Paul Woods on the 1983 Argos’ chemistry, and why his book on them is self-published

Paul Woods' Bouncing Back book on the 1983 Argonauts explores a historically-significant team, but as he discussed in Part I of our interview, it was also a team that was exceptionally close to each other. Woods said an example of that came from backup quarterback Joe Barnes, the eventual Grey Cup hero who wasn't about promoting himself.

"Joe Barnes, who came into the 1983 Grey Cup to replace Condredge Holloway and lead the team to victory, told me he was asked by Bob O’Billovich at halftime of the previous week’s Eastern Final if he was ready to go in," Woods said. "He told the coach he was, but that he didn’t see any reason to because he felt Holloway was playing great. How many quarterbacks nowadays would be as team-focused and unselfish as that?"

That camaraderie wasn't all thanks to the big-name players, either. In fact, Woods said his research suggests it was some of the lesser-known guys who were crucial to building that team's remarkable spirit.

"Mike Hameluck was a little-known member of the team, a guy who played the mostly anonymous positions of guard, centre and long snapper," Woods said. "Even as a fanatical fan, I paid little attention to him at the time. But it turns out that “Dawg,” as he was known, was a key guy in keeping the team unified. During training camp, guys would meet after practice in a field near the Speed River in Guelph, where Hameluck would always have beer on ice. And after curfew at 11 p.m., the “Dawg Deli” would open in the dormitory at camp – players would pad down to Hameluck’s room, where he would lay out a spread of cold cuts. Guys could eat a late-night snack, chat and get to know each other."

Curiously, one of the key contributors to the Argonauts' 1983 Grey Cup victory wasn't actually with the team then. That would be 1982 offensive coordinator Darrel "Mouse" Davis, who left the Argos after their Grey Cup loss to Warren Moon and the Edmonton Eskimos that November. The team kept his version of the famed "Run and Shoot" offensive system, though, long before it became prominent in the NCAA ranks with the Houston Cougars and in the NFL ranks with the Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons. Woods said Davis' offence was ahead of its time, influenced today's CFL offences, and was a key reason the Argonauts won that 1983 Grey Cup.

"The Mouse Davis saga is a fascinating part of the story," Woods said. "He and his his Run-and-Shoot offence brought new elements to the CFL that were unheard of then but are now common at the pro and college level on both sides of the border. Those innovations included a requirement that quarterbacks and receivers read the defence on the fly, as the play was unfolding, and react by taking whatever the defence was giving them. Before 1982, offences were based on set plays – run a 10-yard out pattern, and so on. After Mouse arrived, more and more offences became based on the challenging concept of several players all making up their mind exactly the same way, at exactly the same time, in a matter of a second or two. I describe it in the book as 'like setting classically trained musicians loose with a Duke Ellington jazz score.' Mouse also brought in more pre-snap motion than the CFL had ever seen, and was at the forefront of running legal pick plays, among other things. He left before the 1983 season, but the Argos continued to run his offence in their Grey Cup season. It gradually became watered down in succeeding seasons, unfortunately for Argo fans."

The year-long process of writing Bouncing Back led Woods to interview almost four dozen people, including most of the 1983 Argonauts players, the four coaches they went up against in the 1982 and 1983 East Finals and Grey Cups and the family of then-Argonauts' president Ralph Sazio. He said it would be extremely tough to pick out one interview he enjoyed most, as so many of them were so interesting.

"That’s a very difficult question to answer," Woods said. "I enjoyed almost all of the interviews, and it was gratifying to help guys remember events that they had forgotten. The guys I spoke to were incredibly enthusiastic and really embraced the project. At the risk of slighting the many not mentioned here, I’ll single out a few. Tom Trifaux, an offensive tackle/guard to whom most fans would have paid little attention, was incredibly articulate and insightful. It was evident that he had spent time over the years analyzing what made the 1982-83 Argos so successful. Defensive lineman Steve Del Col was also a really captivating speaker. Cedric Minter was extraordinarily articulate. For a guy who later went on to the NFL, he spoke with surprising pride about his time with the Argos, and told me he still wears his Grey Cup ring every day. And I had a wonderful conversation with linebacker Gord Elser, who became very emotional as he recalled finding his dad at the end of the 1983 Grey Cup and just hugging him for five minutes."

Rather than go through a traditional publisher, Woods opted to self-publish the book through Ticats' owner Bob Young's site. That meant that he took on the book's expenses himself upfront, including hiring a staff to help him.

"As a self-publisher, I had to cover all costs myself–including travel for interviews, hiring two editors, a designer and three transcribers, plus printing, publicity and other costs," Woods said. "I collect all the revenue from any books that sell. I need to sell a lot of books to break even, but I’m hoping that as word gets out, enough people will buy it that I at least come close. It’s a great story, and I hope readers feel I told it effectively."

Woods said self-publishing this book is risky, but he felt like it was the right move, especially considering the limited interest he received from traditional publishers.

"I looked into going through a traditional publisher, and had preliminary discussions with two about the project," he said. "One of them initially expressed some interest, but in the end they decided to pass on the project in the belief that the book had too narrow a niche, too small a potential audience. I honestly couldn’t disagree. I think the book will appeal primarily to individuals who were Argo fans 30 years ago (many of whom still love the 1983 team more than any since) as well as some younger fans who are curious about the team’s history and the legends of Condredge Holloway, Terry Greer and so on. I also think it will appear to hard-core CFL fans elsewhere. But add it all together and the audience may not be big enough for a traditional publisher to take the risk on."

Woods said self-publishing also helped him deal with the tight time deadline.

"The other issue was a practical matter: time. I started the project in May 2012 and knew it had to be finished and published 14 months later. In traditional publishing, a book typically has to be written at least six months before it is released. There was no way I could complete all the research, interviewing and writing by the end of 2012."

Woods said he's heard the market for CFL books historically hasn't been strong, which probably contributed to conventional publishers' less-than-enthusiastic interest in the project.

"I have no specific data to support my belief that CFL books don’t sell very well, but anecdotally that seems to have been the case for many, many years," he said. Few books about Canadian football get released – I have an extensive collection, but add only a handful to it every year – and those that do often seem to disappear into remainder bins fairly quickly."

Woods said he thinks the publishing industry's struggles are spreading across the board, though, so self-publishing may be an option for more and more authors down the road.

"Mind you, this is not just a Canadian football phenomenon–I’ve read that most books that get released by publishing companies do not make money," he said. "The entire publishing industry is in a huge state of upheaval, and I think self-publishing will become bigger and bigger. The economics of it work quite well–my book is a nice package and I can print copies at a cost that allows me to set a reasonable price of $23.99 and still net out okay."

You can read part I of the Woods interview here, learn more about the book at its official site and order it through here.