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Rebuilding the Bombers is going to be tough

Attracting talent to franchise with losing in its DNA won't be easy for Miller

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Wade Miller has been getting poor returns on the field since stepping in as acting CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and now he’s getting the same in the stands.

Friday’s embarrassment was just another hit beneath the belt in a season of low blows. A fan whispered to me in the elevator at halftime, "the Bombers suck." You think? No really, what was your first hint? The league’s worst offensive line? The poorest Canadian content? The quarterbacking that has become an ugly joke?

They’re 2-11, man. Calling the Bombers bad is akin to informing someone the Beatles broke up. Way old news.

As tragic as what’s happening on the field, the scarier thought is the effect the losing, now in the DNA of this franchise, must be having on the rest of the organization.

Miller had a gargantuan job on his hands when he took over the team he once played for, but now the true enormity of the task is being revealed. The damage inflicted on this team by the stewardship of GM Joe Mack is now having an effect on the overall business, and not just football operations.

As tragic as what’s happening on the field, the scarier thought is the effect the losing, now in the DNA of this franchise, must be having on the rest of the organization.

The Bombers announced a paid attendance of 29,457 on Friday night but there were thousands fewer live bodies in the seats.

The institutional losing that has come to be synonymous with the Bombers brand has people staying away from the park despite it being the newest and nicest in the nation.

A request to speak with Miller was placed with the Bombers communications department on Friday night but was declined. Does Miller have answers? Maybe. Maybe not. We’re going to find out.

Miller’s chore is to somehow reverse the slide this franchise has been on for several years. Presenting a winning product is where he’ll want to focus his plan but it will start with attracting quality personnel to Winnipeg.

That won’t be easy.

Coming to Winnipeg has been a death sentence for coaching careers and quarterback ratings. Who needs the headache if there are other offers pending?

The Bombers borrowed a lot of public money to build this stadium. The business plan drafted by then-board chairman Bill Watchorn featured an ambitious repayment schedule that would see the club return $4 million per year to the province beginning in 2014. That won’t happen.

None of this is Miller’s making. But he’s taken the job and now has the responsibility of sorting it out.

The last two crowds have been sub-30,000 and our fall has been unseasonably warm. Ticket counts will drop with the temperature.

The money, however, isn’t Miller’s biggest worry. The franchise is bankrolled by the province and what is Premier Greg Selinger going to do? Mothball the franchise? Political suicide.

The Bombers borrowed from the safest of lenders and will never face foreclosure.

The franchise has often been labelled a charity, which is snarky but accurate.

Do you still feel like donating? Give until it hurts.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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