Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cowbell flip-flop just a silly mess

Blue could have seen this one coming

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Don't campaign on raising taxes -- even if that's exactly what needs to happen. You'll get killed at the polls.

Never hold up your hand to block a camera -- it just looks like you're hiding something, even if you're not.

And don't, under any circumstances, try to take away cowbells from folks on the Prairies -- the cowbellers will bury you and everyone else will laugh at you.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had to learn that third lesson the hard way the past couple of days after they found themselves embroiled in the most ridiculous of controversies -- one their media-relations spokesman Darren Cameron jokingly referred to on his Twitter account Monday afternoon as 'Cowbellgate.'

If that sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit, that's because it kind of was, only this one was live from Winnipeg.

Unless you were living off the grid for the last 24 to 48 hours, you probably know the background by now:

The Free Press came out Monday morning with a little story about how some fans were mad that the Bombers -- as part of a new security policy being rolled out in anticipation of an eventual move to the new stadium going up on the grounds of the University of Manitoba -- would be banning "artificial noisemakers" on game days this year.

The problem was the Bombers were including in that category -- alongside things like air horns and megaphones -- that most venerable of Prairie institutions, the humble cowbell.

Now, you could certainly argue the Bombers should have known better. Just last December, cowbells were also national news when it emerged at a curling event in B.C. a security guard had made some Saskatchewan fans put away their cowbells and informed them the Canadian Curling Association had put in a ban on cowbells at curling events.

There were immediate howls of outrage and laughter -- in roughly equal measure -- and it didn't take long for the CEO of the CCA to issue a statement saying cowbells were still more than welcome at national curling events and blaming the whole thing on a misunderstanding.

So yeah, the Bombers might have seen this one coming. But if they were guilty, it was with an explanation that goes to the very heart of what a cheapskate town this really can be sometimes.

As the Bombers explain it, they never really had a problem with cowbells in the first place, but included them in the ban because they wanted to eliminate all the rinky-dink homemade contraptions people too cheap to actually buy a cowbell were also lugging out to Bombers games.

In a press release the Bombers sent out Monday morning reversing the cowbell ban to allow store-bought cowbells, the club explained what they were really targeting was things such as "empty paint cans with rocks inside."

All of which came as delightful news to fans of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, at least one of whom took to Twitter Monday afternoon to cite the irony that it's been Bombers fans who have long deemed Riders fans backwards.

"Rocks in paint cans? And they call us hillbillies and banjo-pickers?," wrote one guy with a Roughriders logo as his Twitter avatar.

You know you've had a bad day when Riders fans are making fun of you.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2012 A4

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