B.C. Lions boss Wally Buono says record books should add an asterisk
Normie Kwong’s rushing yards record was set in 15 games
Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish entered Friday’s game against Edmonton needing only 50 rushing yards to surpass Normie Kwong’s record set in 1956.
Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald
VANCOUVER — General manager Wally Buono and running back Andrew Harris were two members of the Lions organization with a particular interest in Friday night’s game between the Eskimos and Stampeders, and not just because of Calgary’s possible involvement with B.C. in the West Division final on Nov. 18.
Stampeder running back Jon Cornish entered the game needing only 50 rushing yards to surpass Normie Kwong’s single-season record for a Canadian back, set in 1956 when Kwong rumbled for 1,437 yards as a fullback with the Eskimos.
Now 83, Kwong is retired and living in Calgary, following his five-year tenure as lieutenant-governor of Alberta. Before that, he was a part-owner of the Calgary Flames and president of the Stampeders. In fact, it was Kwong who promoted Buono to his first head coaching assignment in 1990 with the Stamps, and the two have retained close ties ever since.
The Buono family was invited to Government House in Edmonton when Kwong was Alberta’s regal emissary, and the Lions GM dutifully, without fail, phones Normie and his wife, Mary, for a social call whenever the team is playing at McMahon Stadium.
“I always felt he kind of adopted our family,’’ Buono said.
With so much personal history between himself and Kwong, it’s perhaps not surprising that Buono believes an “asterisk” should be placed beside Cornish’s name should the record fall. Cornish will have needed 18 games to do it; Kwong achieved his 1,437 yards over just 15 games, when the Western Interprovincial Football Union, as it was then known, had a 16-game schedule. Their cousins in the IRFU (The Big Four: Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal) played just 14 games back then.
For 30 years, until a single-record declaration was made in 1991, the myth persisted that an asterisk had been attached to the name of Roger Maris, the New York Yankee slugger who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. Maris needed 162 games to crack the Babe’s enduring record of 60, achieved when the season was only 154 games long.
“Just to make it clear, Normie didn’t do it in 18 games,” Buono said, assuming the logic of former baseball commissioner Ford (pro-asterisk) Frick. “I’m not downplaying what Jon is doing, but there should be an asterisk beside it (the record). Normie did it a long time ago, in an era when it was a lot different than it is today. Remember, teams were built around stopping the run in those days. Everybody ran the football. Today, it’s the other extreme. Everybody lines up to stop the pass. Running backs should dominate (in 2012) because defences are more set up to stop the pass. I’m not being derogatory, but I’m saying it was probably harder to get rushing yards in the 1950s because teams knew you were going to run the ball.”
Harris became the ninth Canadian running back to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season two weeks ago, and he needs just 21 tonight against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at BC Place to reach No. 6 all-time among backs from the True North Strong and Free.
While there is no trophy or award for the individual who leads the CFL in the “yards from scrimmage” category, Harris would like to nail down the unofficial title against the ‘Riders. Going into the final week of the regular season with a league-leading 1,767 yards (a combination of rushing and pass receiving yards), he was only seven ahead of the Roughriders’ Kory Sheets and 47 yards in front of Cornish.
Not to wish any pestilence on the Stampeder, but Harris wouldn’t have been too upset if the yards didn’t come easily for him Friday night.
“It’s huge (leading the league in yards from scrimmage),” Harris said. “It’s a personal accomplishment, and it’s definitely important to me. I’ll be watching to see how well he (Cornish) does. If he gets the (Kwong’s) record, though, I’ll be happy for him.”
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