Bob Irving has covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for CJOB Radio in Winnipeg since 1973. Bob is the Sports Director at CJOB and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, reporters division. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobIrvingCJOB
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers finished the 2011 CFL season with a six win improvement over 2010. A team that was 4-14 last year wound up 10-8 after their 30-24 loss in Calgary on Saturday.
You would expect that type of improvement to have Blue Bomber fans feeling mighty good about their favourite team. Not necessarily. At least if the comments of many fans on our CJOB radio post-game show and on twitter are representative of the overall mindset.
You see, for some Blue Believers, it's all about how the Bombers finished the season. Which was by losing their final two games, 27-22 at home to the Toronto Argonauts and then Saturday's loss to the Stampeders.
That left the Bombers with a 3-6 record in the second half of the season, 3-7 since running out to a 7-1 start. Had they started 3-7 and come on strong going 7-1, à la the B.C. Lions great recovery from an 0-5 start, Bomber fans would have been euphoric about the 10-8 finish.
The mistake the Bombers made, if you can call it a mistake, was winning seven of their first eight games. That set the bar and the level of expectation for this team unreasonably high. The Bombers were never as good as their 7-1 record suggested, nor have they been as bad as their finish to the season might indicate.
Some will accuse the Bombers of "backing" into a first place finish in the East, but that's a bunch of garbage. The playoff positions and matchups are determined over the course of the entire 18-game season, not over five, six or seven game segments.
You play 18, tally it up, and award the playoff positions accordingly. The Montreal Alouettes are no more deserving of first in the East than are the Bombers.
The Als lost their last three games of the season. And after the Bombers lost in Calgary, the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes were overwhelmed by the B.C. Lions 43-1, winding up with the same 10-8 record as Winnipeg.
Because the Bombers won the season series from Montreal they deservedly get first place and the right to host the East Division final on November 20th against the winner of Montreal-Hamilton.
Accordingly, Blue Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice staunchly defended his team’s first place finish:
"It's been a long time coming for the organization. It's been a long season, I'm proud of what the men have done all season long. There are three other teams in the East that would love to say they finished first. In the end we won the season series against the other teams in the East and that's what got us first place.
“We were able to beat Montreal and that makes us feel good. We know there is a lot of work to be done and a lot better we can be, but certainly first place helps us to get healthy and allows us to win one game and we're in the Grey Cup."
2001 is the last time the Bombers finished first. They did it with a 14-4 record and then wound up losing the Grey Cup to a Calgary team that went 8-10 during the regular season.
So, don't try to tell the Bombers they don't "deserve" first place this time around. When the season began, 10-8 would have seemed like heaven to Bomber fans. Whether you get there with an early or late run shouldn't diminish the accomplishment.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|