Circus to curses

Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice admits his team has had its share of bad luck but won’t brood over...

Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice admits his team has had its share of bad luck but won’t brood over things he can’t control. (BRIAN DONOGH/Winnipeg Sun Files)

PAUL FRIESEN, Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:10 PM ET

I don’t know what Paul LaPolice did to offend the football gods in this town, but it must have been serious.

Maybe he once tossed a dart at a photo of Ken Ploen. Or used Chris Walby’s name in vain.

Or maybe it’s just because he came from the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Because how else can you explain what’s happened in his first season as a head coach?

Last year it was the circus. This season it seems to be curses, one after another.

I mean, losing starting quarterback Buck Pierce for three full games, with a fourth coming this week in Montreal, is bad enough.

But Pierce has had to joust for time in the tub with starting O-linemen Glenn January and Andre Douglas, plus one of his favourite receivers in rookie phenom Terence Jeffers-Harris.

Over on the defensive side the lineups at the trainer’s room have been even longer.

Keyuo Craver and Ian Logan, potential starters in the secondary, are out, while starting D-lineman Dorian Smith and promising newbies Alex Suber and Marcellus Bowman have also spent chunks of time in sick bay.

If they have a separate training table for the kicking specialists, you’d find a body on there most of the time, too, starting with long snapper Chris Cvetkovic (seriously, who loses their long snapper for the season?) and Mike Renaud (an injured punter?).

Taking the cake, and suggesting perhaps this curse may have been conjured up by Troy Westwood, is last Friday’s leg injury to brand new kicker Louie Sakoda on the day he was supposed to make his debut.

“Right before the game,” is when D-lineman Doug Brown heard about that one. “I was like, ‘Are you (bad word) kidding me?’ Kickers, man. I don’t know.”

Brown, who considered retiring but came back when the Mike Kelly circus left town, just shakes his head.

“In Winnipeg, there’s always something,” he said. “It can drive you mad when you feel like the deck is getting stacked against you. That’s why you don’t think about things you can’t control. You let the smoke clear and see what you’ve got left, and you pick up and go from there.

“It happens to all teams. It just seems like we’re getting picked on right now.”

And it’s only seven games in.

Gotta be a curse.

“I don’t believe in that kind of stuff,” Brown said, crossing himself while muttering some Latin gibberish and reaching for a vial of holy water.

Just kidding about that last stuff.

“Misfortune is part of football,” the big man continued. “You can’t have all your stars all healthy all the time.”

How about having them healthy for one game?

“The injuries are more than I’ve seen,” LaPolice acknowledged. “And I coached in Saskatchewan for a couple of years where we had to fight through that.”

But as quickly as he lamented the state of his team, the rookie boss caught himself.

“I’d be very much a hypocrite if I’m brooding over the things I can’t control, and I ask my players not to worry about referees and not to worry about weather and all those things,” LaPolice said. “Don’t worry about things you can’t control.”

It turns out Coach LaPo is a bit of a masochist.

After hearing, minutes before Friday’s game, that Sakoda was out, he got excited.

“This sounds weird,” he began. “I was real excited to put our team through that situation. Find a way to get things done. It’s helping prepare this team to handle different scenarios and situations. They are some situations I’ve never seen before, but hey, they are part of football.”

He’s right, of course.

And good coaches and players will overcome it.

That’s the part we’re still waiting to discover.

Are the Bombers blessed with the right people — or cursed with the wrong ones, yet again?

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


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