Welcome to LoserPeg

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

It's where championship dreams go to die, a town with dead-end streets paved by heartache and potholes big enough to swallow up even the most promising season.

Coaches coming here should be advised to rent, not buy. Goaltenders and quarterbacks, bring your thickest skin -- and a suitcase.

As for you fans, mind the road-signs, particularly the one that says, Proceed at Your Own Risk.

Welcome to LoserPeg, where the end of the regular season means exactly that -- the end.

For the first time in this city's modern-day sports history, our pro teams have all been shut out of the playoffs in the same calendar year.

That's right, 2004 will go down as the year the Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg Goldeyes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers got together for the Terrible Trifecta, beating the odds, and not much else.

We got started on the frozen pond back in the spring, when the Moose pulled the trick in the AHL, a league in which making the playoffs is only slightly harder than maintaining a pulse (20 teams did, after all).

The Boys of Summer followed that up with their own minor-league miracle, finding a way to foul out of the Northern League playoffs for the first time in 11 years.

Not to be out-undone, your Blue Bombers completed the Triple Crown of Collapse Sunday, managing to swoon from Grey Cup contender to CFL also-ran in record time.

So the unnatural hat trick is complete, sports fans. Time to erect a new sign at the airport: Winnipeg, City of Chumps.

Not that we didn't see this coming.

Anybody watching knew this team had serious problems as far back as June.

"I knew we were in trouble after the first two weeks of the year, losing to Ottawa at home and in Hamilton," Bombers GM Brendan Taman said yesterday. "It was like, 'Oh, sh--, here we go.'"

There they went, all right -- 2-5 through seven games, costing head coach Dave Ritchie his job. And just when interim man Jim Daley seemed to be turning the mess around with a three-game win streak to kick off September, they turn in the four straight clunkers that finally, mercifully, ran them off the playoff road Sunday.

That leaves this Friday, a game against Khari Jones and the Calgary Stampeders which means absolutely nothing.

Taman will argue otherwise, saying team brass will find something out about this group in Week 20.

But I say all the evidence is in the carnage left behind by Weeks 1 through 19.

"We know a lot more now," Taman acknowledged. "Penalties -- the same bad heads were showing up again. This has been going on since Week 1, just undisciplined, stupid penalties ... bull---- stuff. There's obviously some attitude changes that need to be done."

You thought there were a bunch of changes after last year's early playoff exit?

Think that, times three, Taman suggested.

"In some cases, our older guys are the headache," he said. "We're unfortunately in a rebuilding phase. Pretty significant. There's not a lot of positions right now we feel comfortable with going into next year."

The players aren't the only ones under the gun.

Taman himself faces his biggest challenge since the Bombers went 6-12 in 1999, his first year here. He blew things up then, and must do so, to a lesser extent, again.

But if he can't build an offensive line or a secondary in six years, why should we believe he can do it in seven or eight?

"It's on everybody," he said. "It's me, too. Everybody's part of the problem, there's no doubt about that."

Hey, here in LoserPeg there's plenty of blame to go around.


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