Canada only. . . . He's also talking about implementing a local blackout for playoff games, which would enhance the league's position in TV contract talks.