A whiff of urgency

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

I don't know if Mike Kelly is a gardener, but he was talking about the growth of his football team the other day like it was sprouting from seed.

Which, in some ways, I guess it is.

"It truly is like a plant growing," the Blue Bomber head coach said. "We've stuck our head up out of the soil, now we just need to get our stem up, some leaves out, and we'll be good."

Yeah, but is this thing going to be a rose bush or a Canada thistle?

The kind of thing you want to show the friends and neighbours, or something you'd just as soon douse with Killex and have yanked out, ASAP?

Hopeful Bomber fans -- the fearful ones, too -- get their first in-person look tonight, when the Calgary Stampeders drop in, Grey Cup rings and all.

Let's be honest, last week's season opener in Edmonton probably wasn't a true gauge of Kelly's early handiwork. No garden likes the kind of downpour that flooded Commonwealth Stadium that night.

Little wonder Kelly's creation, the offence, looked a little weather-beaten.

Tonight, on the fast turf, we should begin to see a bloom or two.

And if you catch a whiff of urgency in the air, you're not alone.

When a guy comes in and tills up your whole yard the way Kelly has, you want some results.

This isn't Doug Berry's complacent bunch of a year ago, when you could still catch the fresh scent of a Grey Cup appearance. When everybody just assumed the same foliage was going to come up again, like a bed of nice perennials.

One loss turned into two, then three and four, and nobody bothered to panic, or even react, until it was too late. Soon the whole thing was weeds.

Reassurance

With all the rearranging Kelly's done, the folks need some reassurance that he actually knows what he's doing.

The players, too, for that matter.

"We need to really make a stand in the CFL, to let teams know that we are for real," centre Obby Khan said. "We aren't what everyone is saying, we aren't what the media is hyping up. We are for real. Getting a win against the defending Grey Cup champs, that would definitely do it.

"And I think we'll do it."

You might even say they must do it.

"This is a gotta-win," linebacker Barrin Simpson offered. "We already let one get away. We gotta win this game. When you're in your own back yard, you gotta win. If you can't win at home, then daggone it. I don't care if it's the New York Football Giants coming in here. We've gotta win at home."

Pretty clear what the Minister of Defence is praying for.

Coming off a turbulent week in which Kelly faced his first player crisis -- the Derick Armstrong affair -- makes tonight's performance even more critical. A mini referendum on the boss's leadership, even.

Then there are the long-starved fans in this town, known to turn against their team if they smell something rotten.

"We want to make people respect us," Simpson said. "You can talk about it. You've gotta prove it on the field. We haven't given them anything to earn their respect. The only thing we have from our fans right now is their love of the Bombers. But their respect, we've gotta go out and earn it."

Kelly has alienated some of them, no doubt. But by now we know what he thinks of that.

If not, he reminded us yesterday.

"I could care less about what anybody thinks on the outside, other than in this building," he said, referring to the Bomber football operation.

Well, like it or not, coach, the paying customers are going to have their say.

So go ahead, poke your head out and show us all what you're growing here.

We're dying to see if the head Blue Bomber has a green thumb.


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