Milt's ultimate moment?

Milt Stegall is guaranteeing a victory if the Bombers sell out their playoff game. (Sun Media/Brian...

Milt Stegall is guaranteeing a victory if the Bombers sell out their playoff game. (Sun Media/Brian Donogh)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

Milt Stegall used to tell us there were only six guarantees in life, most of which had to do with either his looks or his physical conditioning.

Yesterday, No. 85 added a seventh, regarding Saturday's CFL East semifinal against Edmonton.

"If we sell out the game, we're guaranteeing a win," Stegall said.

"I'll say that much. If it's a sold out game, Milt Stegall, personally, has guaranteed a victory."

So this is what it's come to for the future hall of famer.

His game-breaking touchdown catches fewer and farther between, the Winnipeg Blue Bomber receiver has taken on the role of marketing director.

The carefully planned "announcement" after yesterday's practice, orchestrated by the Bombers to appear to be major news - Stegall's official retirement, perhaps? - comes at a time when ticket sales aren't exactly setting box office records.

Still thousands of seats from a sellout, the Big Blue are obviously green with envy, as they look to Regina, where Saskatchewan's West semifinal sold out in 35 minutes on Monday, their 18th consecutive packed house.

So while the Riders are fielding complaints about tickets being scalped for hundreds of dollars on the Internet, the Bombers are forced to parade their players in front of the cameras to generate some hype.

Stegall is even offering to give away his game-worn jersey and gloves to a lucky fan - again, if there's a sellout.

What's wrong with this picture?

Well, something better than a spotty 8-10 regular season record from a team fat with its own press clippings much of the year might have been helpful.

I know, last year's 10-7-1 outfit couldn't even draw 23,000 for the division semi. But the Bombers made a change this season, including playoff tickets with season-ticket packages.

That means some 15,000 playoff seats were gone, automatically. The rest have been on sale for nearly three weeks.

Hmmm ... 35 minutes in Saskatchewan, three weeks here.

"We can't believe it," Stegall said. "How could Saskatchewan fans sell out, and we didn't sell out the game? This is unbelievable.

"We're going to let these folks from out west outdo us? There's no way.

"I know we've got the best fans in the CFL. And we're going to sell this game out."

After his "official" announcement, Stegall was asked about the difference between Bomber and Rider fans.

"Are they more passionate? I don't want to say that," he said. "We sold out some games during the season. But the playoff game should be sold out automatically."

Even if it's cold, and the game's on TV?

"This is Winnipeg," Stegall said. "That's what the fans expect."

I'll be the first to admit that Winnipeg fans can be fairweather. Give 'em rain or cold -- or a lousy team -- and they'll stay at home.

Up until the last home game, crowds were actually better than expected this season. Now this.

Will the Bombers' marketing ploy work? Maybe.

But with the rain and snow coming and the mercury dropping later this week, it would have been wise to put some hay in the barn during those beautiful days of summer.

Underachieve on the field, and chances are you'll underachieve at the gate.

Who knows, the Bombers may yet fill the place on Saturday.

But if they don't, if a few thousand empty seats are there for a nationwide TV audience to see, the people who should be embarrassed aren't the ones at home in front of their sets.

It'll be those who'll be on the field.


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