Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Blue look set to exorcise their demons
A win would certainly have been more palatable and losses are always recorded the same way, but there was a pinch of hope in this opening-night stew of emotion, football and new beginnings.
It will be weeks and likely months from now before we really can take stock of this version of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but at the risk of leaning towards the glass-half-full view of things, this loss showed a glimpse of better things to come.
The Blue Bombers let their opening game at Investors Group Field get away from them, losing late to the Montreal Alouettes by a score of 38-33.
The new era will officially open with a loss but also with shades of efficiency and accountability from an overall franchise standpoint.
No traffic issues coming in. No glaring pre-game miscues. No organizational black eyes.
The game was far from a clinic and featured many early-season errors, but it will also be remembered as a night when Bombers fans were allowed to celebrate and dance and wave towels as their team proved hungry, resilient and opportunistic before finally succumbing.
Disaster was just dying to rush in and ruin this night and memories. While the Bombers weren’t able to add a win to the party, they were able to hold calamity at bay.
The four pillars of your current Winnipeg Blue Bombers had things to prove on Thursday night and they all did so to varying degrees.
CEO Garth Buchko, GM Joe Mack, head coach Tim Burke and quarterback Buck Pierce had questions to answer.
Buchko had traffic and stadium issues to solve while trying to throw a party the nation looked in on at the same time. The haggard look he wore by the start of this week showed the stress he was under and the effort he was putting in.
Buchko likes to make things look easy, but he couldn’t pull off the smooth act this week. He was under the gun, he knew it and there was no hiding it. Well, he answered the questions and found the solutions. If we were going to hang these problems on him if they weren’t fixed, we have to credit him for the make-goods. Buchko had a job to do and he did it, and the Bombers and their fans should be appreciative.
Mack, for all his work, and much of it good, will have his legacy judged on his decision to stick with quarterback Buck Pierce.
Whatever the Bombers do this season will come back to that call. Mack was told by Buchko to solve this quarterback issue at the end of last season, and after looking around at the available options, he chose to stick with Pierce.
At the very least, he can say Pierce stayed healthy and made a game of it. This can be viewed as a step in the right direction or, for the cynic, as a serving of the same old thing. A little more time will shine a light on the truth.
Burke has been charged with opening a stadium and ushering in a new era. He’ll look at this as a game that got away from his team and want to correct mistakes. But finding positives won’t be impossible.
Finally Pierce, who threw two early interceptions and looked like he’d lost his touch with the weight he shed over the winter, was able to momentarily quiet the constant noise surrounding his injury history.
Pierce posed half-naked on the sports front of this paper on Thursday morning in an ironic display of his vulnerability. Pierce is what he is, and he makes no apologies. On nights like Thursday, he turns aside the questions before they can even be asked. Until, of course, the next turned ankle or strained knee.
We’re a long way from being able to say the ghosts of so many losing seasons and disappointing finishes have been vanquished. For all we know, by the end of this season or sooner we’ll be carping about those same old Bombers.
But something about this group looked different on Thursday. Maybe it was just a mirage and the nostalgia of the moment. We’ll soon find out.
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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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