August 30, 2015

Record: 3–6–0

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Blue Bomber Report

Doug Brown

Release of Lobendahn 'The Punisher' surprises

Could very well surface elsewhere this season

THE Internet tells me that if I put a clock on a space shuttle that goes into orbit and sequence it with one on Earth, the clock in space will run slower than its counterpart.

Whether that is accurate or not, I cannot say. I was not at space camp last week, but in Barbados, for the CFLPA Annual General Meeting and Fantasy Camp Challenge. But, I might as well have been orbiting the moon with all of the sporting news that came and went in a seven-day absence.

The new Bomber jerseys were unveiled (spiffy), a stadium progress update was given (anticlimactic), Junior Seau shot himself dead (scary), the CFL draft went down (Jade Etienne part deux?), Joe Lobendahn was released (whoa), and even a Beastie Boy died (intergalactic). That's a lot of opining to do, and only 800 words to do it in, but I will give it my best shot.

First, though, news from Barbados. After 20-something years of service with the players' association and 12 years as its president, Stu Laird was defeated in a split-decision vote by Mike Morreale, who became the new president of the union. The 12 player reps were evenly divided between the candidates, so the vote went to a three-person sudden-death overtime and Mike was declared the new leader with a 2-1 decision. You could have cut the tension in that room with a chainsaw. If Mike is anywhere near as successful as the president of this organization as Stu Laird was, his tenure will be considered an overwhelming success.

The AGM only ran for the first three days of the trip, however, as the CFLPA Fantasy Camp began on Wednesday and ran until Saturday. Two winning fans for each team were flown in to compete in six events with the two player reps from their home team.

After a disastrous outing in the golf challenge on Day 1, where the Winnipeg team, comprised of Chris Cvetkovic and yours truly (in my last official act as a player rep), along with Bomber fans Jared and Pam, only scored 10 points out of a possible 30, we stormed back with a vengeance. Starting Day 2 in dead last, we dominated the Barbados Military Obstacle course (2nd), Dodge Ball event (1st) and Ocean Swimming football challenge (1st) to finish second overall with 91 points, two behind the Hamilton team of Henry Burris, Ray Mariuz and their two fans, who took the overall title with 93 points.

But enough of the fun in the sun, it's time to speak of all of the happenings that took place while I was away.

The release of Joe Lobendahn this late in the off-season caught me by surprise. While it is true that Joe has torn the ACL in the same knee three times and there isn't any compelling player data to support a productive return to the football field, I have been observing him train and rehabilitate at my gym since January and his recovery has been nothing short of astonishing.

Joe, like most footballers, isn't immune to injury, but he plays with a more physical disposition than most anyone I have met. He is the Marvel comic "Punisher" of the CFL. Just ask the recipients of two of his legal hits last year: Arjei Franklin had his ribs broken and his lung partially collapsed by a Loebendahn hit, and Cleo Lemon got some free dental work courtesy of Joe, when he decided to run with the football.

His momentum-altering collisions, professionalism, experience and leadership will be missed by this football team to be sure, and don't be surprised if he resurfaces elsewhere for 2012.

As for the Blue and Gold selections in the CFL draft, I always say you can't go wrong drafting a 6-foot-8 guy out of British Columbia, but first-rounders are always a gamble.

The new jerseys are a winner in my books, especially the prominent "W" cresting, though the royal blue retros we wore will always be my favourite.

I agree with Free Press columnist Gary Lawless's big-picture perspective on the new stadium, declaring that whenever it may be done, Winnipeg will be at the forefront of all the CFL destinations in Canada, which is truly what matters most.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2012 D4

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