Short honeymoon

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

You think of the word "honeymoon," and you think of hand-in-hand walks, romantic dinners and tranquil nights watching the sunset on some faraway, tropical beach (sigh).

It never lasts long enough, but for a time life is bliss. The person you've chosen can do no wrong.

In sports, a new coach's honeymoon period generally lasts the better part of their first season. Fans know, and accept, that it'll take time for the new relationship to blossom.

Then there's Mike Kelly's honeymoon with the Winnipeg Blue Bomber faithful -- officially clocked at 4.3 in the 40.

This is like the bride having second thoughts on her way out of the church: "Will somebody please tell me again why I married this guy?"

This, after the groom cut ties with her best friends (popular players), asked a complete stranger to be his best man (hello, Stefan LeFors), insulted her relatives (where are you, Brendan Taman?) and got into it with the nosy neighbours (local media).

Talk about rewriting the definition of grace period.

Still more than three weeks from the season opener, Kelly has taken whatever slack a new coach is supposed to get and wrapped it tightly around his neck.

"I've been married twice, so I know about those honeymoons," Kelly said yesterday, laughing at the analogy. "I didn't get cut slack with either one of them."

Kidding aside, Kelly acknowledged he's caused quite a stir, already.

The fact some 2,000 fans showed up for Day 1 of Camp Kelly on the weekend -- not carrying barrels of tar and buckets of feathers, we should point out -- suggests he's certainly got people's attention.

Whether they're genuinely excited about the team, or just curious to get a glimpse of a train wreck, remains to be seen.

"That's why I came back to Winnipeg, because I knew how much people care about this club," Kelly said. "There's always great expectations here. Regardless of how the team has been, the expectation always has been that this is an optimistic city, and that the Grey Cup, it's gonna come, at some point."

I don't know. In recent years, the local football field has become a breeding ground for plenty of pessimism, it seems to me.

Kevin Glenn would toss a first-half interception, and the boo-birds would crap all over him.

Alexis Serna makes a relatively easy field goal, and he's serenaded with sarcasm.

Bomber fans haven't been shy about letting their team have it. The level and enthusiasm of the negativity has surprised players and coaches, alike.

After 18 years of championship-free football -- four winning records in the last 14 years, for heaven's sake -- it probably should come as no surprise.

This isn't your father's Blue Bombers, and it's certainly not the old man's Bomber crowd.

That makes for a potentially potent mix in '09: team with a slew of new players to break in meets fans whose patience is worn through to the marrow.

But if the new boss is worried he'll be run out of town with, say, an 0-3 start, he's not showing it.

"Remember, I keep another house in Philadelphia," Kelly said. "And that's a whole different world when it comes to what fans expect.

"That just comes with the territory. You just kind of roll with the punches."

For the record, Kelly expects there will be some growing pains this season.

"That wouldn't surprise me at all," he said. "I wouldn't expect to come out of the chute and just be gangbusters. It'll take a little bit of time to grow. I understand that. I hope we all do."

I wouldn't be so sure.

There is a silver lining: the Bombers play just three of their first nine games at home.

By then, maybe the groom can suggest a second honeymoon.


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