Vince Ferragamo wants it known that the first interception was not an interception.
"The fullback caught it, ran a step or two, was hit and fumbled," he said." "They called it an interception."
The other two were his fault. But no, Hamilton's Jerome Stanton did not turn toward the out-of-breath quarterback after lugging one of them for what amounted to the winning touchdown and taunt him with: "Bienvenue au CIL, Vinnie."
Ferragamo's welcome to the Canadian Footabll League did not go well last Sunday. Almost as bad as the three interceptions the most famous NFL defector threw for the Montreal Alouettes was that so few fans saw it. The team needs to average 40,000 customers this season; slightly more than half that watched his first exhibition performance.
Snickers surely burst through the Los Angeles smog early this week, from cocksure Ram officials who would not meet the salary demands of the only quarterback to lead them to the Super Bowl. But Ferragamo was too busy adjusting to his new game and his new life style back in training camp to notice. Or care.
Alouette owner Nelson Skalbania is collecting football properties the way he made his fortune in real estate. Ferragamos and Cousineaus, burner receivers and perhaps a Rogers or Walker. Yes, he still is trying to lure Herschel Walker away from Georgia, even though the league has said it will not tamper with American collegians until their schools wring every bit of energy possible from them.
Skalbania seems to believe this will give him entree into the NFL. He has a major league city and a major league stadium. Logically, he reasons that if he has enough great players, what is left of the NFL after its Davis Explosion can scarcely exclude him.
That is quite a bit further than anyone should venture just now. Ferragamo is the fascination. He is handsome enough and skilled enough to fill any stadium in the league; if he does not do the sort of wondrous works that justify a two-year contract estimated at $800,000 plus attendance bonuses, it probably will be more his teammates' fault.
As too many Americans keep the North American Soccer League from being as technically excellent as possible, so the Canadian quota hurts such as Ferragamo. His will be the same arm that made Super Bowl XIV so exciting and threw 30 touchdown passes for the Rams a year ago.
If the Alouettes stumble, he may well not be the reason. But he will be blamed.
"Tremendous pressure," said Alouette Coach Joe Scannella, an assistant with the NFL Raiders when they won their first Super Bowl title and a man who has taken Montreal to the Grey Cup final two of the last three years. "He has to be the best, because he's getting the most. Every mistake he makes is embellished. He makes a mistake in a preseason game and you'd have thought we'd lost the Grey Cup.
"He really hasn't gotten uptight or emotional yet, but I think it could happen. You gotta understand human nature. Everybody who comes here wants to talk to Vince. And they all ask the same thing, over and over. Everywhere he goes, they want his autograph, or for him to speak. He's the center of attention all the time.
And at the same time he's gotta go to work, to get his mind on his business. Even here, he can't let his hair down. He's got to be the model guy. It's a grand experiment. One thing, Canadians are not very receptive to superstars. Montreal is, and probably Toronto. But the rest of Canada isn't.
"Cousineau's first year, he ran into a wall in Hamilton, got knocked out and it was a 10-minute ovation while he was layin' on the field. They loved it. But at the same time they come to see him play. We're already sold out in B.C. They're coming to see Vince. It'll be that way everywhere."
Ferragamo's patience is nowhere near its limits as yet. He responds to every request with good cheer, with a phrase in French when that is appropriate, and is careful to make his blockers seem the equal of the Seven Blocks of Granite. The major problem so far is trying to figure out how to play football without a second down.
"The most vivid impression has been the three-down situation, even more than 12 players on a side," he said. "It's a rapidly moving game. Kicking and field position are especially important because the ball changes hands so many times. You have to get heated, warmed up so fast.
"You have 20 seconds to call the play, as opposed to 30 seconds (in the NFL) and two downs instead of three downs (before a punt situation). There are less things to consider. You don't have any second-and-short, second-and-medium, second-and-long. You have a first-and-10 and a third."
To add to Ferragamo's burden, the Alouettes were hurting more than usual earlier in the week and were without two of their American standouts. Cousineau had not reported because of ocntract problems and the recently signed James Scott seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Also, two of their best runners were injured.
The expericence is too new for any hint of regret.
"Some things you can't pass up," he said.
Ferragamo has rare touch and power; Scannella has the chance to let his offensive imagination go full throttle. The only unknown about Ferragamo is whether he can carry a team with the weight of a franchise on his shoulders.
The "ifs" were lined up for Scannella. If Cousineau reports inspired, if receiver Scott pops up, if a Rogers or Walker is lured to the team, what is the Alouttes' potential in relation to the NFL?
"As far as the skill positions," he said, "we'd be close to anybody. The other things I don't know about. Other areas, there's a big dropoff. Vince? With all the things he has, all the tools, including the mind and the professional attitude, there's no reason why if he had stayed with L.A. he wouldn't be the best in the league.
"They really made a mistake letting him get out of there." He sounded glad they did.