Kelly phoning it in

In an effort to limit the number of on-air battles, Mike Kelly has decided to essentially save...

In an effort to limit the number of on-air battles, Mike Kelly has decided to essentially save himself from himself. (Sun Media/Chris Procaylo)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly will no longer take phone calls on his weekly call-in radio show.

Citing a "vocal minority" of fans that has done everything from calling for his ouster to saying he devalues the organization every time he opens his mouth, Kelly has had enough.

"I'm not going to do it. It's counterproductive," Kelly said yesterday after the team's first practice following the bye week. "I just don't feel like it is a positive aspect for anybody involved.

"It's a vocal minority that calls in, and when we lose or don't play particularly well, there's just too many personal attacks, whether they're at me or at a player or whatever it might be.

"... I'm not afraid to give answers, but saying that we all should be fired right away? We have families to support, too. I've got my daughters listening in Philadelphia on the computer, and they phone me up afterwards and say, 'Dad, what's wrong with these people?' I say, 'You're from this town. You tell me.' "

The Mike Kelly Show will continue to take place every Monday night at Upperdeck Sports Bar at the McPhillips Street Station casino, and the rookie coach will still take inquiries from people in the audience or via e-mail.

"You can ask questions there face-to-face rather than having phone muscles, or you can go ahead and e-mail them in and we'll take the questions that we want there," Kelly said.

"... If you think you can stand up and ask a question, then stand up and ask a question, but don't hide behind a computer or a phone and act like you're a big guy."

CJOB sports director Bob Irving, the longtime voice of the Bombers and host of the Mike Kelly Show, didn't want the situation to come to this. Irving figures there has been a coach's call-in show in Winnipeg for approximately the last 30 years.

'REGRET'

"The football club wants to remove the phone-in component of the radio show, and in the spirit of co-operation CJOB has agreed," Irving said. "Although we regret that Bombers fans will no longer be able to interact via the telephone with coach Kelly."

Kelly said he was raised to stand up to people who attack him, and he has fired back at several callers this season. We're paraphrasing here, but he once told a critical caller that he doesn't come to McDonald's and harass him while he works. Another time, when responding to a middle-aged-sounding caller, Kelly said it was great that the man's parents let him get a phone in his basement bedroom.

"In Philadelphia and Chicago, that's how you live," Kelly said. "That's how you grow up. It's a give and take."

It's a different story in Friendly Manitoba, though. Some fans who hear the verbal wars on the radio have called the organization to complain about the coach's behaviour.

"Here if I give it back, everybody flips out. 'Oh, he can't say that.' Well, yeah, I can say that," he said. "If you're going to come at me, then I'm going to come at you."

So in an effort to limit the number of on-air battles, Kelly, with support from president and CEO Lyle Bauer, has decided to essentially save himself from himself. He also doesn't feel he should be required to take calls even though the Bombers are a community-owned club.

"I've never seen your name or your name or your name on my paycheque," he told the media members. "I think we get a little bit overboard with that thing. The people in town, the community ownership, they're not the ones that are ultimately going to make the determination on what my employment is or anybody else in this building. To me, a boss is someone who has that type of authority and power.

"These are passionate fans that I believe in. I'm in their group. I'm probably overly passionate about the Blue Bombers. It's why I wanted to come back. It's why I wanted to be here.

"But why let a vocal minority dictate the message? We're going to control the message."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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