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A life in shorts

When Chris Matthew made a vow not to wear pants until the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the Grey Cup, he had no idea the team's championship drought would eventually run 28 years and counting

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/9/2018 (682 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On the evening of Nov. 19, 2001, Chris Matthew was at a popular watering hole near Polo Park, watching a National Football League game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants with his regular Monday night pals.

Seated a few tables away were members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who, the previous afternoon, had claimed a spot in the 89th Grey Cup championship, scheduled for the following Sunday in Montreal, by beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 28-13 in the CFL’s east division final.

Because the Bombers finished the 2001 campaign with a league-best record of 14 wins and four losses, and because they were facing the 8-10 Calgary Stampeders for all the marbles, Marvin Coleman and Arland Bruce, two of the Bombers present at the bar, told Matthew, a life-long Bombers fan, a victory was all but guaranteed when he popped by their table to wish them good luck.

'People have been telling me this is the Bombers' year for so long I'm starting to think the next time I wear pants, there's going to be a shovelful of dirt hitting me in the face'‐ Chris Matthew

The following day was unseasonably warm, so much so Matthew, at the time a Grade 9 social studies teacher at Andrew Mynarski VC Junior High School, went to work in shorts. When one of his fellow instructors asked him how long he planned to eschew pants, Matthew replied, "Until the Bombers win the cup," figuring that was a mere six days away, based on Coleman and Bruce’s bold prediction.

Well, as any true blue Bombers devotee can tell you, not only did the Stamps knock off the heavily-favoured Bombers by a score of 27-19 that year, the Bombers went on to lose the 2007 Grey Cup final to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the 2011 title game to the B.C. Lions. So here we are, closing in on 6,200 days later and Matthew is still getting up every morning, putting his shorts on, one leg at a time.

"Heck, people have been telling me this is the Bombers’ year for so long I’m starting to think the next time I wear pants, there’s going to be a shovelful of dirt hitting me in the face," Matthew said.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

"Heck, people have been telling me this is the Bombers’ year for so long I’m starting to think the next time I wear pants, there’s going to be a shovelful of dirt hitting me in the face," Matthew said.

"There have been a couple years when it was close, like in '07 when I was sure we were going to win it all before (quarterback) Kevin Glenn broke his arm in the eastern final," Matthew says, seated in a coffee shop five minutes from his home in Charleswood. "And if you had asked me at the start of this season, I probably would have said yeah, this might finally be the one because things started out with such promise with the addition of players like (linebacker Adam) Bighill.

"But the way things have been going lately, I’m not so sure. Heck, people have been telling me this is the Bombers’ year for so long I’m starting to think the next time I wear pants, there’s going to be a shovelful of dirt hitting me in the face."


Maybe if you are a long-suffering fan of a southern-based squad such as the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Coyotes or San Diego Padres, all of which have yet to win a title in their respective league, donning shorts day-in, day-out as a sign of devotion wouldn’t exactly merit a mention in a daily broadsheet. But when you’ve been exposing your lower limbs to the elements in the name of your team for 17 years in a burg where the mean temperature in January is cold enough to freeze your, uh, footballs, it tends to attract attention.

"For sure when I’m grocery shopping and it’s something crazy like minus-30 outside with two feet of snow, people will look at me as if I’m from another planet," says Matthew, sporting a pair of fashionable black shorts, one of three new pairs he purchased following the Bombers’ recent four-game losing skid, figuring he should probably stock up for what looks to be another long, cold winter.

What about a funeral? Matthew still won't wear pants — but he'll wear a kilt.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

What about a funeral? Matthew still won't wear pants — but he'll wear a kilt.

"To be honest, though, the chilly weather has never bothered me too much, even when I was working. I have command start so I usually go from my house to the car, from the car to wherever I’m headed, then home again," says Matthew, who retired in 2012.

Matthew agrees he was lucky enough during his teaching career to have a principal who didn’t mind that one of his instructors treated every day of the week like casual Friday. His students seemed to get a kick out of it, too, he says, especially new charges who’d been "warned about this crazy teacher in shorts" by an elder sibling, and wanted to see for themselves "if it was BS or not." When Matthew applied for a job at the Adult Education Centre on Vaughan Street in the late 2000s, he told the panel asking him questions that he wasn’t trying to be impolite, but there was a very good reason he’d shown up for his interview in shorts. They must have been Bombers fans because he landed the job, no problem.

Through the years, Matthew has worn shorts to every type of social event imaginable: graduation ceremonies, weddings, even (brrr) curling bonspiels. Because he’s of Scottish heritage, there have been a few occasions when he’s attended a funeral in a kilt, with shorts underneath, out of respect for the departed. Friends and family members, fully aware of his no-pants pledge, never bat an eye when Matthew shows up to even the most formal gathering in shorts.

In fact, there’s only been one time — at a resort restaurant in Mexico, of all places — where he was denied entry because of how he was dressed. "My wife, who already thought I was nuts for doing this, wasn’t particularly pleased but I was like, hey, there’s lots of other places to get a bite," he says.

When we reached out to Jason Sohor, general manager of Hy’s Steakhouse, to inquire if a person is allowed in his downtown dining room wearing shorts, he said, "We do have a dress code but exceptions always get made. In (Chris’s) case I would be honoured to host him in shorts."

Finally, to make a shorts story shorter, it’s not as if Matthew bet anybody he could wear shorts ad infinitum. If he wakes up tomorrow and pulls on a pair of pants — he believes there are two pairs in his closet he can still fit into — he wouldn’t owe anybody a dime. No, this has always been more about keeping his word, he maintains: if he says he’s going to do something, darn tootin' he’s going to do it.

"The amusing thing, well, to me at least, is that by now I’m so used to walking around in shorts, even if the Bombers win the cup tomorrow, I’d probably wear pants for a day just to say I did it, then go right back to my shorts."

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

David Sanderson

Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at 6:36 PM CST: Photo changed.

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