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Goodbye, good riddance: Dismal Bombers preparing to close the book on 2015

Kicker #33 Sergio Castillo at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' final practice at Investors Group Field.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kicker #33 Sergio Castillo at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' final practice at Investors Group Field.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/11/2015 (1448 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/11/2015 (1448 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

And so with that, a Winnipeg Blue Bombers season that was supposed to end with a bang on the final Sunday of November ended with a whimper on the first Wednesday.

The Bombers held their final practice of the 2015 CFL season at Investors Group Field on Wednesday and it was every bit as depressing as the rest of this team’s forgettable year.

The stadium was virtually empty for a team whose fans stopped coming to practice weeks ago, a cold, hard reality driven home last month when the Bombers told the longtime security guard who supervises their workouts his services were no longer required this year.

You don’t exactly need a security guard at practice, after all, if there are no fans to secure.

But with the Bombers holding their final practice in advance of playing their final — and meaningless — regular-season game in Toronto on Friday, you’d have thought a few diehards might have turned up to say goodbye, or at least good riddance.

A handful of people did come and go during the course of the one-hour on-field session, but most were just the tradesmen working in preparation for a Grey Cup game that will not include a home team that limps into the final week of the season with a woeful 5-12 record.

While the scene was depressing, the players didn’t seem to be depressed. On the contrary, Wednesday’s practice continued a final day tradition in which players playfully swap jerseys — offensive lineman Selvish Capers wore Drew Willy’s jersey, receiver Nick Moore wore a QB’s jersey, etc.

It’s an innocuous enough tradition, but it seemed to strike the wrong note on the final day of a season that began with such high expectations but has ended — yet again — very poorly.

If Winnipeg fans were hoping to see their team show some outward sign the players were as disappointed with this season as the fan base is, they wouldn’t have seen any evidence Wednesday, even if they had turned up.

Head coach Mike O'Shea.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Head coach Mike O'Shea.

Players who listened to music blasting over the PA during practice for the past month, were once again laughing, joking and horsing around through a final workout.

So, is it all just a big joke to these guys? They insist it isn’t.

"It stinks," was how Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea summed up his emotions after walking off the field at IGF for the final time this season.

"Just walking off the field knowing you’re not going to be out there again with that same group of guys — it’s tough."

And it’s only going to get tougher the rest of this month as the reminders of what might have been for this 2015 Bombers team pile up: next week’s division semifinals; the division finals the week after that; and then the final insult when the West Division winner takes over the Bombers locker-room for the final week of the month.

Bombers cornerback Matt Bucknor said the idea that some defensive back from Edmonton or Calgary or B.C. is going to be sitting in his locker stall later this month makes his stomach churn.

"It’s going to be really tough," said Bucknor. "We had such high expectations last off-season. So many of the guys were talking about how great it was going to be to host the Grey Cup.

"So to have someone else take over our locker-room is going to be hard to see. That’s where we work, that’s where so many of our memories are — it’s going to be hard to let it go and watch another team take it over and maybe celebrate a Grey Cup."

But as stomach-churning as that scene might be for Bucknor and company, how about the insult that it would be to the Bombers fanbase if the two teams doing battle at IGF later this month are the Ottawa Redblacks and Edmonton Eskimos?

Remember: the Redblacks didn’t even exist two years ago, while the Eskimos were 4-14 in 2013, just one game better that season than the 3-15 Bombers. And yet just two years later, there’s a very real prospect those two teams could battle for a Grey Cup at the same time as the Bombers front office demands still more time and still more patience to get things right here in Winnipeg.

That scene would be hard to take for the fan base. It would be even harder to explain for the front office.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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Updated on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 at 9:40 PM CST: Adds sidebar

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