Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/4/2011 (4102 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THEY are the ever-faithful, the diehards, those be-there-no-matter-how-awful fans who proudly wear their Winnipeg Blue Bomber colours 12 months a year.
But even the converted need to hear the preachers holler hallelujah once in awhile and that's why Paul LaPolice, Joe Mack & Co. stepped in front of 500 supporters at the team's annual fan forum Wednesday night at the Tijuana Yacht Club and not only put 2010 in the rear-view mirror but worked to sell hope for 2011.
"It's just so awesome because the people care about football. People will say, 'Oh, you'll get some crazy questions... Well, at least people are here showing support,'" LaPolice said. "It's good to work in a community where people really care about the team."
Not surprisingly -- especially given the team's 4-14 finish last season and two straight seasons without playoff football -- there were some pointed questions asked of Bomber management, including complaints about the bang for the buck for the $150 seats in the Chairman's Lounge, the quality of the halftime shows and whether the price of beer will go up in the new stadium.
A handful of fans also asked, very politely, about LaPolice's play-calling, about the lack of a proven quarterback behind Buck Pierce after the trade of Steven Jyles, the recruitment of homegrown players and finding a replacement for CFL sack king Phillip Hunt.
LaPolice didn't shy away from any of it.
"All of that, all of those questions and concerns... it's the truth," LaPolice said. "I'm sure that the people know I'm a competitor and I'm not happy about last year.
"I cringe when I hear somebody say, 'Good job.' That's not where I want us to be as an organization.
"I'm not going to shy away from it. I'll stand up in front of the room and answer the questions and our players, I believe, would do the same. We've got to learn from last year. You don't want to erase it totally."
Among the other highlights from the annual get-together with fans, whichserves as a springboard to the next season:
-- The club announced that the stadium naming-rights agreement with Canad Inns has been extended for the 2011 season.
Meanwhile, the Bombers are also well into investigating finding a partner for the naming rights to the new stadium, scheduled to open in 2012.
-- LaPolice, who along with his staff spent the last few days sharing ideas with Tom Clements and Dom Capers of the Green Bay Packers, as well as coaches at Northwestern University, referred to the addition of new defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke as "the biggest free-agent signing in the CFL this winter."
-- Repeating comments he made earlier this winter, Mack said the Bombers tried to sign certain players in free agency, but backed away when they felt the salary demands were too high. He also emphasized the team signed every player they wanted back, including some who apparently left money on the table elsewhere to stay in Winnipeg.
"We want to obviously be a winning organization," Mack said. "But we also want to go beyond that.
"Our goal -- and as long as I'm here, the goal will never waver -- is to be one of the top-flight organizations in all of North America. Not good, but great. It may take us some time to get there, but we will not rest until we are competing and vying for the Grey Cup year after year after year."