WINNIPEG - As WestJet flight 738 was getting ready to back away from the terminal on Saturday afternoon in Calgary, the flight attendant asked if there were any Bomber fans on board the packed plane.
“Obviously no one’s willing to admit it, huh?” Alexis said with a chuckle. “My mom’s a Bomber fan, but I still love her.”
And that’s what it has become for the 2012 version of the Blue and Gold. They are now the punchline for WestJet jokes.
The Bombers, at 2-9, are on pace for three wins this season, which would be their worst mark since the Jeff Reinebold years. They got obliterated on Friday night for the third time this season, as the Stampeders embarrassed them 44-3 at McMahon Stadium.
The Bombers have lost all six of their road games this season by an average score of 40-14. They haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in more than 13 quarters, or before Paul LaPolice was fired as head coach. You have to go back to the early 70s to find when the Bombers scored three points over the course of any two games in a single season.
And LaPolice was the problem on offence? Offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton probably isn’t sleeping too well these days.
One of the interesting things about the Bombers right now is how they’ve essentially stood pat since the season began. They have brought in a grand total of five new players since the end of training camp, which is about a week’s worth of movement for GMs like Eric Tillman or Hamilton’s Bob O’Billovich, and some of Winnipeg's additions were only because of injuries.
The fact GM Joe Mack has told the players he believes in them, even though they’re on pace to be one of the worst teams in Bomber history, has led to plenty of speculation across the league that Mack is no longer allowed to make significant moves since his future with the organization is in question. The thinking goes the board of directors doesn’t want him making drastic or potentially damaging alterations to the roster if there’s a chance he’s going to be gone at the end of the season anyway.
How else to explain the lack of personnel changes? Is Mack that stubborn, or have the penny-pinching Bombers told him he can’t spend more money? That wouldn't be surprising either.
Whatever the reason is, the lack of player movement is inexcusable. New players should be parachuting into practice on a daily basis — ones who won’t yuk it up with a minute to go in a 44-3 loss, like defensive tackle Brandon Collier was caught doing on the TSN broadcast Friday night.
Other teams have been loading up on players, making trades and adding veterans lately as they jockey for playoff position. The Stamps, for example, added veteran defensive end Stevie Baggs and returner Jason Armstead in the last week alone.
The Bombers should be doing the same, but not for the post-season, of course. That’s a pipe dream. They need to find better players for the future, and they need to find them now.
It’s time for the Bomber brass to show their furious fans they care. If there is a reason for the lack of player movement, that needs to be known as well. Mack, whom board chairman Bill Watchorn said has job security until the end of the year, should hold a press conference bright and early on Monday morning, detailing what will be done to turn this team around. A little humility from him wouldn’t hurt, either.
Otherwise, the damage being done to the proud Bomber brand will only continue. And that will hit them where it hurts the most: the bank account.