'Peg fans staying away

Bombers QB Michael Bishop denies he has a problem with coach Mike Kelly. (Sun Media/Marcel Cretain)

Bombers QB Michael Bishop denies he has a problem with coach Mike Kelly. (Sun Media/Marcel Cretain)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

It would seem the public relations nightmare that stalks the Winnipeg Blue Bombers almost daily is starting to hit the team where it counts: in the bottom line.

If early-week ticket sales are any indication, the CFL's Hall of Fame weekend will be capped by a Hall of Shame crowd when the Toronto Argonauts visit the Bombers, Saturday night.

Tuesday afternoon, barely 20,000 tickets had been sold, and the lack of an update from the organization yesterday suggests operators continue to stand by.

Is anybody surprised?

At 3-8, this team isn't better than anybody in the CFL. Unless you count controversies, where it's No. 1 with a bullet.

Another day passes, another alleged scandal makes headlines. Somebody throw a flag for piling on.

Take this week. Please.

No sooner had the dust settled from the latest twist in the Barrin Simpson saga then news broke of a confrontation between the starting quarterback and the head coach.

What's next, the board is dealing drugs?

For the record, the two Mikes, Kelly and Bishop, spent part of yesterday denying a Tuesday night TSN report they'd been at each other's throats and that Bishop had threatened to quit the team.

"That's news to me," Bishop said. "I don't know where that came from. That's funny. When you're not winning people think of everything. Your pants may be too big -- that may be the next comment. We have fun with it."

Kelly, tongue planted firmly in his cheek, says he ran into Bishop yesterday morning and offered to settle things, once and for all.

"I said you want to fight now or wait till later on?" Kelly related. "He said, 'Let's do it now.' That is absolutely beautiful. The only time he and I have ever raised the volume is when we're laughing. We have never, ever had an argument.

"I don't know where that stuff comes from. At this point there are all kinds of little amoebas that are growing into one-eyed monsters."

That's the thing with Team Turmoil: enough stuff has hit the fan over the last few months that anything is believable.

And, yes, bad blood between the coach and the quarterback is certainly believable.

Kelly has gone out of his way to let everybody know his offence's main problem has been the quarterbacks. Says they've been like chocolates: you never know what you're going to get.

Bishop, and everybody in that locker-room, had better be miffed about that.

Because it doesn't seem to matter who's behind centre, or who the receivers are. The common denominator is the offence.

"I'm trying to be the best I can be on game day, regardless of the negativity being said by whoever," Bishop said. "To me it doesn't matter."

A man who's seen his share of trials and tribulations, Bishop proved adept at taking the high road, despite plenty of invitations to steer toward trouble.

"I don't think it's the quarterback," No. 16 said. "If it was said, so be it. If that's the case, it's unfortunate. I understand what's going on.

"The best way to eliminate all the negativity is to go and win the game."

That's the thing: I'm not sure even winning would stop the sideshow.

Controversy dogs Kelly like the smell on an old mutt.

So does contradiction.

Because just days after using the love-the-one-you're-with analogy about Bishop, which isn't exactly a compliment, Kelly is now throwing his arm around the guy, which just looks phony.

"Michael's our guy," the coach said. "We embrace that. We just haven't done a good enough job in putting Michael in successful positions. So that eventually falls right on me."

So does the crowd count over the last five home games, coach.

And as president/CEO Lyle Bauer likes to say, there are plenty of good seats still available.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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