Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

What's behind curtain... new car or donkey?

We're not quite sure what Kelly has done

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You kids will be too young to remember, but there used to be a game show on TV called Let's Make a Deal, where contestants dressed up in goofy costumes to vie for prizes offered by host Monty Hall, who just happened to be a guy from the North End.Anyway, if a person dressed up as a cow, for example, did win a prize, old Monty would tempt them by forfeiting whatever they'd won for other "prizes" hidden behind three curtains.

So you could win a fridge and stove, then trade up for a brand new car. But that's only if you were lucky. Because if you picked wrong, you could get stuck with a donkey pulling a wagon. That's just how Monty rolled.

Which brings us, naturally, to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 2009 edition. Because even though the Bombers have played two exhibition games, dutifully completed most of their training camp, and are poised to open the season July 2 in Edmonton, it feels like football's version of Let's Make a Deal.

It's not just the unknowns, either, although those abound. It's that the 2008 version of the Bombers was kinda like that fridge and stove. They served a purpose, were hot and cold, but in the end didn't really generate that much in the way of passion.

However, at least everyone knew what they had in players like Kevin Glenn, Tom Canada and Charles Roberts (to name a few), for better or worse.

So along comes Monty, er, Mike Kelly, and next thing you know, you're staring at three curtains without a clue what you're going to get. And for a split second you think, "Hey, maybe that fridge and stove weren't so bad, after all."

Too late. Those appliances have left town, and then some. So it's back to the curtains.

Of course, it's not like the 2009 Bombers are hidden. They've been out there for all to see for going on a month now. So what?

I mean, Kelly has staked his formative days as the Bombers head coach on a young fellow from Louisiana who seems like a pleasant, God-fearing southpaw preparing to start his sixth ever CFL game. Regardless of upside, that's a thin professional resumé.

Yet Kelly has steadfastly put his faith in Stefan LeFors, to the point where the coach seems befuddled that anyone would think differently.

Then you've got so many new faces making an impact, like running backs Lavarus Giles and Yvenson Bernard, or linebacker Jonathan Hefney or receiver Adarius Bowman, who have taken turns turning heads.

There's an entirely revamped offensive line employing newcomers like Steve Morley, Glenn January and Luke Fritz who are just getting to know each other. There's the continuing Apprenticeship of Alexis (Duddy) Serna. There's an overhauled defensive backfield.

You get the point. There's a lot of things.

And then there's Kelly himself, who appears to morph from dictator to charming to paranoid to pompous to undeniably organized to court jester. Sybil, meet Mike Kelly. Mike Kelly, meet Sybil.

Of course, Kelly wouldn't be the first football head coach with multiple personality disorder. But that doesn't make him any less easy to read, which only exacerbates the uncertainty surrounding the group of men Kelly has assembled.

Kelly has already seemed to alienate the media. But here's a secret: Nobody cares about the media or their hurt feelings. They care if the Bombers win. They care if they lose. Pretty much everything else is background noise.

But it won't cut the coach any slack, either, if it all goes wrong.

Come to think of it, for a guy who came in with such built-in goodwill, there's a constituency of folks out there who seem anxious to see Kelly fail. Or at least have a heaping helping of humble pie.

Again, if Kelly wins, he'll dictate the menu. Everything ala-I-told-you-so.

Which is why all of the above is so intriguing. Because the Bombers could have kept the fridge and stove, but decided that wasn't good enough. And it wasn't. The team was 8-10 and getting older, not better.

But that doesn't mean that what's behind Curtain No. 2 is any better. In fact, it could very well turn out to be a donkey pulling a wagon.

Of course, Kelly is convinced he's traded up to that new car. And he doesn't think it's a wild guess, either.

Regardless, the deal has already been made. The only thing left to do is raise the curtain, Monty.

Now where did I put that cow costume?

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2009 C2

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About Randy Turner

While attending Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, Randy Turner one day read an account of a Winnipeg Jets game in the Free Press when it dawned on him: "Really, you can get paid to watch sports?"

Turner later graduated with a spectacularly mediocre 2.3 GPA from Red River Community College’s Creative Communications program. 

After jobs at the Stonewall Argus and Selkirk Journal, he began working on the Rural page for the Free Press in 1987. Several years later, he realized his dream of watching sports for a living covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Bombers.

In 2001, Turner became a general sports columnist, where he watched Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake, then watched them win again in Vancouver in 2010.

He also watched everything from high school hockey and volleyball championship to several Grey Cups, NHL finals and World Junior hockey tournaments.

In the fall of 2011, Turner became a general features writer for the paper. But he still watches way too much sports.

Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing.

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