It was the making of a monster or champion, or both.
When Baltimore pounded the Winnipeg Blue Bombers into second place Saturday, it shifted the balance of power in the CFL East.
It also altered the mind-set of the CFLs.
"People find out things about themselves in something like that," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said of Saturday's 57-10 beating of the Blue Bombers.
"I expect our players to play that way from now on. You either improve or get worse. I can't expect them to go back. . . . There's no reason."
The first test of that philosophy comes Saturday night in Sacramento, where the CFLs (12-5) can clinch a division title with a victory over the out-of-the-running Gold Miners (8-8-1).
Yesterday, Matthews addressed the "L" word with his players, and they presumably got the message.
Any chance of a letdown?
"I don't think so," said defensive halfback Charles Anthony. "It's another step toward our goal. If we lose to Sacramento, all is for naught."
"We can't allow that, whatever it takes," said quarterback Tracy Ham.
"I don't think so," said linebacker Ken Benson. "Everybody takes it real personal. We know what it took to get here."
It got personal Sept. 10, when the Gold Miners stole a 30-29 win from the CFLs on a last-second field goal at Memorial Stadium. Baltimore has won six of seven games since then.
None had the impact of Saturday's game. Matthews, who says he normally has a hard time reading his players before a game, got a glimpse of what was to come this week.
"They were emotionally higher coming out after Iggy's song," Matthews said, referring to place-kicker Donald Igwebuike's pre-game ritual. "They were animated, more pumped up. It was the attitude of the whole team; it was a visible thing."
The way defensive halfback Ken Watson remembers it, it was the rah-rah of the rookies, followed by the seasoned confidence of the veterans.
"The rookies came out all fired up," Watson said, "and the vets had to make sure we helped them back up the talk. We walked behind them."
Nose tackle Jearld Baylis said there is no turning back.
"Now, we've got to play to this level," Baylis said. "Anything less is not good enough."
Baltimore's five starting offensive linemen all graded over 90 (out of a possible 100), a rarity, according to offensive coordinator Steve Buratto.
"Of all the games I've ever graded, I bet I haven't had 3 percent where everybody was over 90," Buratto said. "A lot of times, Mike [Pringle] gets yards on his own. Yesterday, there was a lot of room to run."
Tackle Shar Pourdanesh was virtually flawless, grading out at 99 percent. Center Nick Subis was next at 96, and tackle Neal Fort and guards Keith Ballard and John Earle had 93s.
Kicking off at Garrison
The Coaches for Learning Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by the CFLs and the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys, will launch a pilot program at Garrison Middle School on Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Ham will attend as Garrison's "head coach."
A spokesman for the Gold Miners said yesterday that injured quarterback David Archer is expected to play Saturday. Archer has missed five games with a dislocated thumb. . . . Baltimore gave up 189 yards in total offense to Winnipeg -- a season low for the CFLs defense. . . . The CFLs have seven sacks in their past two games. They had a total of five in the previous six games. . . . There may be another Matthews film production on officiating. In question is a pass-interference call against Karl Anthony in the third quarter that set up Winnipeg's only touchdown.