Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue can curl up and die, or fight like men

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Twelve short months ago, the Bombers travelled to Regina and lost the Labour Day Calamity, 52-0.

This year, the Riders are exponentially better than the team they were in 2012, and by all indications, the Bombers are worse.

You do the math.

The remaining optimists will point out all is not lost because this is the exact scenario that went down in 2011, when the Blue and Gold were 7-1, facing a 1-7 Riders squad.

Back then, the team was so confident in our superiority the marketing department erected those infamous "We love our Saskatchewan neighbours, they're just a little backwards" billboards, which obviously jinxed us and caused us to lose both the Classic and Banjo Bowl games. It had nothing to do with the players on the field or the re-emergence of Riders head coach Ken Miller. It was strictly the billboards.

But back to the matter at hand.

So why isn't this scenario plausible now that the roles are reversed? Technically, I suppose it is feasible. Anything can happen throughout the course of a game, but judging from what we've witnessed on the field of late, it would require what insurance brokers classify as "an act of God" for the Bombers to win this game.

A mere month ago, such a statement would have been blasphemous in these parts, a sensationalistic troll for the ages and ratings, and an overreaction and damning condemnation of a football team that was "on the cusp" of getting to where they needed to be.

Yet after falling to 1-7, with back-to-back losses by 19- and 23-point margins to last year's worst team who are the proud owners of a defence that was formerly employed as a vegetable strainer, the only thing this football team is "on the cusp of" is not winning more than three games this season.

Unless Jason Boltus or Justin Goltz has some Rocky Butler in them, or Marcel Bellefeuille can completely teach and install his offence over the next five days while simultaneously inserting his size 10 into the posteriors of the defence, it may take divine intervention to win this game, and that is not an exaggeration or simplification.

Yet maybe that is exactly what this team needs to hear, to know they've been left for dead on the roadside by most everybody not related to them or being paid out of the same account.

Written off

Sometimes, when a season is written off even before the halfway mark, a team realizes that no one outside of their own locker-room believes in them or has their back.

If there were factions that were feeding off of silver linings, bright spots or optimistic viewpoints, they have long left the building.

Even the blindest and most loyal of diehard Bomber supporters have recognized this team is not improving or pointed in the right direction right now. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It has lost full rudder control and is nosediving into a canola field. If this group of players needed an "us against the world" mentality to rally around, it has arrived and been delivered to their doorstep.

The franchise has recently lost eight consecutive Labour Day Classics, and three of those games came against Bomber teams that were .500 or better, and two of which competed in the Grey Cup.

In years where we should have and could have won, we didn't win.

Call this year's Classic a trap game for Saskatchewan, where they are lulled to sleep by expectations and turn the ball over five times, or call it a game that the Riders have a hard time taking seriously and focusing on, but in either scenario they still win by two touchdowns. No one expects the Bombers to win this game and all anyone hopes for is that they are competitive.

I've seen the paper bags come out twice in my career and have been on my fair share of miserable football teams, the worst in 2010 where we went 4-14. Yet because we lost nine of those games by four points or fewer, the players had hope and promise for a brighter day and the fans shared in that.

That hope was rewarded the following year with an East Division title and a second-place finish in the big dance.

Unfortunately, the only hope this 1-7 football team is currently displaying is for more firings, better players and better coaches.

If everyone on this roster isn't going to work angry, to the same extent as Chad Simpson last week, they are missing the point.

In my mind, all Sunday's contest comes down to is how you perform when most everyone has given up on you.

Do you band together and fight to prove people wrong, or accept the judgment and defeat that has already been passed on your team?


Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and two days following game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2013 D3

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