Blue Bomber Report Record: 4–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Equipment boss hired, Cup drought starts... Coincidence?

Paranoia reigns supreme

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Brad Fotty, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' equipment manager and likely longest-serving employee, shrugs off cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories. Then again, conspirators always do...

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Brad Fotty, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' equipment manager and likely longest-serving employee, shrugs off cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories. Then again, conspirators always do... Photo Store

Go ahead, blame it all on Brad Fotty -- you wouldn't be the first one.

"Everyone likes to bug me that I must be the curse because the team hasn't won since I started here," Fotty laughed at Investors Group Field Tuesday.

"I get that quite a bit."

Fotty gets it quite a bit because it is kind of, well, suspicious that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hired their long-suffering equipment manager and promptly went on a 23-year Grey Cup drought.

In his own defence, Fotty points out that the Bombers actually won their last Grey Cup in his first year with the team in 1990. Hogwash, say the conspiracy advocates, pointing out that Fotty was working as a 15-year-old part-time attendant in the visitors dressing room that rookie season in 1990 and so his evil curse simply hadn't had a chance to plant roots yet.

Whichever version you believe, one thing is not in dispute -- Fotty is believed to be the longest continuously serving full-time employee of the Bombers without a Grey Cup ring. In his time with the Bombers, Fotty's gone through nine general managers, 11 head coaches and even outlasted a dilapidated stadium that gave him fits.

And yet through all that change and upheaval, there have been two constants in the Bombers organization the last 23 years: Brad Fotty is one, no Grey Cups is the other.

Very, very suspicious indeed.

Now, yes, in fairness it's also true Fotty may very well be the hardest-working employee in the whole organization -- and definitely one of the most beloved. "Brad is very well-respected," says Bombers slotback Terrence Edwards, another long-suffering Bombers employee.

"He's been around so long and I really consider him not just an equipment manager, but also a very good friend. I talk to him in the off-season too. Brad is just a really, really nice guy."

Blah, blah, blah. We're not talking about all that mushy stuff today.

No, in this 2-10 season in which scapes must be goated, we are hunting today for causal relationships for all this losing, no matter how specious.

And Brad Fotty fits the bill. To wit:

-- The Bombers won 10 Grey Cups as a franchise, including three between 1984-1990.

-- The Bombers hired Brad Fotty.

-- The Bombers haven't won any Grey Cups since.

Preposterous? Of course. But so too is playing in an eight-team league and not winning a championship for 23 years.

Still, I'm a fair man, so I sat down with Fotty for 15 minutes he didn't have to waste on Tuesday -- I, on the other hand, had all the time in the world -- and asked him to make his case that all this Bombers losing, year in and year out, hasn't been his fault.

And so the question was put to him: You've been here longer than anyone else. What do you see as the problem?

"I wish I knew. I've lost five Grey Cup (games) over the years. It was just always the same. We'd get so close, so close -- and then something would happen. And then we'd get so close, so close -- and something else would happen again."

All right, admittedly that does sound pretty persuasive. But then again, that's what you'd expect him to say if he was a mole planted by, oh, let's say, the Saskatchewan Roughriders to, oh, let's say, wash the Bombers uniforms with Loser Soap all these years.

Crazy? Like a fox, more like.

And it's not like it'd be the first time in this town an equipment manager was grossly underestimated. Winnipeg Jets assistant general manager Craig Heisinger, remember, also used to toil as the team's equipment manager until someone in authority finally realized Heisinger knew more about hockey than everyone else in the room, including the players and front-office guys.

(Which, come to think of it, might have been part of the problem.)

Now, ask anyone who knows Fotty and they will tell you the 39-year-old Transcona Collegiate grad takes losses harder than anyone, including the players and front-office guys.

(Which, come to think of it again, might be part of the problem.)

Fotty himself will tell you it takes him days sometimes to get over a particularly bad loss. "Losses affect me a lot more than wins," he says.

"I take it harder than I probably should. I hate it -- that's a strong word, but I just really can't stand losing."

A longtime Bombers employee who hates losing.

Conspirator? No -- more like a glutton for punishment.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2013 D3

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