If Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Joe Mack thought that firing Paul LaPolice as head coach would take any pressure off him or the club — or change the fortunes and direction of the team — he shouldn’t be under any such illusions now.
The “Sack Mack” campaign has only grown stronger since one of the most embarrassing losses in Bombers history, 52-0 in the Labour Day Classic last Sunday to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium; it was the first time Big Blue had been held scoreless in a game since 1969. They remain dead last in the Canadian Football League with a record of 2-7.
With the vibe around the club being so bad, the embattled GM had to call a press conference to explain himself. Some public-speaking gurus advise starting with a joke to lighten the mood. So he thanked the assembled thong at Canad Inns Stadium for attending the “biweekly Joe Mack fan appreciation day. Milk and cookies will be served afterward.”
The only thing that’s remotely humorous — in a distinctly unfunny way — about this disaster is that LaPolice lost his job, but Mack gets to keep his. The only thing that should have been served afterwards was a pink slip to Mack. In fact, if one went, they should have both been dismissed at the same time.
The stadium debacle — where they initially declared it would be ready for the start of this season, then not until later on in the season, then not at all until next season — was only the start of the stupidity. Then a bunch of ugly losses exacerbated the situation. The board of directors of the community-owned team, one of three in the league, had to do something. As is sadly the case in such circumstances, a scapegoat must be found. Since it’s tough to fire the team, the easy way out is to fire the coach. As for Mack, board of directors head Bill Watchorn said the fans should not expect any more changes to the front office immediately.
The Blue Bombers are a team which has mostly stumbled and bumbled its way through 22 seasons without winning a championship, the longest current streak in the CFL. Last season was a notably pleasant exception for its fans when “Swaggerville” went from 4-14 the year before to a 10-8 record and appeared in the 99th Grey Cup game, which they lost 34-23 to the B.C. Lions. Before that, though, they were known as one of the league’s more undisciplined teams, often leading or near the top of the penalty numbers most years.
With the new Investors Group Field facility now scheduled to open next June, the club can ill afford any more humiliation. Now the clock is ticking even more loudly on Mack’s tenure with the team: any more negativity and he’ll follow his hire out the door. Perhaps milk and cookies will be served… or maybe just humble pie.