Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Apathy, Blue don't mix

True fans braved rain; squad failed to show

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It is hard to draw a correlation between the people in the stands and the players on the field in Winnipeg these days. The fans showed up Friday night. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers did not. One group cares. The other does not.

It means something to be a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Some 80 years of tradition. Players have to live up to that. If not in skill and talent then at least in effort. This group, to date, has not done this.

With a driving rain pelting those foolish enough to venture outdoors and the lure of brilliant high definition on televisions in dry rec rooms, no one would have blamed the faithful had they stayed home. Some did. Most didn't. They should have been rewarded for pulling on rain slickers and standing in the wet all night. They weren't. Not even remotely so.

Those who showed up were loud and proud. And they deserved more than they got from their team.

No emotion. No execution. No violence. No nothing. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were a football team on Friday night. A bad football team. Worse, they were an uncaring football team.

The final score of 36-26 made this look much better for the Bombers than it was. The visiting Montreal Alouettes had their way in every facet of the game. They were better on defence, offence and special teams. They out-hit, out-blocked, out-thought and out-executed the Blue Bombers. It was big boys against little ones.

Winnipeg scored a bunch of points when the game was already packed up and put away. Padding numbers is the sign of team concerned with surface appearances and not true identity.

The Bombers fell to 1-5 as they broke apart for the bye week.

Here's a message for them.

Inexperience can be tolerated. Youthful mistakes, too. Even losing. But failing to show up ready to play and then putting forth a weak and inconsistent effort is not.

Winnipeg will cheer on anything and anyone wearing Blue and Gold. That's a given. So should be the players' effort and level of give-a-damn. That can't be said right now.

It's the ultimate indictment of a pro athlete. To call in question their will. Consider it questioned, Blue Bombers.

Sure, there are a handful who played with passion and abandon on Friday night. But that should be an across-the-board statement of a football team.

Especially one playing in Winnipeg. Where they've sold out this dump of a stadium for nine straight games.

No one will be surprised if they make it 10. That's the kind of people who buy the tickets and hats and jerseys around here.

What kind of people are you, Blue Bombers? Are you the kind to take advantage of unconditional love? That's what it looked like on Friday night.

Where's the leadership?

Where's the fight?

This isn't high school football, where emotion can carry the day. The best teams win in pro football and the Bombers aren't close to being the best right now.

They're going to lose a lot of games this season. How they lose remains in question. More losses like this shouldn't be accepted. Not by the fans and not by GM Joe Mack. Run them out of town, Joe. Get them before they get you.

There's been talk about Paul LaPolice's job being at risk. That's rubbish. He's put in the work and done what he can with a collection of players not ready for prime time.

Mack needs to send a message to this team. They will not sulk their way to a new coach. To reward this current malignancy with a coaching change would be repugnant.

Worse only than what we watched on Friday night. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 4, 2012 C3

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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
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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