Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bomber Nation will provide soul for new stadium

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Right around the time this paper landed on your doorstep, Investors Group Field lay in rest. Dark and quiet. Like a theatre stage with the lights down and no actors on the boards.

But later tonight, with a national audience watching, our province's football fans will politely nudge their way into seats before taking a moment to catch their breath.

 

Then, and you can take this to the bank, Winnipeg and Manitoba and the legions of Blue Bombers fans, will explode in sound and fury.

They will hear you, from Tofino to Bonavista. The nation of Blue and Gold will be impossible to ignore.

Miles of steel and acres of concrete bolted together to create a new stadium. A building that will only yaw and creak until you give it life and a voice.

This facility has no soul right now. But right around eight o'clock tonight it will because Manitobans will claim it for their own.

The torch will pass from one Winnipeg football stadium to the next and it will burn just as hot and strong because it's the fans that fuel this fire. They are the constant. They are the heart.

New stadium, old stadium, good team or bad team. One thing that doesn't change around here is the loyalty and pride people have for their football team.

Say what you want about the Blue Bombers, and I've spilled lots of ink griping about the operation of the club, but don't besmirch their fans. They are, and you can argue this point but you'll lose, the best in the land.

You, not Buck Pierce or Henoc Muamba or Bryant Turner or Chris Matthews, will make this stadium what it's going to be. You made the old barn the best place in Canada to watch a football game for the last 50 years and you'll do the same at the new yard.

Long ago I put aside my right to be a fan in order to earn a living watching sports. While there have been many soulless nights watching baseball or hockey or football, it has been impossible not to marvel and feel affection for those who cheer on their Blue Bombers.

Tapping away deep into the night with a game coming down to the wire and deadline pressure mounting by the moment, it's been near impossible not to feel chills and even a little civic pride as the thousands took to their feet and emptied their lungs.

There are few things better than looking down at the people of your city to watch them unloading with all their might and leaving nothing in the tank as they support their team.

It's what will make this new stadium just as breathtaking for outsiders looking in and ominous for the opposition. The players and coaches will make the plays. You will make the atmosphere.

New stadiums rarely hold the character of their predecessors and often what's lost in nostalgia can effect the future. Some fan bases just never connect with their new surroundings. But that won't happen here.

They tore down historic Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. They renovated hallowed Lambeau Field. Steelers and Packers fans didn't miss a beat. They looked around at their new stadiums for a few minutes and then picked up right where they left off. Back to business. It will be the same in Winnipeg.

As Manitobans, you bought and paid for this football house. You already own it. Now make it your home.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2013 D4

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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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