Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/11/2018 (1288 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Unlike my Free Press colleagues who are sports writers, I cheer for the Bombers. Unabashedly.
People who have never been inside a press box at a professional sporting event might be surprised to learn cheering is forbidden. They’re working journalists, not fans, and they view the game objectively. To cheer in a press box is as awkward as belching at a formal dinner.
I prefer to attend Bomber games on my own time, my own dime. Paying for my ticket means I am free to holler, high-five, groan and shout helpful suggestions at head coach Mike O’Shea.
We fans were grimly quiet earlier this season when we lost four in a row, thanks largely to quarterback Matt Nichols’ disturbing propensity to throw the ball to the opposing teams. The worst losses were back-to-back humiliations by our arch-rival Saskatchewan Roughriders.
But we finished the season on a strong note and, last weekend, beat the repellent Riders in a 23-18 nail-biter.
We play the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in the CFL West Division final. I wish serious injury on no man, but I would be heartened if the Stampeders’ excellent quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell, twisted his ankle slightly during practice, hobbling him just enough to restrict his participation in Sunday’s game to holding a clipboard on the sidelines.
If we win Sunday, it’s on to the Grey Cup on Nov. 25, in Edmonton. Take a deep breath, fellow fans.
To understand the significance of an opportunity to bring the Grey Cup to Manitoba, it should be noted the Bombers last won the Cup in 1990. That was a generation ago. That was back when "the web" was something spun by spiders. That was back when the top TV shows included Roseanne (before she was blacklisted for racism) and The Cosby Show (before he was jailed as a sexual degenerate).
Despite a 27-year drought in winning a championship, Manitobans continue to support the Bombers. What accounts for such dedication without reward? It would be an interesting study for academics who think deeply about such things.
Sports psychologists cite a motivation called Bask in Reflected Glory. Fans who BIRG identify with their team and feel good about themselves when their team wins.
But the Bombers don’t offer much glory in which to bask.
So, why do fans keep coming back?
It’s not because we like sitting outdoors in the rain and freezing cold.
It’s not because we like riding to the game in cramped school buses that are necessary due to the lamentable decision to build the stadium in a location with limited traffic access.
And it’s not because the players return our loyalty. It’s nice to see a few hometown guys like Andrew Harris and Nic Demski, but the roster changes often and almost all players come from away. After the season’s final snap, they rush to the airport to fly home.
Perhaps a big reason why fans keep supporting the Bombers is because it’s a blast to get rowdy with other fans. It’s exhilarating to get boisterous within a group. We roar in unison to drown out the opposing team’s cadence call, we do the wave and we join in chants like "First down!"
We laugh at the smart alecks who hold up sassy signs ("The guy behind me can’t see!") and the comedians in our section who yell witty insults ("Argos are so bad, they lost their bye week!").
Besides the on-field action, staged activities pump up the rah-rah mood: cheer teams, mascots Buzz and Boomer, the airplane that roars around the end zone after a touchdown, the fans who suddenly see themselves on a Jumbotron close-up and bust out their best dance moves.
And yes, we still cheer Dancin’ Gabe. His dancing has slowed a bit in recent years, but he’s one of us and always will be.
When we all don our Bomber jerseys, it frees us from our individual identities. For three wonderful hours, we forget about differences like age, race or social standing. A $200,000-a-year dentist might celebrate touchdowns by exchanging fists bumps with a $40,000-a-year bicycle mechanic sitting beside him. After visits to the Rum Hut, they might even hug it out.
Unfortunately, the stadium fans are now dispersed for the season because the next two games won’t be played in Winnipeg. We’ll watch in recreation rooms and sports bars, an experience more subdued than screaming from the stands.
But perhaps fans will get together one more time this year. Instead of meeting in the stadium, perhaps we will gather along Portage Avenue for a parade with the Grey Cup.
The team seems to be peaking at the right time. This may be the year.
You may say I’m a dreamer but, as John Lennon sang, I’m not the only one.
Blue is due.
Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.
Senior copy editor
Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.