August 28, 2015

Record: 3–5–0

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Blue Bomber Report

Doug Brown

U of M shutting Blue out of gym a troubling precedent

If you happen to have a Bowflex system or a treadmill in your basement gathering dust, you might want to give your local football club a call and offer it up as a temporary training salvation.

Speaking with a number of Bombers players this week, it was revealed to me the off-season conditioning program they are usually participating in at this time is running a little behind schedule.

Since the season has ended and the Bombers have been transitioning to the new stadium, their usual, inadequate, yet functional training centre has been closed for business.

The team is currently in the process of moving and unpacking some of the old equipment and much more of the new equipment at Investors Group Field. As a result, the gym will not be available for the players that live here until the end of January at the earliest.

Though this program normally kicks off in December, having the players begin their off-season work in February is not that big of a deal. While it's true as I got older I usually started back at Elite Performance the week after the last game in November, this is not necessarily critical for players in their twenties and early thirties hoping to be in top physical condition by the time training camp rolls around in June.

The point of this story is that the relationship between the football club and its soon-to-be host and landlord, the University of Manitoba, has already soured to the extent it reminded me of my behaviour in elementary school.

When I was in elementary school, I used to walk 10 miles uphill (not really) to school with my soccer ball. Since I was the only kid who brought a soccer ball to school, when we played on the field before class and at lunch time, I made the teams and I made the rules. If you wanted to be on my team -- which always won -- and you weren't very good, you were probably going to have to give me some of your lunch. If someone had a problem with that, I would just pick up my soccer ball and go home.

It wasn't very mature, it wasn't very diplomatic or democratic, but I was eight years old, so sue me.

For those of you who don't know, the U of M Bisons football team and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have had a solid, long-standing relationship for some time and they still do. So in years past, if the Bombers requested some complimentary passes to the U of M fitness facility for the temporary usage of their players, it was less than a problem.

This year though, that has changed and it wasn't due to a problem with the college football overseers. According to my sources, in an actual time of need, when the football club has zero fitness facilities available to them due to their transition, these complimentary passes were apparently denied by a "higher up" due to a gripe with the team.

In perspective, we are talking about a small number of gym passes, a small sum of money it would cost the players to pay for a drop-in privilege. But like many things, it's the principle and the gesture that speaks the loudest.

These two organizations, whether they like it or not, are about to be in each other's faces and backyards for the next 50 years or so, and one partner, whether it was in retaliation for another snipe or not, has already taken the soccer ball away and marched home in a huff.

At worst, this is a minor inconvenience to the players who are more than capable of getting a free workout elsewhere or paying their own way. Yet the deliberate nature of this act, and its purposefulness, sets a disappointing precedent on what could be a very slippery slope.

You would think at this point, before the team has even fully relocated, these two entities would be bending over backwards to accommodate each other, baking cookies and making as warm of a neighbourly welcome as possible.

After all, a $200-million state-of-the-art stadium just landed on the promenade of the university campus, a facility to which they will have extensive access and influence over.

Yet instead, someone has decided to pull these previously afforded accommodations off the table. In doing so, this person has set a tone that could very easily snowball into an adversarial relationship for years to come.

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 January 8, 2013 ??65531

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