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Fretting over our favourite sons

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My internal alarm clock went off unexpectedly Friday at 4:45 a.m.

Anxiety will do that.

Actually, while I hadn't consciously set it for that time, I had been thinking about waking up early because my son and his girlfriend were scheduled to be leaving by car for Calgary at 5:30 a.m. and I was concerned about the winter-storm weather, the roads and stories the night before about vehicles in the ditch along the Trans-Canada Highway.

That's why I reached for the BlackBerry at my bedside and sent a text advising my son to make sure he checked the road conditions before pulling out. After which my thoughts turned to someone else's son who's almost Ian's age. Someone who's one of Winnipeg's own favourite sons.


-- -- --


"Bad Luck" Buck Pierce is the multiply concussed and oft-sidelined Winnipeg Blue Bomber quarterback who doesn't seem to know when to call it a career.

He will be 31 next month.

What brought Buck to mind -- besides what I'd been reading before bed about the team's gutsy and popular young offensive leader being sidelined again with a concussion -- was his parents.

Given my own anxiety about my son going for a long highway drive, I wondered what kind of angst his parents must be dealing with as they watch their boy repeatedly injured in ways we now know can cause devastating brain disease later in life.

Then again, Buck is playing for an organization that has been acting as if its brain trusts are brain-dead.

In fact, Buck's history of suffering multiple concussions -- and his apparent state of denial about the long-term consequences -- is sadly symbolic of the Bombers' own "soft-melon" of a season. The difference is the Winnipeg Football Club's well-documented blows to the head have been self-inflicted and have left lingering headaches not only for its loyal fans but the proud Bomber brand.

Think back.

What was management thinking when it guaranteed fans would never have to sit through another Bomber game in Canad Inns Stadium?

What was management thinking when it believed -- and wanted us to believe -- it was high winds and weather that delayed the opening of the new stadium for the start of the season, and it's still not finished?

What was management thinking when it decided to let its power- and rule-crazed stadium security treat fans as if they were hooligans at the gates?

What was management thinking when it fired head coach Paul LaPolice -- instead of general manager Joe Mack -- and the team's performance only got worse?

What was it thinking, for that matter, when it decided to ban a product the club had been selling in the Bomber Store, only to have their cowbell rung for them by the fans.

Worst of all, what was management thinking last Saturday when it initially put the team's chronically concussed No. 1 QB back in the game after he absorbed the kind of hellacious helmet-to-chin hit that would have KO'd a half-ton truck?

For that matter, what were they thinking when they had to think twice about whether they would play Buck in the next game after he'd already been diagnosed with a "mild" concussion.

I'll tell you what they were thinking.

They weren't.

But, as I was saying, that's been the way the whole organization has been thinking all season. Which suggests if there's anyone in urgent need of having their heads examined, it's the brain trusts of the Winnipeg Football Club at every level. But I'm also thinking what I suspect a lot of you are thinking.

It's not enough to ask the Blue and Gold brass to give their heads a shake.

What we need is a complete shakeup. Starting right at the top where the buck should always stop, no matter the cost.


-- -- --


But I started this by talking about favourite sons, my own and our collective one, so that's how we should finish it. Despite my concerns, my son had departed for Calgary, and late Friday afternoon he sent a text to reassure me they had reached Medicine Hat.


That made me think about Buck again, and his parents, and how neither Ian nor Buck need us telling them how to live their lives. Or, more specifically, need our unsolicited advice about risk versus reward and what's to come down the road.

Of course there's one difference in Buck's case. While he's entitled to make his own career decisions, the Bombers have a responsibility to help him make the right one. Given all that Buck has given the team, one would hope, if the time comes, that's one thing the Bombers would try to get right.

You'd think, anyway.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 B1

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