It appears the Professor Kelly Fan Club is alive and well -- and willing to part with a few bucks.
The embattled head coach of your Blue Bombers, fined a cool two grand by the CFL Monday for his rude treatment of the media after Sunday's game in Montreal, received a little love in the mail yesterday.
"The ironic thing is we've had envelopes delivered to the office to help pay his fine," Blue Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer told the Sun. "In a few small envelopes there's several hundred dollars."
Some players contributed as well, Bauer said.
In fact, Kelly was walking around the Bomber offices with a cup, soliciting donations to the Professor's Profanity Fund. We presume the marketing department was not amused.
Actually, Bauer doesn't sound worried in the least about sluggish ticket sales, suggesting this Sunday's game against Hamilton will have "the second-highest attendance for a Game 10 (final home game) in the past six years."
Talk about finding a rose amidst the thorns. The Bomber sold 600 tickets yesterday, creeping past the 23,000 mark.
For the season, Bauer says the club will be down between 10,000 and 15,000 tickets from last year, a bite of at least half a million bucks from the bottom line.
He acknowledges some, but not all, of the drop may fall in Kelly's lap.
Yet, the big boss remains upbeat about his choice of head coach, despite the public relations powder kegs he's had to defuse since hiring the man.
It's generally acknowledged Bauer is the one who coaxes apologies from the Professor, although he insists he didn't have to twist his coach's arm to get this latest one out of him.
"Mike believed the apology was necessary as well, when he had time to reflect," Bauer said.
"Mike is not a stupid man. What he needs to learn is you don't have to react every time someone is poking a stick at you."
That'll come with time, Bauer believes.
How much time he's willing to give Kelly, who has two years left on his contract, he's not willing to say, trotting out the "everything will be evaluated in the off-season" line.
As he did last time we checked in with him, Bauer credited Kelly with changing the team's attitude.
"It bodes well for the future," he said. "We experienced a change in the character and attitude of our football team, first off. Have there been bumps along the way? No question. But people do know, including guys in that locker-room, how passionate he is about them, and how much he believes in them."
Bauer actually attributes the public backlash over Kelly's abrasive style -- he threw out the term "media bullsh--" before walking out on a radio interview Sunday -- to demographics: the older you are, the more you were probably turned off.
"The older demographic took exception to it, and the younger demographic supports it," he said. "You know how rebellious youth is."
As for fans threatening to cancel their season tickets unless Kelly is fired, Bauer says just as many are behind the coach.
"It's probably even up. This is Winnipeg. It's always split down the middle. Whether it's (the debate over) private vs public ownership, or stadium location, it's always interesting."
What does it say, though, when the face of your franchise is turning off as many people as he's rallying?
Shouldn't that ratio be more like, say, 90-10 on the positive side?
The feedback I get, unscientific as it is, suggests the Professor's supporters are outnumbered by his detractors, at least four or five to one.
One supporter though, gets more votes than everybody else. And he resides in the big chair on Maroons Road.
Lyle Bauer is still part of the Professor Kelly Fan Club.
He's apparently willing to part with a few bucks, too.
Contact Paul at email@example.com or 632-2788.