Bauer a proven fighter

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

It was at last week's news conference announcing the re-signing of players Joe Fleming and Scott Regimbald that it first became apparent something was wrong. Blue Bomber president and CEO Lyle Bauer's voice was raspy and weak as he talked to me about the direction the team was going.

Asked if he had a cold, Bauer said he had "a few things going on," but wouldn't elaborate.

I asked if he'd be OK, to which he said he'd be fine.

At the end of our interview, he tapped my arm as he left. A simple gesture that, in retrospect, meant so much.

Yesterday the Bombers announced Bauer has been diagnosed with throat cancer.

"Surprised. Shocked. Stunned," is how Bomber GM Brendan Taman described his reaction. "It really knocks you into reality."

Taman and the rest of the staff just found out Sunday, but Bauer had first discovered something wrong late last summer.

His treatments -- chemotherapy and radiation -- began yesterday.

Needless to say, Bauer is in for a fight. And his old teammates say there's nobody better equipped to tackle the disease.

Chris Walby battled alongside Bauer on the Bomber offensive line for Bauer's entire career as a player, from 1982-91.

Like the rest of us, the Canadian Football Hall of Famer was as shocked as anybody by yesterday's news.

"I'm just blown away," Walby said from Vancouver, where he's on a business trip. "I don't know what to do. You feel helpless."

At the same time, Walby knows Bauer, the fighter, a guy who was ready to take on all comers. Like the defensive lineman being pummeled in that picture hanging on Bauer's office wall.

Bauer was even ready to take on management once, Walby recalled. It was after Walby convinced him he'd been released.

"He was going to fight people in the front office," Walby said. "He was one of the toughest guys you'll ever meet."

Former hog Dave Black is another Bauer believer.

"He'll overcome that like he's overcome everything else in his life," Black said. "He's as tough as they come. He showed up every game. He worked his butt off every play. That's why he is what he is today.

"He's got the most positive attitude I know. He's a winner."

Right now, the wins and losses we normally associate with the Bombers don't mean a whole lot.

As Taman put it, you're knocked into reality.

The Bombers are going to celebrate their 75th anniversary next year. It will also mark Bauer's 20th year with the team.

It promises to be his most challenging.

In a prepared statement, Bauer expressed his own surprise at the diagnosis, saying he doesn't fit the profile of the typical throat cancer patient.

After all, he doesn't smoke.

Well, the folks at Cancer Care Manitoba have probably never had a patient like Bauer.

As Walby says, the word around the Bombers back in their playing days was always, "Don't mess with Lyle."

Cancer has chosen to. And I don't like its chances.

"If there's a person that can (beat) it," Walby said. "That person is Lyle Bauer."


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