WINNIPEG - So the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are hot stuff, hotter than they’ve been at this stage of the season for 27 years.
Hard to believe the last time the Big Blue won at least seven of their first eight was way back in 1984, when Tommy Clements was calling the signals, Willard Reaves carried the mail, Joe Pop and James Murphy led the aerial charge and Tyrone Jones the sack attack.
Coached by Kindly Cal Murphy, fresh off his first CFL coach-of-the-year award, and generally managed by Paul Mad Dog Robson, the former centre, those Bombers also employed a first-year director of player personnel from Levittown, Pa., by the name of Joe Mack.
My view of the Bombers at the time was from Section X, Row 52, or about the same distance from the field as my current seat.
So how does the current group compare?
I’m glad you asked.
Because it doesn’t, really.
That’s not a slight against the 2011 edition, an energetic, efficient bunch whose best days still lie ahead.
But the correlation between the current and 1984 Bombers must begin and end with their 7-1 start.
Because that ’84 team would routinely take opponents behind the woodshed for an old-fashioned licking, its average margin of victory a mind boggling 23 points.
I can still remember the poor Ottawa Rough Riders coming to town, only to have Reaves and Co., hang up 65 points.
To the league’s credit, there probably isn’t a team as bad as the old Rough Riders today — although the Green Riders have yet to pay a visit.
While today’s Bombers do just enough to get by, that old team was as scary on the ground as it was through the air: Reaves lugging the ball for 1,733 yards and combining with Murphy and Joe Poplawski to record 41 touchdowns. Three players, 41 touchdowns.
Sure, it was a different era, but nobody moved the ball and scored points like the Blue and Gold, their 523 points a whopping 59 more than the next team. And only B.C. allowed fewer than Winnipeg’s 309.
At quarterback, the Buck Pierce of today actually plays a style similar to Clements, a nice combination of smarts and arm, with quick feet to boot.
But the skill at running back and receiver isn’t even close.
And we haven’t even talked about the hogs.
The ’84 team had six CFL all-stars on offence, three of them in the trenches: John Bonk, Nick Bastaja and Chris Walby, one of the most dominant blockers the CFL has ever seen.
On defence, four Bombers made that all-CFL squad, and that’s where today’s outfit can probably claim relative equality.
Joe Lobendahn could probably carry Aaron Brown’s jockstrap, Jovon Johnson makes big plays like David Shaw did, Jonathan Hefney can cover ground like Ken Hailey and Odell Willis hunts down quarterbacks with the fervour of Ty Jones.
There is a similarity between then and now, off the field, too.
The ’84 Bombers went into the season saddled with the burden of a 22-year championship drought, long enough for children to be born, grow up and graduate from university without knowing what a Grey Cup could mean to the city.
They’d find out, Nov. 18, as the Bombers, finishing second at 11-4-1, capped a dominant playoff run, winning games 55-20 and 31-14 before routing Hamilton, 47-17, in the 72nd Grey Cup.
The current famine stands at 20 years, the second-longest in the team’s modern-day history.
Despite that, fan interest is at a fever pitch, higher than it was 27 years ago.
Maybe they know something I don’t.
Those with knowledge of and an appreciation for this franchise’s history, people like Pierce, Mack and Coach LaPo, know this: a place for them awaits.
They’ve matched the ’84 team’s start.
But the finish is what really counts.