Stands tell story

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

We'll begin by congratulating Mike Kelly on the third formal apology of his brief head coaching career.

That should firmly entrench the Professor in the CFL record book, meaning his name will live in infamy long after he's fired by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

When, exactly, that happens is the half-million dollar question -- the estimated amount left on his two more years under contract.

Kelly's latest juvenile (the word used by Bomber play-by-play man Bob 'Knuckles' Irving) tirade came after Sunday's embarrassing 48-13 loss in Montreal, a game in which the Bombers looked like a team looking past the Alouettes -- to Sunday's make-or-break tilt with the Tiger-Cats.

Of course, when Irving and his sidekick Mitch Zalnasky had the audacity to suggest just that, Kelly tossed a few soft expletives and hung up.

By the time the team touched down in the 'Peg, the BS had hit the fan, and Kelly found himself penning a midnight "apology," Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer supplying the ink and, presumably, more than a little coercion. The result: a statement in which the Professor spent more time justifying what he did than anything else.

Now, before we go any further, you should know I wasn't offended by Kelly's language or his rude tone. Hell, I'm used to it. Seen it almost since Day 1.

But plenty of people were offended. And many have had enough.

There's concrete evidence of that, literally, at every home game, where the empty stands scream a louder message than any full house ever could.

Kyle Johnston, a lifelong, 39-year-old fan from St. Vital, was so incensed with the Professor's behaviour he penned a letter of his own to the Bombers.

What was once a proud community owned football team is quickly becoming one of the biggest jokes in the CFL, Johnston wrote.

It is time for someone in the Bomber management to stand up and make this guy accountable. I am hoping the board realizes that the empty seats are 100% a result of this ignor-amus, and they can stand by and watch or they can do something about it.

Mike Kelly is supposed to be a professional... he is an embarrassment to the organization and to the city of Winnipeg.

Johnston isn't alone.

The Bombers have received plenty of similar letters from fans promising to cancel their season tickets.

Yesterday I heard from a woman who was listening to the game with her son.

What they heard from the supposed team leader wasn't exactly a glowing example for little Johnny.

This isn't just some bleeding-heart, what-about-the-children thing, either.

A lawyer I know, a season-ticket holder who's one of the most common-sense, levelheaded people I've met, swears he won't spend another blue-and-gold cent on this team until it gets rid of Kelly.

There are Bomber fans who actually hope the team loses, believing every loss brings us one step closer to the Professor's dismissal.

From the day he slammed former GM Brendan Taman to the personal shots he took at fans on his radio show to his constant run-ins with the media, it seems Kelly just can't help himself.

Perhaps Bauer could muzzle the guy even more than he has. Ban post-game interviews, perhaps.

Of course, the CFL office probably wouldn't go for that. League officials even stepped in yesterday, slapping the coach with a $2,000-fine for his latest outburst.

That's chump change compared to what Kelly is costing the Bombers.

Not even the team's recent improvement has reversed the trend in the stands. Sunday's game should be a sure sellout. Instead, the coach has turned off yet another horde of potential customers.

Never mind the guy's media relations, it's the paying public that gets the last say.

And it's getting very expensive to keep the Professor around.

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


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