CALGARY—Brady Friesen knew he was going to cry once the game was over.
He knew he was going to weep from the second he left Steinbach for Calgary to cheer the Blue Bombers on in the Grey Cup. He always knew he was going to cry when the final whistle blew, but he wasn’t sure whether tears of joy or sorrow would be running down his cheeks.
Then the clock started running down in the fourth quarter, with Winnipeg leading 33-12. Finally, it read all zeroes, giving the Bombers their first Grey Cup win in 29 years, and giving the 24-year-old Friesen the first chance he’s gotten to feel the euphoria of watching his team win it all.
"I’m bawling," he said, as shreds of blue and gold fell from the sky and sprinkled across the field at McMahon Stadium. "It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that confetti fly."
Even an hour after the referees signalled the end of the match and most of the stadium had emptied, Friesen was one of hundreds of Blue Bombers faithful to remain. They were all in the front row around of the stadium, savouring every moment they could.
"This is heaven, baby, 29 years," screamed Brian Johnson, a lifelong fan.
"That was a fantastic win," shouted Dancing Gabe Langlois, who was heartbroken by Winnipeg’s loss in 2007 to Saskatchewan. "It was worth the wait."
Some fans leapt over the gates, storming the field to join their idols in celebration at midfield. Near the sidelines, Chris Matthew — who hadn’t worn long pants in more than 18 years as part of a vow to not do so until Winnipeg won the Grey Cup — slipped on a pair of trousers. One fan shouting, "You can’t take this away from me," was carried off the field by security.
It could have gone either way, as the cliché goes. Hamilton had its way with Winnipeg during the regular season, but on Sunday night, the Bombers had the Ticats number. The Big Blue stormed to score the game’s first touchdown, forcing key turnovers where Hamilton didn’t, and entered halftime with a comfortable 15-point lead.
In the concourse, those wearing blue and gold did their best to not get ahead of themselves. "This is the CFL," said one fan standing in an seemingly endless line go to the washroom. "Anything can happen."
In the men’s room, a group of fans began chanting, "Let’s go Bombers," as they waited their turn.
A few feet away, by the hotdog stand and amid a flock of admirers, John "The Cooch" Couture, a Transcona native attending his 46th Grey Cup, offered a prayer.
"From the book of Transcona," the Cooch said, voice raspy from cheering. "And the Lord said, unto all the shepherds, the Bombers will win the Grey Cup in about an hour-and-a-half."
The Cooch proved prophetic: the Bombers managed to not only maintain, but extend their lead, and exactly one-and-a-half hours after the halftime prayer, the clock expired.
On the field, after the confetti stopped falling, eight-year-old Easton May, a Calgarian who loves the Bombers, stood holding the ball that Andrew Harris carried into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
"I won’t ever forget this," he said, before running to the centre of the field to take a picture with Bombers kicker Justin Medlock.
Nobody who was there will ever forget it, especially those who’ve been waiting so impatiently to feel the joy May was feeling.
Kristian Rents, a Bombers fan, was born on Halloween 1990, about three weeks before the Bombers won their last cup. Rents brought to the game a good luck charm: a 1990 champions crewneck that he got as a hand-me down.
Rents was superstitious: he didn’t want to put the words "Bombers" and "Grey Cup Champions" on his body unless he was sure it was justified and a sure thing.
Right when the game ended, Rents pulled the crewneck over his shirt.
"I can’t wait to buy one that says 2019," he said.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Updated on Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 11:03 PM CST: Updates images