Is the Nightmare on Maroons Road over yet?

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This article was published 7/4/2010 (4432 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Is the Nightmare on Maroons Road over yet?

Are there any more monsters under the Blue Bombers' bed?

Because it would sure be nice -- apart from not winning a championship in 20 freaking years -- if the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could at least find a quarterback and keep him. Or at least not lose more than $1 million in a 2009 season that failed to produce a playoff game. Or at least not hire a head coach who -- and this is rather incredible when you think about it -- in the span of a single season set the brand of an 80-year-old franchise back to the Dirty '30s.

There's hope, of course. Always hope.

Why? Joe Mack might have arrived in Winnipeg as a relative unknown, but anyone who was remotely familiar with the man used one word to describe the GM: professional. Same goes for incoming team president Jim Bell, a bean-counter by trade who throws a mean spiral. And while rookie head coach Paul LaPolice got the job based on his offensive acumen, he's remembered during his stint as the Bombers' offensive co-ordinator as a decent young fellow who married a local lass.

They may succeed. They may fail. But since no professional sports franchise deserves two Mike Kellys in one generation, we're pretty sure if it's the latter, they won't drag the entire organization down with them and leave it in smouldering ruins.

Sure, the Bombers need to get themselves a quarterback. Buck Pierce is in play, if the Bombers want to gamble on the health risks. But if anything, LaPolice has a recent history with the Roughriders of nurturing young pivots, with Darian Durant the latest protege. No doubt, LaPolice envisions perhaps 27-year-old Steven Jyles, lured over from the Riders as a free agent acquisition, can eventually emulate Durant's success in Saskatchewan.

And it's true that box-office success can have a direct correlation with who's playing quarterback, and how well. But in the case of the Bombers' disastrous 2009 season, the losses without question fall at the feet of one of the worst head coaches in the Bombers' history and the man who hired him, former GM Lyle Bauer. There's no pussyfooting around that fact.

By now, it's blatantly obvious to even the most stubborn Kelly apologists the off-field freak show that made the Bombers a national laughingstock has come home to roost in a deficit of $1.2 million. Adding insult to injury, a huge portion of those losses, more than $900,000, was actually spent to pay Kelly and his staff not to come back again. So there you go, Bombers fans, the money you paid for your tickets wasn't for naught.

No wonder the Bombers are worried about the beating given to their brand. What's more curious, perhaps, is that the Bombers have any brand goodwill at all after what they've put their paying customers through lo these many years.

But this is where the likes of Mack and Bell and LaPolice, to name a few, come in; their collective efforts to re-establish the Bombers as a professional organization worthy of public support will be crucial over the next 24 months. And by "worthy" and "public support," I'm also referring to the new stadium that will be erected with $90 million in hard-earned public cash and, if all goes to plan, paid back in full by potential owner David Asper.

You can't take that kind of gift with one hand and metaphorically slap your community in the face with the other. That's just despicable.

In fact, given the shenanigans on Maroons Road of late, I got the distinct impression the Bombers were beginning to take a lot for granted. Like the fans and sponsors, who pay their way. Like the media, who publicize (advertise) their every move. And, worse, they took their own name for granted.

After all, for the last 15 odd years the Bombers have been the big show in town with the loss of the NHL's Jets. That's a lot of corporate dollars that fell from the sky, and coincided with the team's rise from the financial ashes of near-bankruptcy.

If last year proved anything, however, it's that the Bombers aren't bulletproof, even in a community that cherishes them in spite of 20 years of futility. It proved how fragile even such a storied organization can be, how one fatal decision can so severely damage the club's image. And bank account, for that matter.

Please, let the nightmares be over. Maybe then, Bomber fans might feel safe to start dreaming again.

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Randy Turner

Randy Turner

Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.