Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers managers should pick greats

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There are few things in life these days that make me angry in that old-time football, grab-grass-and-growl way.

But the Winnipeg Blue Bombers front office managed to do it last week.

What I read in the Free Press sports section last week was still on my mind when I bent down to retrieve my blue box Wednesday, only to find the story was clinging to the bottom.

Glaring back at me.

As if to say, don't forget how "this" made you feel.

The story concerned how the Bombers management essentially decided it was too challenging for them to select four names from the club's 82-year history to honour with two-storey-tall signs they've decided to use as markers for each of the four main gates at the new stadium.

To quote Jeffrey Bannon, the Bombers' manager of brand development, from the story: "As we were going through who should be on the list of four, we found that everyone seemed to have a different list. It became a great water-cooler discussion and soon we finally decided we don't have the right to decide -- let's let the fans decide."

That's what got me growling then and howling now.

Didn't have the right to decide?

They not only had the right to decide, they had the responsibility.

If the Blue Bombers are going to hoist three-metre-high likenesses honouring four Bomber greats who personify the club's history, then the hired help should be best qualified to do it.

They have the history available and they should be able to come up with four names, not simply toss 20 onto the Bomber website and let the fans vote.

This shouldn't be about leaning lazily on the fans, it should be about making a well-researched, well-considered short list. And then do what they get paid to do. Make decisions.

A fan poll probably won't select four great players from four distinct eras, which is what the Bombers should do, but aren't. A fan vote is likely to be skewed by a website poll which, one would think, tends to attract the attention of younger voters with shorter memories.

Case in point.

Wednesday, the Bomber website had a different poll question.

"If only one number could be retired from use, which number would it be?

As of mid-afternoon, the poll result in percentage of votes went like this:

Bob Cameron's jersey, No. 6, and Chris Walby's, No. 63, both tied with five per cent; Doug Brown's No. 97 had 12 per cent, Ken Ploen's No. 11 had 18 per cent and Milt Stegall's No. 85 had an exaggeratedly high 59 per cent.

It shouldn't even be close.

If any Bomber number deserves to be retired, it's the one worn by two-way great, multi-Grey-Cup-winning Ploen.

But we were talking about a bigger poll, the one that got me growling and howling. It's still open until next Tuesday, and Bannon -- who at least deserves credit for coming up with the four-signs-for-four-gates concept -- says he hasn't peeked to see who's in the lead. But he thinks two of his personal picks -- Ploen and Stegall -- are virtual poster-boy certainties.

Here's where the story got even more telling, though.

At least half the 20 nominees don't even deserve to be considered for the four prize positions in the stadium. Not that they weren't greats in their day.

This -- to borrow from CNN's Anderson Cooper -- is The Ridiculist:

Greg Battle, Dieter Brock, Doug Brown, Bob Cameron, Tom Clements, Matt Dunigan, Rod Hill, Rick House, Jack Jacobs, Gerry James, Khari Jones, Tyrone Jones, Leo Lewis, James Murphy, Ken Ploen, Joe Poplawski, Willard Reaves, Charlie Roberts, Milt Stegall and Chris Walby.

It should have looked more like this:

Jack Jacobs, Ken Ploen, Bob Cameron and Doug Brown.

Four greats from four eras, including Jacobs -- the charismatic native North American -- whose career spans Osborne Stadium and Winnipeg Stadium, which became known as "The House that Jack Built."

You're wondering, no doubt, where all-time CFL pass-reception leader Milt Stegall is.

Well, he's not here and that's part of the reason he's not on my final four.

He gets beaten out in his era by a local. Besides, while Milt played 13 seasons, Bob Cameron played 23.

And, remember, Bob still lives here.

Of course, if the Bomber front office had made that call, that could have caused a lot more growling and howling. Which might be why they felt it was too challenging -- or too controversial -- and left it to you to vote.

Anyway, there are tougher challenges ahead, and other jobs the Bombers have fumbled. Like finally finishing that place where the four posters are supposed to mark the four gates.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2012 B1

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