Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/8/2017 (1361 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Probably the most overlooked component of any successful football season is how you play and perform against the teams you are supposed to beat.
Going into a contest on the road against a winless opponent is one of the hardest things you can do in pro football, and that's mainly because the usual incentives aren't there for the players. If you beat the Calgary Stampeders, or the Edmonton Eskimos, or the B.C. Lions, you gain instant respect across the football community, rise to prominence in the standings and show you are a team to be contended with. You open eyes, draw attention to your accomplishment and surprise people everywhere.
When you play a team that hasn't won, the rules-and-reward system turns upside down. The outcome isn't supposed to be in question. You are no longer given credit or respect for simply winning the game. It instead becomes a measurement of how much you won by, and how easily you did it.
Not only are the incentives different for the players in this circumstance, but the environment they prepare in during the week are often also polar opposites. Winning teams are rewarded for their efforts with a break here, a day off there, a practice script reduced on day two and so on and so forth.
When you haven't yet tasted success, for the most part, everything is "more," "harder" and "extra." Your practice week becomes the reason you haven't yet won, so it is longer, more difficult and more demanding. That team is already playing desperate football every week, and if the opponent doesn't come in with the maturity and attitude to match them, you can lose a game you were expected to win.
Which is what made the win against Hamilton last Saturday night so impressive. The Bombers didn't need to win, Hamilton did; but the Bombers did it anyway. Only one team was feverishly banging their head on the panic button, but that didn't seem to matter.
For the first time this season, from start to finish, from wire to wire, the Bombers led, dominated and executed in all three phases. What's impressive is not that they did it against a sub-par opponent, it's that they had uncanny focus in a game with very little to gain and everything to lose. When a team is professional and mature, it simply wins as a consequence of its nature, competitive spirit and level of execution — and that is what we witnessed.
The danger coming off a 27-point drubbing will always be the false positives that can come out of such a one-sided game. It also takes a veteran's maturity to recognize that a lot of your landslide successes had something to do with the calibre of your opponent. Yet, if you can maintain focus and execute on the road during the biggest of potential trap games, maintaining humility and perspective should be an easy task.
What is exciting about the prospects of this football team is if they can play that well against a team with so few external rewards, what kind of performance can they put together when the only undefeated team in the league comes sauntering into town and calls them out? Most of us simply cannot wait to find out.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.