January 21, 2020

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Opinion

Some sage Grey Cup advice from a couple of multiple-time losers

Bombers alumni Doug Brown (right) and Obby Khan deliver sage advice from their combined six trips to the school of hard knocks. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Bombers alumni Doug Brown (right) and Obby Khan deliver sage advice from their combined six trips to the school of hard knocks. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press files)

On their way to the 107th Grey Cup game in Calgary, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to need all the help they can get. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were a league-best 15-3 this regular season and are the only team in the CFL the Bombers have not beaten this year. Yet.

So with that being understood, local entrepreneur Obby Khan and myself have decided to form a partnership — with the intent of helping the 2019 squad take home the silver chalice and finally put an end to this ridiculous drought.

With a combined six Grey Cup losses under our collective belts, including one that Obby had in Calgary, we have decided to offer our services as consultants to the team. Call us the 6L Grey Cup Consultants, if you will.

It hasn’t been easy for us, entering the marketplace. The initial response has been, if the Bombers wished to benefit from the experiences of former players in the Grey Cup, why wouldn't they consult with one of the many players in this province who have WON multiple championships?

It’s a valid point and worthwhile consideration. Yet, our value is predicated on the single fact that you learn infinitely more from losing a championship than you do from winning one. And that kind of education makes us doctors of championship demises.

Obby, the CEO of 6L Grey Cup Consultants, has agonized for years over the missteps that cost him an opportunity at football immortality. And I, the president of 6LGCC, can’t sign into a social media forum without being reminded of the barren landscape on my ring finger.

So, as a result of these nightmarish experiences, we can offer up a comprehensive list of what you probably want to avoid if you wish to win the final game.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros brings an added dimension that was missing in the Bombers' two regular-season losses to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press files)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros brings an added dimension that was missing in the Bombers' two regular-season losses to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press files)

Let’s start with Zach Collaros, the Blue Bombers saviour who is entering Week 4 of his revenge tour and who is undefeated at the helm of this team.

Zach should be bubble-wrapped before he even boards the plane to Calgary, full stop. In 2007, both of us experienced a Grey Cup without our starting quarterback, who succumbed to a broken-bone mishap just days before the game, and it wasn’t pretty.

You can’t be too careful with the saviour of the franchise. At the very least, he should have a full security detail following him around Cowtown.

In 2001, there were hard lessons to be learned, too. It’s always better to block a punt and scoop and score than to give one up.

And you should never send a receiver to the NFL — Marc Boerigter — based off of a 68-yard long-ball touchdown performance against you.

Making all your field goals, and not taking an unheralded quarterback and an 8-10 team lightly is also something that will stick in your craw over time.

The overwhelming lesson from the 2011 loss was that one or two phases of your football team can’t do it all for you. You need all three, all game.

And if you wait until circumstances force you to be more aggressive with your game plan, it will usually be too late. If there is a stage where your shortcomings will be exposed for all to see, it is at the big dance.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris (33) celebrates a touchdown against the Ticats in September. All phases of the Bombers will have to be working for Harris and the team to be celebrating at the end of the game Sunday. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris (33) celebrates a touchdown against the Ticats in September. All phases of the Bombers will have to be working for Harris and the team to be celebrating at the end of the game Sunday. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

Obby learned some more things the hard way, with his Grey Cup loss in 2012 with the Calgary Stampeders to the Toronto Argonauts.

He suggests having teammates get into a fight in the locker room at halftime — which is always longer at the Grey Cup — is counterproductive, and that if a former player from your team is now on the other team, you should perhaps change up your play calls and signals.

Not smoking marijuana in the team hotel and not letting the pressure of the moment affect your play calling are also insights that Obby is certain are not squarely on the path to victory.

Of course, nobody ever wins a Grey Cup by playing not to lose and this is a list of behaviours to be avoided at all costs — like not staying out for last call the night before the game.

In all seriousness, this team has a chance to restore the franchise to it’s rightful place atop the heap of the CFL neighbourhood.

Here’s to hoping that all of the hard lessons have already been learned.

Doug Brown

Doug Brown
Columnist

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

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