Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 07/2/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Even after last week's dominant performance by the Blue and Gold over the previous year's Eastern division regular-season champions, it seems respect, from both the CFL and local fans alike, is something that will have to be earned over more than one game.
First and foremost, blame the weather, blame a lacklustre expansion team rolling into town, blame whatever you want, but all signs indicate that it is going to take more than a single overwhelming display of competence to repair the damage done to the Bomber brand the last few years.
With fewer than 25,000 tickets sold for the home opener, and Thursday's numbers not looking much better, this football team and organization has the unenviable task of not only restoring the confidence of their peers, but of their extended fan base as well.
I'll be the first person to tell you that in professional football, if something happens once, you can consider it a fluke. If it happens twice, feel free to label it a coincidence.
If it happens three times, though, it is the beginning of a trend and an identity.
That being said -- with two games to go on the proving grounds-- the facts are the Bombers have not rolled over an opponent, like they did six days ago, since the East Division final in 2011.
Even though it was only one game, it is still important to quantify the victory. They beat the pivot currently ranked the No. 1 player in the CFL, handily. Drew Willy stood toe-to-toe with Ricky Ray and outplayed, outgunned, and simply out-performed him.
They beat last year's 11-win squad with a full compliment of healthy superstars at their disposal, including Chad Owens, Andre Durie, and all-star centre Jeff Keeping.
Fans of the Double Blue, and defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke will tell you their defence is new, and a work in progress right now -- to excuse the 45-point spanking that was administered.
Yet conveniently, there has been no mention of a Bomber defence and offence that were the absolute worst in the CFL last year, that are also playing in new systems with new coaches, and that managed to hold the Argonauts to 14 points until garbage time in the fourth.
Add these factors together and it seems like if you had as much sense as a member of the "CFL.ca staff," putting together your power rankings after Week 1, you might at least rank the Bombers higher than the team they freshly dismantled. So, some tips for these generals of gridiron going forward:
It's a new season, and the history cookies have been deleted, so you should rank teams off of present-day and not past accomplishments.
Ranking three teams without a win (Hamilton, B.C., and Toronto) higher than one with a win, makes you look, well, ill-suited for the task at hand.
Proving to the CFL pundits that last week was not an aberration is one goal for this team going forward, but winning back the contingent of fans still smarting from the last two seasons may be even more of an uphill climb.
In 2012, with an average attendance of almost 28,000 fans, Bomber supporters were rewarded with six wins.
In 2013, with an average attendance of more than 30,000 fans, those wins got cut in half again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
It appears a large percentage of those that follow this team reached their breaking point after this two-year stretch, where the team lost 27 of 36 games.
But it wasn't just how many losses they had, it was how they lost. Quite frankly, watching the Blue and Gold the last couple of seasons was not enjoyable or even entertaining.
It is one thing to lose a closely contested game, it is another thing altogether to not be playing competitive football, and to provide minimal recreational value to your paying customers.
Things, however, are starting to look brighter now in these monsoon days of summer.
With one lopsided victory under their belt, a quarterback who appears viable and a host of improvements to the game-day experience -- things like real tailgating before the game, field access for the fans, and even a D.J. after the games -- this team is well on its way to making amends for the disasters that were 2012 and 2013.
Yet the one lesson that is being learned hardest by this football team and franchise, both on and off the field in 2014, is that it is a whole lot easier to lose the respect of your fan base and peers than it is to win them back.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, usually appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2014 C3
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