Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Not enough gates to honour Blue greats

So many players worthy of having image at entrances

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This was never a contest about the four greatest Blue Bombers to have played in the storied 83-year history of the football club, even though no one will argue two of the four selected -- Milt Stegall and Kenny Ploen -- are unquestionably a pair of the best that ever did.

The naming of only four players to mark the four entrances to the new Investor's Group Field was nothing more than a contest that took place in 2012 for the masses to choose, "their favorite Blue Bomber players."

If a vote had been conducted in 1935 when Osborne stadium opened, five years into the club's existence, there obviously would have been four different players chosen.

When Canad Inns Stadium opened in 1953, there most likely would have been a number of different players selected again, and whenever Investors Group Field hits its expiry date, there will be at least two new players adorning the gates, and they will most likely be those that are relevant at the time.

The reason the Bombers put this decision in the hands of the fans, worded it as the fans' "favourite players," and have a minimum of 16 other tributes to former players, is because the definition of greatness is both ambiguous and subject to interpretation.

Being a fan "favourite" is not synonymous with "greatness," though they are often interpreted as being one and the same.

If in your mind there should have been equal parts great defensive and offensive players manning these gates, then Tyrone Jones, a four-time CFL all-star, Grey Cup MVP and CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player, and Greg Battle, Winnipeg's all-time leading tackler, Grey Cup defensive MVP, and two time CFL Outstanding Defensive Player, had careers that were more than worthy of placement.

If you define greatness by all-star selections, then the nine all-CFL accolades that Chris Walby picked up, among other things, is simply unheard of.

If the most points scored in franchise history makes one great, then Troy Westwood should have been selected, as he has the most points of any Bomber.

It takes great players to win championships, so if Grey Cups won are the mark of excellence, fans got this one right with the selection of Ploen, who won four of the six Grey Cups he played in.

If a great player should be defined by what he did off the field as much as what he did on it, then Glen Scrivener and John Helton, two former Tom Pate memorial award winners, are viable candidates.

If you think the NFL has the best players in the world, then Rod Hill should be representing a gate, as he was a former first-round pick in the NFL who played down south before coming to Winnipeg and setting the single-season interception record and all-time record in only five seasons.

If greatness is defined by exemplary years of service, then Bob Cameron, who played 23 seasons with the Blue Bombers, and is the CFL's all time leading punter, would be the easy choice.

If greatness is purely a factor of talent, then how many players that wore the Blue and Gold had more pure ability than Charlie Roberts?

Quite simply, this club has had more great players than it knows what to do with.

Tom Clements won two Grey Cups in the CFL (one with the Bombers) and a Super Bowl as a assistant coach. Dieter Brock is the only Blue Bomber to win back-to-back CFL MOP awards and has the most career passing yards.

Herb Gray was a seven-time divisional all-star who won four Grey Cups and was named the Blue Bombers defensive player of the half century in 1980.

Jack Jacobs was a second-round pick in the NFL who played eight years of American ball before he came up here and changed the way offences played. He also had the creation of a stadium attributed to him. James Murphy was a CFL MOP who won three Grey Cups and is second only to Stegall in receiving yards.

Leo Lewis was a six-time all-Canadian, who won four Grey Cups and rushed for almost seven yards every time he touched the ball. Not to mention Buddy Tinsley, Willard Reaves, Fritz Hanson, Matt Dunigan, Les Browne, Paul Bennett, and Rick House, to name but a few.

The hundreds of thousands of fans of this football team would be hard pressed to agree on what makes a player great, let alone select an impossible, unanimous, four.

For as much as having my corner sponsored by a beer company is delicious irony, that's a hobby that Chris Walby was, and still is, better at than me, and it's among many other things he did on the field that are unparalleled in the annals of CFL history.


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

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2013 D2

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