The laughter came to an abrupt end for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Monday.
Head coach Tim Burke had some harsh words for the members of his team that were caught laughing on the sidelines in the midst of the team's 44-3 loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Friday.
"It's embarrassing," Burke said. "We're professionals and we should behave in a professional manner and you're getting paid to play as hard as you can play. We did not play as hard as we could play."
The loss was the second lopsided defeat in the last three weeks for the Bombers, who were blanked 52-0 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Labour Day Classic. The team rebounded in the Banjo Bowl but still came up short, losing 25-24.
Burke believes the team is letting its fan-base down.
"The good people of Winnipeg pay good money to watch them play and this is an attendance-driven league," Burke said. "Their salaries are being paid by the fans of Winnipeg, so they deserve more than what they're getting."
In terms of singling out the players in question, Burke turned to the tape to show the players exactly how their actions were playing out.
"I showed them the video of the TSN broadcast and what they were saying at half-time and then during the latter part of the game and I said: 'This is your resume. This is what people in the outside world are thinking about you. So you've got to figure out how you're going to respond to that. Are you going to do it with pride or are you going to tuck your tail and run?' So we'll see how they respond."
As for the response from the players themselves, quarterback Buck Pierce spoke out about his role in calling out his teammates when necessary.
"If I see something going on that I don't think should be going on, then I'll address that and I've got no problem doing that," said Pierce. "I know what it takes to win in this league and we have guys – in this locker room and in this organization – that [know] what it takes. I'm not going to put up with that."
Despite a recent rough stretch that has seen the Bombers drop four games in a row, the playoffs are still not out of the question for the Bombers. They play host to Hamilton on Friday and are still within striking distance of the 4-7 Ticats. With the Roughriders and Eskimos sitting on 5-6 records, there's still time to turn the season around and jump into the top six, but the wins need to start accumulating soon.
Sustained success has been a problem for the Bombers according to Burke, who is still yet to earn his first win after three weeks as the team's head coach.
"We'll see how we react this week," Burke said. "Let's say we come out and do a great job. How are we going to react the next week? How are we going to handle success? When you're immature, sometimes you don't handle success any better than you handle failure."
"We can't be up and down like we are."
But amidst the lack of results, Burke wasn't heaping the blame exclusively on his players.
"We don't have a lot of veteran, long-term guys that can sit there and say: 'This is how you act as a professional,'" Burke said. "We try to do that as coaches because we don't have those older veteran players to do that."