By Roger Currie
WINNIPEG — Time for an update on three-down football, as we near the end of the first third of the season. So, whatever happened to home field advantage, and will the Blue Bombers ever get it right? Of the first 17 games played this year, the home team has won a grand total of three.
In the case of Winnipeg, my mind can’t help flipping back to my childhood when the stars were fellows like Gerry James and Kenny Ploen, and the coach was Bud Grant. They were just about the most successful road show in those golden days when games played on real grass.
From late 1959 until midway through the 1962 season, the Blue and Gold won 22 in a row on the road, including playoffs and two Grey Cups. Most football players will tell you that they would rather stay home. Travelling is not a lot of fun, especially if you’re saddled with a roommate who snores, etc.
In 2016, Winnipeg fans file into the beautiful Investors Group Field, walking past the statue of Coach Grant. Inside, there’s the beginning of a Ring of Honour, with James and Ploen, along with Chris Walby who was on the last Blue Bomber team to win a championship 26 years ago.
The average crowd at IGF is just over 24,000, in a stadium that holds more than 33,000, and the long-suffering fans spend a lot of time booing their own team. There certainly wasn’t much to cheer about the other night when they made it eight losses in a row to the Calgary Stampeders.
24,000 would be a great crowd in Toronto and Vancouver, the two largest markets in the CFL. Wally Buono and the Lions had barely 18,000 at their last game, and Canadian football continues to be a lost cause in Toronto it seems. The last crowd to watch the Argos at home was just over 12,000.
Did I mention that both cities get considerably larger crowds for soccer? Times have sure changed.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.