Blue Bomber Report Record: 5–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time for a show of guts

Blue Bombers must rise to the occasion today

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HAMILTON -- They have, beyond a doubt and without a question, all kinds of characters.

But do the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have character?

"I think we have," said slotback Terrence Edwards with a laugh on Friday, "characters and character."

We're about to find out. Because if ever there was a test of a team's mettle, it is at Ivor Wynne Stadium this afternoon when the Bombers take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before what is expected to be a huge crowd on a historic day in front of the Hamilton franchise's greatest legends, flown in just for this occasion.

Oh, and the winner stays alive in the CFL playoff race, the loser gets eliminated.

Throw in a forecast of rain, wind and chilly temperatures and this afternoon has all has the makings of one of those rare moments when a team has an opportunity to define who they are -- to themselves and to everyone else.

And that's the worrying part if you're a Bombers fan. Because the cold, hard reality is that victories in these kinds of character games have been few and far between for this Winnipeg franchise of late.

Going back to last season, it has often seemed that whenever there was a moment that called upon this group to rise to the occasion, they have instead found ways to limbo under it.

Which is not to say that there have not been major victories along the way. A win over the Ticats in bitterly cold weather in last year's East Final at Canad Inns Stadium was as gritty as it was monumental.

A win in Montreal earlier this month just when it seemed like this Bombers team might never win again was gritty and courageous. A win in Toronto over the Argonauts last week kept hope alive for at least another week.

But at least as common for Bombers fans over the past season-and-a-half has been the sight of their team cowering in the biggest moments.

The win in last year's East final was followed by a lacklustre loss to the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup that followed it. The firing of head coach Paul LaPolice in late August was followed by a 52-0 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Labour Day.

The win in Montreal this month was followed by a pathetic loss to Calgary the next week at home.

And here's the thing: While much has been made of this team's failure to win games in consecutive weeks since August 2011, a deeper look raises the question whether it's not so much the second game the Bombers have trouble winning as much as it is the big game that they cannot win.

Because if that's the problem -- an inability to rise to the biggest occasions -- then that suggests this Bombers team as presently constituted doesn't so much lack in talent as it does in heart. And courage. And, yes, character.

For the Ticats, a win today and then in Toronto next week and they could be right back here again next month to host the East semifinal.

A loss, on the other hand, would be devastating, not only closing the book on a disastrous 2012 season but also on Ivor Wynne Stadium, which is slated for demolition the moment the Ticats no longer need it this season.

And for the Bombers? A win in the present circumstances and in what will be the most hostile conditions possible today would not only keep their playoff hopes alive, it would not only represent the first back-to-back wins in 14 months, it would not only make the Bombers 4-2 in their last six games -- it would also prove to themselves and everyone else that they can still be the equals of the grand occasion.

And a Bombers loss? Well that would just be more of the same, wouldn't it -- another big loss in a big game for a Bombers team that folded just when they needed to rise up.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 27, 2012 C2

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