Weather, or not

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- Mr. Lightning was enthused as he tromped into the dressing room from a practice where the Winnipeg Blue Bombers dealt with a crazy combination of rain, sleet, snow and hail, along with a ripping wind.

"If it's like this at game time, we're going to be running the ball a lot. I wouldn't mind this weather at all," said Mr. Lightning, a.k.a. Fred Reid.

Mr. Lightning admits he has never actually played in conditions like this before.

"I'm from Florida. There's not too much of this in Florida," added the running back from Tampa who played college at Mississippi State.

Mr. Thunder said he'd already conversed with Mr. Lightning on the subject of weather.

"We were talking earlier this morning and telling each other we're going to get the ball a lot if the weather is like this," he said of conditions that are expected to turn into snow today but let up by high noon tomorrow and be "balmy compared to this" in the words of head coach Doug Berry.

Mr. Thunder, a.k.a. Joe Smith, is from Monroe, La., played college football at Louisiana Tech and previously played his CFL football under the dome in B.C.

"I once played in a game where they had to plow snow off the field. It was a bowl game in Boise," said Mr. Thunder.

Either way, the Edmonton Eskimos, who the statistics testify haven't been able to stop the run this year, must stop Thunder and Lightning tomorrow if their season isn't to come to a conclusion in the Eastern semifinal.

It was Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Berry who gave the two their nicknames.

"I'd heard those phrases applied to their style of running backs somewhere a long time ago," said Berry of the two who share the some position, trading off at different times during the game.

Neither Mr. Thunder nor Mr. Lightning had their claim-to-fame names back when the Bombers were 2-8 at the start of the season. While Reid was a nobody on this team last year, Smith was a B.C. Lion until the trade with B.C. for Charles Roberts created the dynamic duo just after Labour Day. That was about the time the Bombers turned their 2-8 season into a 6-2 finish. But they didn't actually become Thunder and Lightning until they combined to beat the Toronto Argos Oct. 10, both topping the 100-yard mark in the same game.

The Bombers hadn't had two 100-yard rushers in more than 20 years.

That's when the platooned pair of change-of-pace running backs Berry was referring to as his thunder and lightning backs acquired the capital T and capital L.

It's been a while since there have been men with monikers busting out of the backfield into the legend and lore of Canadian football like Thunder and Lightning.

Once upon a time, there were the likes of Big Train, The Lincoln Locomotive, The Earthquake, Ol' Spaghetti Legs, The China Clipper, The Rifle, The Thumper, The Little General, The Undertaker, Long Gone, The Wisp and Ham Hands.

Any Canadian football fan of a certain age can name them all. Go ahead, phone up your grandpa and see how many he gets.

Being that the two were in such good moods, Mr. Thunder and Mr. Lightning allowed me to test them on their knowledge of the holders of those nicknames yesterday. Neither were able to identify any of them, in order, as Lionel Conacher, Leo Lewis, Earl Lunsford, Jackie Parker, Normie Kwong, Sam Etcheverry, Wayne Harris, Ron Lancaster, Bill Baker, Jim Thomas, Willie Fleming and Herm Harrison.

"I haven't heard of any of them," said Mr. Thunder.

"I think I heard of Spaghetti Legs and The Earthquake," said Mr. Lightning. "But I don't know their real names. I'd like to be known as The Wisp. That's a good one."

In recent times, only return men like legends Gizmo and Pinball required no introduction beyond their nicknames, which became household names to be remembered long after folks have forgotten that Henry Williams and Michael Clemons were their actual names. Back in the '50s and '60s, the guys in the backfield won the colourful nicknames.

You'd figure Mr. Thunder and Mr. Lightning would be quite happy having won their new names. With straight names like Joe Smith and Fred Reid, you'd think they'd be happy with being called A and B. But apparently not.

"We've got to come up with something else," said Mr. Thunder. "I kind of like Slash and Crash."


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