Football pulse thumping

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:36 PM ET

Is it me, or has the air in this town taken on a much different feel this week?

I’m not talking about the change in humidity, either.

I don’t know if there’s a barometer to measure fan expectations, but if there was, the needle on the thing would probably have started jumping like a tach on the start line at Daytona, right around 10:30 p.m. last Friday night.

Let’s face it, going into the season Blue Bomber fans weren’t exactly expecting a race with the Montreal Alouettes for the CFL East Division title.

“A lot of fans were saying we were going to be anywhere between a six- and seven-win team, if that,” linebacker Ike Charlton was saying Thursday. “Because we had a lot of change. Plus we were terrible last year.”

A training camp and one regular season game later — last Friday’s 49-29 romp over playoff-contending Hamilton — this town’s football pulse is thumping like the bass drum at a metal concert.

Yeah, a chuckling Charlton acknowledged, expectations have changed in a heartbeat.

“The way we played, I’m quite sure they raised them very high,” he said. “That type of win, the type of game that we played, they’re going to expect that week in and week out.”

As Charlton said, it wasn’t just the win, but the way the Bombers won: dominating on defence, while showing off an explosive offence light-years removed from the one that chased fans away by the thousands a year ago.

“I don’t think anybody knew what to expect,” cornerback and kick returner Jovon Johnson, last year’s team MVP, said.

“It was probably the unknown. And then to come out and perform the way we performed, that shot the expectations sky-high.”

Look no further than quarterback Buck Pierce, who could probably throw his name into the mayoral race right now and score as high in the polls as Mayor Sammy and Judy Alphabet.

After a game like that, I doubt Pierce has had to pay for a meal all week.

“Oh, you know. I’m not a guy that gets too high,” the most popular guy in town said. “I’m a pretty humble guy. Week 1 was just a step.”

Yeah, a step toward the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award and this town’s first Grey Cup title in 20 years.

“I know everybody’s going to get excited,” Pierce said. “I know everybody’s going to start making predictions and going crazy with it, one way or another. I’m going to stay humble and continue to do my job.”

Sounds like Pierce has as good a read on this town’s football fans as he had on the Tabbies’ defence. Probably a good idea to keep it even-keel.

Because in Winnipeg, and any place where the football team is ingrained in the community’s DNA, yesterday’s quarterback-du-jour is tomorrow’s leftovers, ready to be scraped off the plate and straight into the waste basket.

Just watch, and listen, the first time Pierce throws an interception. Somebody is sure to call for Steven Jyles.

Yeah, his bar has been set high, along with the entire team’s.

Which creates a whole new dynamic, one nobody knows how this bunch will react to.

“When the expectations are low and nobody really knows what to expect, it takes a lot of pressure off our backs to go out and perform,” Johnson said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

Tonight, with the offensively challenged Toronto Argonauts in town, that’s all changed.

“It’s new,” Charlton acknowledged. “We haven’t been favourites in a while. A long time.”

They probably were when the Argos came to town a year ago this month.

A horrid, 19-5 loss later, we had a pretty good idea who the real Bombers were.


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