Lost in trans­la­tion

Stewart’s ‘ sick­ened’ com­ment taken a wee bit out of con­text

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - SPORTS FOOTBALL - PAUL WIECEK paul. wiecek@ freep­ress. mb. ca

YOU can’t blame the fans. And Bran­don Stewart didn’t. Con­trary to what you might have been hear­ing Satur­day as cor­ners of the Twit­ter­verse called for Stewart’s head, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers cor­ner­back told me very specif­i­cally at In­vestors Group Field Fri­day night that he didn’t blame Bombers fans one bit for their fourth- quar­ter cheer­ing of Buck Pierce and the B. C. Li­ons of­fence.

“They’re frus­trated — just like us — and so I can’t be mad or hard on them,” Stewart said in the Bombers locker- room fol­low­ing Fri­day’s 5317 throt­tling at the hands of the Li­ons.

“That’s some­thing new to me when your own fans are cheer­ing for the other team. And that to me was more dis­ap­point­ing than the loss be­cause our crowd has fu­elled us for a lot of games.

“But do I blame the fans? No, I don’t blame them. How could I?”

That is a much more nu­anced ex­pla­na­tion of Stewart’s views on the mat­ter than to sim­ply re­port he said he was “sick­ened” by the fans cheer­ing for Pierce and the Li­ons, as many me­dia did Fri­day night.

Yeah, Stewart was sick­ened — I was too and I’m not sup­posed to have a dog in this fight.

But I’ve lived most my life in this city and ev­ery Win­nipeg­ger worth his tuque and parka should have been sick­ened by the sight and sound of the fans at In­vestors Group Field cheer­ing Pierce and the Li­ons of­fence as they drove deep into Bombers ter­ri­tory in the fourth quar­ter.

And let’s be clear — while the en­try of the long­time for­mer start­ing QB of the Bombers into the game for the Li­ons was cer­tainly the cat­a­lyst for that cheer­ing, what I heard Fri­day night was cheer­ing that ex­tended be­yond Pierce and to the en­tirety of the Li­ons of­fence.

In­deed, my take Fri­day night was that Bomber Na­tion was cheer­ing for B. C. to in­flict ex­actly the same kind of pain and dis­ap­point­ment and pun­ish­ment on this Bombers team that this Bombers team has been in­flict­ing upon them for far, far too many years now.

And so in that sense, I think you could ar­gue those cheers for B. C. were also very much jeers for a Bombers team that has shown it­self en­tirely un­wor­thy this sea­son of the loyal fan base who have sup­ported it through the de­ba­cle that is this fran­chise’s in­au­gu­ral sea­son in their new sta­dium.

In a sea­son in which ev­ery week seems to bring a new low, Fri­day’s roll- over- and- die at the feet of the Li­ons was not only scrap­ing the bot­tom of the bar­rel, it was pick­ing up the bar­rel and get­ting down and dirty with the mag­gots un­der­neath.

And the play­ers knew it. Al­most with­out ex­cep­tion — and this in­cludes Stewart as well — the Winnipeg play­ers I spoke to Fri­day used some vari­a­tion of the word “em­bar­rass­ment” to de­scribe an ef­fort so ane­mic and in­com­pe­tent and fu­tile as to not be wor­thy of the uni­form.

Yeah, they were sick­ened. And em­bar­rassed. And hu­mil­i­ated. And you know what? Good. Be­cause if there is any hope re­main­ing of at least pre­vent­ing this sea­son from get­ting any worse — and I’m not sure there is, es­pe­cially with a road game loom­ing next week at a sta­dium in Cal­gary where the Bombers haven’t won in 11 years — the only thing that will ar­rest this skid is the sim­ple pride of the men wear­ing the Bombers uni­form.

Crys­tal clear It’s be­come crys­tal clear that some play­ers have sim­ply checked out al­ready. But there are more — and I’m told Stewart, be­hind closed locker- room doors, is at the top of this list — who still care deeply and for whom the losses in this 2- 11 sea­son are cut­ting.

That group needs to iso­late the first group and take charge. Are they go­ing to turn this sea­son around? No — the last three weeks have made clear no mat­ter how lousy the Mon­treal Alou­ettes con­tinue to play, this Bombers team is about to miss the play­offs for the fourth time in the last five years.

But what Bombers fans have a right to ex­pect for their hard- earned dol­lar is a team that goes down fight­ing to its fi­nal breath. This town loves its un­der­dogs and has shown — out of long ne­ces­sity, as much as any­thing else — they will cheer a loser.

But they’re not go­ing to care if the team doesn’t care, which is how it ap­peared Fri­day night. And if this team won’t give them some­thing to cheer about, they’ve now demon­strated that they’ll find another one that does.

Even if that means the op­po­nent.

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