Twenty-nine long years.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always dreamt of the Blue Bombers ending their championship drought and winning the Grey Cup. I’ve thought constantly about seeing a Bomber player hoist the cup and imagined how sweet it would be to see blue and gold confetti rain down on a celebrating group of players. In my 31 years I’d never seen it.
My in-laws have told me about the club ending their 22-year drought in 1984: how my father-in-law had to stand in the corner of the living room the entire game and step outside into the crisp November air to cool off. How my mother-in-law sat motionless on the couch clutching a pillow so tight it could have burst. They’ve told me many times about the parade that year, and about how cathartic it was for the city.
For the first time in my life, I am part of a similar story.
My wife and I parked a ten-minute walk from the Forks in downtown Winnipeg. Almost immediately we were joined by a crowd of anxious fans hurrying to get a spot for the parade. We were still nowhere near the parade route, but we could feel the excitement.
Once we arrived at the Forks, I took some time to look around. What struck me was the shear volume of fans that attended. There were just so many people in every direction clad in blue and gold, many carrying signs or flags. Every person there was happy and engaging. People were hugging, chanting, singing, shouting, cheering, and crying tears of joy. 29 years of heartbreak and loss were washed away to cheers of “We got the cup! We got the cup!”.
As the players drove by, it was clear they were having just as much fun as the fans. I felt for the drivers of the trucks the players were standing on with the mob of fans they might have only had a foot of clearance on either side of their vehicles.
Finally, bringing up the rear of the parade was the Grey Cup. It almost looked out of place in the arms of Bomber players. For my entire life it’s always felt like the Bombers weren’t allowed to win the Grey Cup. It just never happened. To see it in a parade in downtown Winnipeg, clutched in the arms of a bare-chested Chris Streveler in a sea of 10,000 fans was surreal. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.
There might not be anyone who has enjoyed the celebration since Sunday more than Chris Streveler. The Bombers pivot has become a social media goldmine since the team clinched the title, and fans of the team are eating him up. Streveler’s on-field play has stuck a chord with Bomber fans all season, but his unbridled joy and excitement after the Grey Cup game has been infectious.
I can imagine that some CFL fans are tired of seeing Streveler’s mug on constant Twitter and Instagram posts, but I’d like to share a story that hasn’t been given any attention at all.
Following the parade on Tuesday, Streveler and other teammates were at the Bomber store meeting fans. A fan with mobility issues was particularly excited to meet Streveler and he proceeded to help her around the store. He was patient with her and asked her to pick out everything she wanted. When she was done, he took her to the till and paid for everything himself. “Do you mind if we cut?” he asked the fan at the front of the line. They let him go ahead. It’s not hard to see why Winnipeggers are in love with the guy.
My brother John made a good point on our Grey Cup recap episode of the Blue Bomber Talk podcast — this Grey Cup win marks the end of a dark period for professional sports in Winnipeg. The ‘90’s saw the Bombers last championship for 29 years, as well as the beloved Jets move to Phoenix. It took until 2011 for the Jets to fly home, and 2019 for the Bombers to end the drought. Including back-to-back championship seasons for the Goldeyes in 2016 and 2017, young sports fans in the province of Manitoba have a much different experience with their local teams than the one John and I grew up with.
Looking back on the last few days, I’m forced to wonder if this is what every championship feels like. Surely, this one must be a little extra-special given the 29 years that led up to it.
After watching every other CFL team win a title, I was finally able to see the Bombers hoist the Grey Cup and have blue and gold confetti litter the field. I’ve shed more than a couple tears staring at photos of Jake Thomas, Andrew Harris, and Adam Bighill swathed in confetti, and I bet I’m not alone. The best part of all of this is knowing that my story isn’t unique. There’s an entire fan base that feels the same as I do.
Enjoy this, Bomber fans. As we know, championships don’t come around that often. Given the parity that exists in the CFL, it might be a while before this happens again. For now, the drought is over, and for the next twelve months the Blue Bombers are reigning Grey Cup champions. Take it all in, and enjoy it.