Inspiring reunion for new BombersBauer hoping magic from '84 Grey Cup champs rubs off
By PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun
It was a lunch for the ages, a fascinating convergence of Blue Bombers past and present.
On one side of the room, Joe Poplawski, Trevor Kennerd, Willard Reaves and the rest of the 1984 Bombers, a team that ended the longest Grey Cup drought (22 years) in this franchise's modern-day history.
On the other side, chowing down on barbecued beef and potatoes, Milt Stegall, Khari Jones, Troy Westwood and the current team, who are trying to end the club's second-longest championship drought.
Emceeing the festivities, the Grey Cup prominently on display to his left, president/CEO Lyle Bauer, a lineman in '84 who today is charged with bringing the organization back to its glory days.
"We waited 22 years for that one," Bauer said after watching a video from the championship season. "(We're not) going to wait another eight years."
Observing this scene at the club's Blue and Gold Room yesterday, part of a 20-year anniversary tribute to the '84 side, you couldn't help but notice the parallels.
The '84 squad had James Murphy, the leading receiver in Bombers history until some time tonight, when Stegall catches his first pass against the B.C. Lions to take Murphy's place.
The top-two scorers of all time: Westwood and Kennerd.
Reaves rushed for the second-most yardage in team history (1,733) in '84, Charles Roberts put up the third-best season (1,554) last year.
The most obvious comparison, though, isn't measured in stats, but rather in the burden of expectation carried by both teams.
The '84 Bombers had come so close in previous years, only to come up short in the playoffs each time. Sound familiar?
Today's team bears the weight of a 13-year dry spell, shorter only than Saskatchewan's, and the natives are getting restless.
So you really couldn't blame Bauer for hoping some of that 20-year-old magic rubs off.
"There's not a lot of them that have their names on that Grey Cup," Bauer said. "It's important for them to see and talk and meet some of those guys, just to get that feel.
"You see things like James Murphy's catches in the '84 West Final, you see Willard Reaves running the ball ... they dig down and grab a hold of something that other people don't have. And that's ultimately what makes you a champion."
Watching the last three years, you can't help but wonder if the current side has it.
Jones, feeling the heat today, can only imagine what it was like after a 22-year dry spell.
"We know it's tough here," the quarterback said. "You're judged on every win, every loss, every play sometimes. You have to have a strong will. I'm sure it hasn't changed all that much over the years. Here, especially, because of how the people live and die with this team."
Of course, that pays its dividends, too.
Poplawski talked about the mob scene that greeted the Grey Cup champs at the airport in '84. And just look at how many of those Bombers continue to live and work in the city.
But the one thing that stood out about yesterday's reunion was just that: the reunion.
Winning a championship unites teammates forever.
"You share what I call an indelible moment in time," Bauer said. "That is forever etched in your mind."
It was there, plain to see, in the faces of the champs, some of whom flew in from across the continent on their own dime to share stories over a beer.
Jones saw it, too, and couldn't help but want a taste.
"It would give us a reason to come back in 20 years and kind of relive it," he said. "I would love to be in this position, to be honoured like they are. Hopefully, we get that chance."