I’m pretty sure the Irish in Mike O’Shea wanted to kick something on Friday night. Maybe even kick a some one. Like a guy wearing a black-and-white striped shirt.
I mean, if not for an official with an itchy flag finger, O’Shea’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers actually might have beaten no less a formidable foe than the Calgary Stampeders at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry. Alas, thoughts of victory were vanquished and a 25-23 loss means the local lads continue to swim against the stream, only now the current is much stronger and considerably faster.
So there stood O’Shea after the fact on Friday, facing the Fourth Estate chorus, and I fully expected his gab session with news scavengers to go something like this: Tick…tick…tick…KABOOM!
No way this guy was going to hold it together. Not Mike O’Shea. Not the guy who, as a menacing and marauding middle linebacker and special teams operative, opened a big, ol’ can of whup-ass on every play and in every game of his 16-season Canadian Football League career with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. His Bombers had just been beaten, in part due to a curious illegal procedure call by a line judge, and everyone from River City to the CFL ivory tower in the Republic of Tranna was going to hear about it.
Seriously. The Bombers, trailing by three, were positioned to put the go-ahead, winning points on the scoreboard or, at the very least, hoof a tying field goal. Snapping the ball on the Calgary 37-yard stripe with 55 ticks remaining on the clock, quarterback Matt Nichols lunged for what looked to be a first down. But wait. Flag on the play. The side judge determined that wideout Darvin Adams wasn’t where he was supposed to be, which is to say on the line of scrimmage, even though, according to the home side’s version of events, he had the zebra’s assurance that he was, indeed, where he was supposed to be. The result: The ball was moved back five yards, Lirim Hajrullahu missed wide right on a 49-yard field goal attempt and the Bombers were saddled with their ninth loss in 13 assignments.
Surely, there would be hell to pay. Somehow, though, the ginger-haired head coach of the Bombers kept his red-hot holstered.
“I can tell you exactly what happened,” O’Shea began in a matter-of-fact, calm cadence. “Darvin Adams is walking to the far sideline official, the usual routine is the on-the-line receiver points to the official to ask him if he’s on the line. The video shows the official points back, which means, yes, he’s on the line. Darvin Adams confirms that when he asks, ‘Am I on the line?’ He says, ‘Yes, sir.’ The video shows he checked with the official and the official pointed back, meaning ‘Ya.’
“The simple answer (from the CFL) is going to be ‘We’re sorry.’ That’s OK. We made enough mistakes in other parts of that game that contribute to (the loss), too.”
This is where a sympathizer chimed in.
“Mike, that’s gotta stink, though…that’s happened before and…critical game,” he suggested
“Yup, critical game, ya,” O’Shea agreed, with a quick, resigned shrug of his broad shoulders.
I could be wrong, but I swear that’s when I saw steaming streams of volcanic lava belching from the coach’s nostrils and ear holes. Then again, perhaps I was seeing things that weren’t really there. You know, like a line judge saying something and seeing something else.
“You cannot rely on the officials,” emphasized O’Shea, resisting any urge to go all Mount St. Helens. “You have to win games in spite of that. You really can’t, you can’t make an excuse like this. This type of outcome has been happening since officials were involved in any sport, from the beginning of history of sport with officials. It just happens. Human error. Whatever.”
So pragmatic of O’Shea. So problematic for the Bombers.
I mean, don’t these guys ever get angry? Not even when they believe they’ve been screwed?
I suppose it’s likely too late to get a good mad-on going now, though, because this defeat leaves the locals with five skirmishes remaining in their 2015 crusade and, although just two points in arrears of the Montreal Alouettes, chasing down that final playoff spot in the West Division will take a Herculean effort.
All the same, I’d like to hear more growl from the Bombers and less aw shucks.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.