Gettin' a hate on

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

The first time Blue Bomber coach Doug Berry prepared to match wits with Don Matthews, his old boss in Montreal, he knew Matthews was going to give him a shot.

It's The Don's way: try to get under the rookie's skin, see if you can rattle him a bit just before the game.

We can only imagine what Matthews will come up with Sunday, as Berry takes his tattered Bombers into Montreal to meet the equally battered Alouettes.

Maybe it'll go something like this: "Geez, Doug, am I glad to see you guys."

Because if there's a tonic for the Als' five-game losing streak, it might just be the Bombers, losers of five of their last six.

Of course, you could turn that around, too. As bad as the Bombers have been, Montreal hasn't been much better.

Between the two, they've lost 10 of their last 11, and who would have guessed that when the teams met back in mid-July?

The battle for first place, we billed it then. The 3-0 Alouettes in town to face the 3-1 Bombers, and more than 28,000 showed up to watch.

If the Bombers were fed humble pie that day, the Als have joined them at the trough, and it's not a pretty sight.

Here in Winnipeg, what used to be the CFL's top defence has plunged faster than Pamela Anderson's neckline. The Winnipeg defence has now given up 304 points, better than only Hamilton.

The turnover ratios of the teams look more like mid-winter forecasts, both hovering at minus-7, and falling.

These two were supposed to have made the Toronto Argonauts forget about first place by now. Instead, they've got the hapless Tiger-Cats salivating over third.

"Two teams in very bad spirits," is how Bomber GM Brendan Taman described it.

And playing very bad football.

Based on the last game, the Bombers offensive line couldn't open a hole in a can of soup right now.

Meanwhile, Montreal's front five couldn't stop a sink, giving up a very uncool dozen sacks to the B.C. Lions a week ago.

This is not Alouettes football. Matthews just doesn't lose five in a row, unless you count wives.

Come to think of it, that'd be a great line for Berry to feed The Don before the game. After apologizing for the finger he flashed him the last time they played, of course.

Asked what kind of mood the teams will be in, Berry seemed more certain about Montreal's than his own group.

"I know what they're gonna be, and I know the way we should be," Berry said. "It should be physical."

Given the history between the two, it could get downright ugly.

If this isn't the league's most heated rivalry, I want to know what is.

Some of the players despise each other (hello, Troy Westwood and Ed Philion). The GMs (Mr. Taman, meet Jim Popp) have had a few front-office tussles over the years.

And now we know how the coaches feel. One of them, anyway.

Obviously, former Bomber boss Dave Ritchie left his old copy of Hating the Alouettes: A 12-step Guide in his desk for Berry to peruse.

Much of the animosity, from this end, stems from Montreal's domination the last several years. Of the last seven meetings, the Bombers have won once.

"They've had our number," Taman conceded.

Going into this home-and-home set, he and Berry aren't conceding anything.

"We'd love to have both," Taman said. "A split would be nice, for sure."

"We can compete with them if we do the right things," Berry added. "I'm confident about that, and will make our guys feel we should be confident."

Good luck with that.

The only consolation is the Als are a wreck, too.

It might be time for the CFL's first tie of the season.


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