Clash of the pathetic

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

This is why they make diehard football fans, the kind who exit a loss with, "There's always next week," a last-place finish with, "Wait till next year."

This is why a team's lifeblood are its season-ticket holders, because to sell this game on its own would be akin to selling spoiled meat.

It's also an example of how TV blackouts can be a good thing.

It's the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, here this Saturday -- two teams with fewer combined wins than Theo Fleury has front teeth.

Call it the Basement Bowl, the Toilet Bowl, whatever you like. But don't call it up on your satellite dish. At least, not if you want to see CFL football at its finest.

"It's not a battle for first place," Bomber D-lineman Doug Brown dead-panned yesterday.

More like a battle for a first win, at least for the Tabbies, who must have been neutered and de-clawed over the winter.

Remember that remarkable turnaround orchestrated in Steeltown last year, from 1-17 to 9-8-1 and a playoff spot?

Well, the Ticats stumble into town this weekend like a bleary-eyed construction worker on a Friday-night drunk, a six-pack of defeat tucked under his arm.

Their quarterback, Danny McManus, is 40, and playing like it.

That a smart coach like Greg Marshall has believed McManus to be his best option speaks volumes. That the team was desperate enough to bring in Khari Jones pretty much closes the book.

And then there are the Blue Bombers, with one victory to show for seven starts, a Reinebold-esque pace if we've ever seen one.

MANAGE A TOUCHDOWN

Put these two in the same room and there's no telling what fun might break out. They might even manage a touchdown, or two. Combined. No, really.

They've collectively managed to score 22 in 12 games, so far. That's how many Edmonton has in seven outings.

While the other seven CFL clubs are averaging better than 350 yards of offence per game, Winnipeg and Hamilton are at 253 and 287 yards, respectively.

Teams in this league don't score less than 20 points per game. Hamilton and Winnipeg, in a league of their own, do.

Teams in the CFL complete passes at a 60-72% clip. These two are barely keeping their heads above 50%.

They're at the bottom of the heap in first downs, passing yards, average gain per pass -- pick a category.

In a league stacked with quarterbacks, the Bombers and Ticats are flat. Their passing efficiency, bottom of the class.

One team boasting a punter as, arguably, its best player, the other still looking for one.

This week, Winnipeg marketing boss Jerry Maslowsky has the toughest job in town.

He is the real estate agent showing the bungalow with the leaky roof and gaping cracks in the foundation. The car salesman trying to unload the rust bucket with two flat tires. The stockbroker pitching Bre-X.

He could always exhort fans to come out to watch two of the CFL's worst defences, but that doesn't have much of a ring to it, either.

Then again, perhaps pairing two equally-inept dance partners will create magic, a two-negatives-make-a-positive kind of result.

Brown insists matchups like this are heated, a "battle of desperate teams" who'll engage in "an extremely spirited, physical contest."

O-lineman Matt Sheridan says there's still plenty to see: "The pitched battle, the back and forth, the drama."

In some ways, there is a curiosity about this clash of the clumsy, kind of like watching two trains on a collision course. You're unable to turn away, even though you know full well it's going to be ugly.

"Someone's gotta win," Bombers linebacker Ryland Wickman said.

That much is true.

Unless they tie.


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