What's a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan to do? Get out the face paint and revel in the belief that glory for the Blue and Gold is around the corner once more? Or pack in the season and pick a horse to back on Dancing With the Stars?
Are they teasing us with their recent show of offensive flair and defensive mettle? Are they the bums we became convinced they were? Or have they only now uncovered their true identity just in time for a playoff push?
No one can say for sure, but we won't have long to wait for a more final determination. If the Bombers can somehow show up on Saturday and give the visiting Calgary Stampeders a punch in the eye and grab the win, there will be evidence to support having faith in them. A lopsided loss like we've been witness to so many times this season will remind us why we gave up on this group in the first place.
The Bombers have been a disappointment for the most part this season but last week's road win over the Montreal Alouettes kept them alive in the hunt for Grey November and made this week's match with the Stampeders meaningful.
For one shining afternoon the Bombers looked different. Like a contender. Or was it just a one-day mirage?
The suggestion to one Bombers staffer on Thursday afternoon that the team would not make the playoffs was greeted with defiance.
"That's crap," he said. "You can't say that. Not yet. We've still got something to play for."
OK. Fair enough. Math tells us the Bombers are still in the playoff chase. Our heads may say different but what about the heart?
"I've never given up on a team," said Bombers linebacker Marcellus Bowman. "I grew up a 49ers fan and they were great for all those years and then they were awful for like a decade. I'm from Ohio so I'm a Browns fan, too, and Browns fans have suffered like no others. Being a fan of a struggling team either teaches you patience or to pick another team. I've gone with patience. I never quit on my teams and I won't ever quit on this team either."
Bowman says Bombers fans can't come to Saturday's game worried about getting let down. They need to come with their hearts open and ready for the best. Even if the bottom may drop out.
"I would never tell a fan to come to the game and, 'Hey, we might get blown out, but come because you have nothing else to do.' I'm going to tell the fan to come to the game and we're going to do our best and try to perform and entertain them," said Bowman. "We're going to try to put on a show and get a win. I would never tell a fan to come and brace their heart and protect themselves. You don't live like that. You live on the edge.
"I hope it's not a tease. I can't give fans advice to get excited or not get excited. I know our approach is going to be to give you every reason to be excited."
Oh great. Maybe the Bombers are going to reach the playoffs and then get used as a warm-up act for a team en route to the Grey Cup. Hearts on the mend may get broken all over again.
"If we were to get in and lose, that would be the greatest disappointment considering the way we were playing earlier this year and getting beat by so many points. If we get in, that's a victory in itself," said Bowman. "That's our goal and we'll do everything we can to get in. If we get in, I'll guarantee we won't get blown out."
Bowman says he hasn't considered quitting on the field and he doesn't want anyone in the stands to move in that direction.
"Why don't I quit? Because I'm a professional athlete and I'm 100 per cent grateful for the opportunity to play football. If I never win another game in my career, I wouldn't quit," said Bowman, before turning to his take on being a fan. "I would be extremely disappointed if I was a fan here in Winnipeg and I'd be very vocal. I would have been very passionate like the fans here are. But I wouldn't quit. I would be a fan that the players wouldn't like because I'd speak my mind and I might be too honest. But I wouldn't quit on my team."
Bowman's approach is part of the Fan's Handbook. Never turn away from your team. No matter how hard it gets. Even this hard.
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