WINNIPEG - Gather round, kids, and let me tell you the story of a really good Blue Bomber football team.
Yes, such an animal did exist not so long ago.
It was 2001, and the Big Blue could do no wrong on its way to a 14-4 record, an incredible regular season that included a magical, 12-game win streak.
I know, seems crazy by todayís standards.
Funny thing is, at the time nobody was asking if that team was as good as its record suggested. We were all too busy extolling its virtues to nitpick about how it was winning.
That bunch won seven games by five points or less during the streak, including a couple by one point and another by two.
An astounding nine of those 12 consecutive victories were by eight points or less, including the last six in a row.
Quarterback Khari Jones, receivers Milt Stegall, Arland Bruce and Robert Gordon, rookie running back Charles Roberts and a defence led by Lamar McGriggs, Juran Bolden, Ryland Wickman and rookie Doug Brown ó for a while it seemed those Bombers couldnít lose if they tried.
Why the history lesson, you ask?
Itís about this debate over whether or not the current edition of the Bombers is one of the better bad teams in CFL history, way better than its 3-9 mark.
Does it really matter?
Iím with Coach LaPo on this one. Nobodyís going to look back at their record and say, ďNow that was a great bunch of losers in 2010.Ē
So far, this team hasnít learned how to win close games and hasnít learned how to win even a single game away from home.
Those arenít the marks left by a very dangerous animal.
It may get over the hump these last six games, it may not.
What we do know is this team is light years ahead of last seasonís, even though it has one less victory to show for it.
At this time in í09, Professor Kellyís Bombers were 4-8 and somehow in the process of putting together a three-game win streak that would see them reach the lofty heights of 6-8, all the while glossing over some major issues.
No need to revisit those details. The proof came in the playoff pudding, or lack of it.
Coach LaPoís Bombers actually have an offence, and while his defence hasnít been as opportunistic as Kellyís, itís shown signs it can be dominant against anybody not named Calvillo.
Thereís a belief in the current locker-room, too, that just wasnít there 12 months ago. And a sense that the future will bring better things.
Of course, this isnít religion. All the faith in the world wonít be worth a damn if it doesnít start translating into two weekly points.
And as promising as parts of this team look ó some of its young defensive backs, its relentless defensive ends, a pair of big, young receivers ó there are still plenty of question marks.
Are Steven Jyles and/or Buck Pierce the long-term answer at quarterback?
What about the razor-thin Canadian talent?
If youíre going to use two imports on the offensive line, shouldnít it be more dominant?
And whoís going to be kicking field goals for the next few years?
Potentially, thatís more than just a little fine-tuning to come.
So weíre not going to sit here and proclaim itís only a matter of time before the Bombers start rolling over CFL opponents.
But thereís enough evidence to suggest Coach LaPoís plan isnít complete folly.
The beauty is, this final third of the season and, potentially, beyond, will provide the answer.
That í01 team, by the way, probably wasnít as good as its record.
It barely snuck into the Grey Cup, then lost the championship to 8-10 Calgary.
If this is really a good 3-9 team, itíll show us, too.