Bombers bandwagon welcomes all

Don't let your lack of football savvy prevent you from pulling for Winnipeg on Sunday


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Danika St. Mars was five years old when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last won the Grey Cup, in 1990. She was 16 when Shorts Guy last put on pants.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2019 (1222 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Danika St. Mars was five years old when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last won the Grey Cup, in 1990. She was 16 when Shorts Guy last put on pants.

What I’m saying is, it’s been a while since her team won the Canadian Football League championship, which is what they are going to try to do Sunday in Calgary against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“Being a Winnipegger means being a Bomber fan to me,” says the 34-year-old Winnipegger, who has been a Blue and Gold fan “since birth,” and has supported the team through all its ups and downs. “This, right now, is what makes all of it worth it.”

This, right now, is also the perfect time to jump on the Bombers bandwagon. 

Sure, this game is about football, but it’s not just about football. It’s also about our city. When you cheer for the Bombers, you’re cheering for Winnipeg. That’s why St. Mars says there’s always room on the Bombers bandwagon.

“It was like when the Raptors won (the NBA championship earlier this year), we were cheering for Canada,” St. Mars says. “I really don’t care about basketball, but you just want your country, or your province, or your city to win. (The Bombers) were our only team for a long time, and our drought has been so long, there’s a buzz now. Everyone’s excited.

“This is a bandwagon you want to be on. It’s really fun and the fans are great people. It will be the best energy in the city if we can pull this off.”

Myles Blahut, 57, has been a Bombers fan since he was nine. He listened to games on the radio while raking leaves with his father; when he became a father himself, he took his daughters to games. He, too, has no problem with bandwagoneers. 

“It’s great — hopefully they don’t break an ankle when they jump back off,” he says with a laugh. “But I mean, fans do that. People bug me all the time. I was cheering for the Bombers in the Jeff Reinebold years when that (season) was, like, 2 and 16, moving to the new stadium and I think the visiting teams won more games than the Bombers for the first three or four years. I wear my Blue Bomber colours true, and I just say, ‘Go and have fun at the game.’”

Melissa Martin (not the Free Press reporter), 36, got into the Bombers in the early 2000s by way of her husband. She, too, was once new to the game, and she’s fully supportive of bandwagon fans. 

“Not everyone wants to follow the ins and outs of sports teams all of the time. But I think it’s a fun way for your city and province to band together for this thing you have coming up. It’s fun to chat with friends and co-workers about how exciting it is. It’s a reason to get together and have an afternoon with friends and family.”

The Free Press asked Blahut, Martin and St. Mars for advice on How To Hop on the Bombers Bandwagon… and Still Seem Legit. 

Who should we cheer for / namedrop?

“(Justin) Medlock scores a lot of points for us, and lot of the time, it comes down to him to win a game for us — so that’s our kicker,” St. Mars says. “You want to cheer for him because he’s always an active part of the team. Zach Collaros, our quarterback, has only been here for a few weeks, but the second he got here, everything changed.”

“Even some unsung heroes, like (linebacker) Shayne Gauthier, the gentleman who made the tackle in the Western Final,” Blahut says. “You could say, ‘Oh that Shayne Gauthier and that game-saving tackle he made’ — you could look like a genius if you know that guy’s name because he’s not a household name.”

What key phrases can we intermittently shout at the TV and sound like we know what we’re talking about?

I mean, read the room, but I find from personal experience that a well-placed ‘Come on!’ takes you far. It’s OK (nay, encouraged!) to get caught up in the moment.

And you can never go wrong with cheering. 

“The big Bombers chants, obviously,” St. Mars says. “ ‘Let’s go Bombers.’ You can yell, ‘Go, Blue.’ If we were playing Saskatchewan, there’s a lot more you could say, but we don’t have as big a rivalry with the Ticats.”

Blahut also recommends having some fun with light trash talk. “Especially if it’s an opposing team in green.”

“Bring the heat,” is another phrase. “‘Pound the ball,’ like near the end of the game, we want to make sure if we’re killing the clock by running the ball,” Blahut says. 

What watch-at-home etiquette we should be aware of?

Enthusiasm is welcome, but save the non-football talk for breaks, or for the periphery of the Grey Cup party.

“If you know everyone is a big fan and really focused, I think just keeping the attention on the game,” Martin says. “I think it’s totally fine to ask questions, it’s just knowing when to ask — like when there’s downtime, or they’re lining up, or the whistle hasn’t blown yet. When the play is on, sit back and watch.”

If you’re at a Grey Cup party, participate in the group-specific traditions.

“What we do, anytime Medlock kicks a field goal, we all shake hands with our left hand because he’s a left-footed kicker,” St. Mars says.

What should we wear?

Blue and Gold, duh. If you don’t have Bombers gear of your own, borrow some. Team colours are also acceptable. “It helps you feel more in the spirit and with everyone else,” Martin says. 

Both St. Mars and Blahut advise going big. Blahut says even the family dog is adorned in a Bombers bandana. 

“The flashier the better,” St. Mars says. “At the Grey Cup, people bring their A-game as far as outfits go. They’ve compiled these things for years and they pretty much wear them all at once.

“I have a pair of blue and gold high heels that have sparkles all over them; that’s my signature look.”

Fun fact: St. Mars got married in her Bombers jersey. She and her now-husband Ray went to Las Vegas this time last year, he popped the question, and they got hitched the same day. The bride wore her Bombers jersey, the groom wore his Jets jersey. 

“And I get to wear my wedding dress again.”

Is there any lingo we should know?

At the old stadium, Blahut gained some fame for starting a section-wide cheer, based on the phrase “move the sticks,” used after the team has made a first down.

“I started that saying up in our section, so everybody knows when the Bombers have a first down, I stand up and shout at the top of my lungs, ‘Moving the sticks!’

“A couple of summers ago, I was downtown with my wife at a patio and I see this gentleman walking by who sits two rows away from us. I just stood up and yelled, ‘Moving the sticks,’ and he looked up and gave me a high-five.”

“We still talk about Swaggerville,” Martin says with a laugh, referring to the polarizing nickname for the Bombers defensive secondary coined a decade ago.

“Our two daughters, who are six and four, will always do ‘And that’s another Winnipeg first down!’ and they do the little (No. 1) hand signal.” 

So you’ve jumped on the wrong bandwagon. What should you do if you’re a Ticats fan?

“Stay home,” St. Mars says with a laugh.

Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and author of the newsletter, NEXT, a weekly look towards a post-pandemic future.


Updated on Saturday, November 23, 2019 12:04 PM CST: adds header

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