Blue can curl up and die, or fight like men

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - FOOTBALL -

TWELVE short months ago, the Bombers trav­elled to Regina and lost the Labour Day Calamity, 52-0. This year, the Rid­ers are ex­po­nen­tially bet­ter than the team they were in 2012, and by all in­di­ca­tions, the Bombers are worse. You do the math. The re­main­ing op­ti­mists will point out all is not lost be­cause this is the ex­act sce­nario that went down in 2011, when the Blue and Gold were 7-1, fac­ing a 1-7 Rid­ers squad.

Back then, the team was so con­fi­dent in our su­pe­ri­or­ity the mar­ket­ing depart­ment erected those in­fa­mous “We love our Saskatchewan neigh­bours, they’re just a lit­tle back­wards” bill­boards, which ob­vi­ously jinxed us and caused us to lose both the Clas­sic and Banjo Bowl games. It had noth­ing to do with the play­ers on the field or the reemer­gence of Rid­ers head coach Ken Miller. It was strictly the bill­boards. But back to the mat­ter at hand. So why isn’t this sce­nario plau­si­ble now that the roles are re­versed? Tech­ni­cally, I sup­pose it is fea­si­ble. Any­thing can hap­pen through­out the course of a game, but judg­ing from what we’ve wit­nessed on the field of late, it would re­quire what in­sur­ance bro­kers clas­sify as “an act of God” for the Bombers to win this game.

A mere month ago, such a state­ment would have been blas­phe­mous in th­ese parts, a sen­sa­tion­al­is­tic troll for the ages and rat­ings, and an over­re­ac­tion and damn­ing con­dem­na­tion of a football team that was “on the cusp” of get­ting to where they needed to be.

Yet af­ter fall­ing to 1-7, with back-to-back losses by 19- and 23-point mar­gins to last year’s worst team who are the proud own­ers of a de­fence that was for­merly em­ployed as a veg­etable strainer, the only thing this football team is “on the cusp of” is not win­ning more than three games this sea­son.

Un­less Ja­son Bol­tus or Justin Goltz has some Rocky But­ler in them, or Mar­cel Belle­feuille can com­pletely teach and in­stall his of­fence over the next five days while si­mul­ta­ne­ously insert­ing his size 10 into the pos­te­ri­ors of the de­fence, it may take di­vine in­ter­ven­tion to win this game, and that is not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion or sim­pli­fi­ca­tion.

Yet maybe that is ex­actly what this team needs to hear, to know they’ve been left for dead on the road­side by most ev­ery­body not re­lated to them or be­ing paid out of the same ac­count.

Writ­ten off Some­times, when a sea­son is writ­ten off even be­fore the halfway mark, a team re­al­izes that no one out­side of their own locker-room be­lieves in them or has their back.

If there were fac­tions that were feed­ing off of sil­ver lin­ings, bright spots or op­ti­mistic view­points, they have long left the build­ing.

Even the blin­d­est and most loyal of diehard Bomber sup­port­ers have rec­og­nized this team is not im­prov­ing or pointed in the right di­rec­tion right now. In fact, it is quite the op­po­site. It has lost full rud­der con­trol and is nose­div­ing into a canola field. If this group of play­ers needed an “us against the world” men­tal­ity to rally around, it has ar­rived and been de­liv­ered to their doorstep.

The fran­chise has re­cently lost eight con­sec­u­tive Labour Day Classics, and three of those games came against Bomber teams that were .500 or bet­ter, and two of which com­peted in the Grey Cup.

In years where we should have and could have won, we didn’t win.

Call this year’s Clas­sic a trap game for Saskatchewan, where they are lulled to sleep by ex­pec­ta­tions and turn the ball over five times, or call it a game that the Rid­ers have a hard time tak­ing se­ri­ously and fo­cus­ing on, but in ei­ther sce­nario they still win by two touch­downs. No one ex­pects the Bombers to win this game and all any­one hopes for is that they are com­pet­i­tive.

I’ve seen the pa­per bags come out twice in my ca­reer and have been on my fair share of mis­er­able football teams, the worst in 2010 where we went 4-14. Yet be­cause we lost nine of those games by four points or fewer, the play­ers had hope and prom­ise for a brighter day and the fans shared in that.

That hope was rewarded the fol­low­ing year with an East Di­vi­sion ti­tle and a sec­ond-place fin­ish in the big dance.

Un­for­tu­nately, the only hope this 1-7 football team is cur­rently dis­play­ing is for more fir­ings, bet­ter play­ers and bet­ter coaches.

If ev­ery­one on this ros­ter isn’t go­ing to work an­gry, to the same ex­tent as Chad Simpson last week, they are miss­ing the point.

In my mind, all Sun­day’s con­test comes down to is how you per­form when most ev­ery­one has given up on you.

Do you band to­gether and fight to prove peo­ple wrong, or ac­cept the judg­ment and de­feat that has al­ready been passed on your team?

DOUG BROWN

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