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Grey Cup losing streaks about to reach climax

Been a long time since 2019 CFL championship combatants have tasted glory

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/11/2019 (264 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CALGARY — No, you don’t have to remind Mike O’Shea how much time has passed since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last won it all.

He’s well aware, which the veteran bench boss made explicitly clear Wednesday in Calgary when asked the traditional Grey Cup week coach’s question regarding his views on players having some, er, hanky panky prior to the big game.

"It’s been eight years since we climbed into this position and another 29 years since we finished the job, so there’s going to be some nerves," O’Shea began, a cheeky grin on his face as he addressed the assembled media, clearly having done some homework on his answer.

The majority of head coach Mike O'Shea's team wasn't even born the last time the Bombers won the Grey Cup in 1990. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)

The majority of head coach Mike O'Shea's team wasn't even born the last time the Bombers won the Grey Cup in 1990. (Todd Korol / The Canadian Press)

"The expectations are very high and the anticipation can sometimes ruin the event. So, I guess my guidance to the players would be don’t exhaust yourself in the warm-up."

Uh, we’re still talking about football, right coach? Is it just me or did it suddenly get hot in here? No, I'm not blushing. You are.

Ahem. In any event, to say it’s been a while would be a massive understatement, something the long-suffering Blue and Gold fan base is painfully aware of. Winnipeg's last Grey Cup appearance was in 2011, a 34-23 loss to the host B.C Lions. Of course, you have to go all the way back to 1990 to find the last Winnipeg championship, a 50-11 rout over the Edmonton Eskimos.

Yes, the game was broadcast in colour, not black and white. But that amount of time is incredible — some might say unfathomable — in what is currently a nine-team loop. An entire generation of local football fans have no idea — or no memory — of what a CFL championship looks, sounds and feels like.

The last time the Blue Bombers won a Grey Cup was in 1990 when the Bombers defeated the Edmonton Eskimos, 50–11. (The Canadian Press files)

The last time the Blue Bombers won a Grey Cup was in 1990 when the Bombers defeated the Edmonton Eskimos, 50–11. (The Canadian Press files)

Heck, the majority of O’Shea’s troops weren’t even born when the Bombers last reigned supreme. According to the team, 31 of the 46 players on the roster for last Sunday’s West Division final were but a glimmer in their parent’s eyes at the time. The rest were mostly still in diapers, learning how to walk rather than how to run complex offensive and defensive schemes.

To say the world has changed just a wee bit since then would be akin to saying Donald Trump enjoys dabbling with his Twitter account on occasion. And no, social media was definitely not a thing in 1990. We complained about everything the old-fashioned way — by actually speaking to each other. It was in person or on the telephone, which was usually attached to the wall in your kitchen. Crazy, I know.

The hit sitcom Cheers was on top of the television ratings the last time the Blue Bombers won a Grey Cup.

The hit sitcom Cheers was on top of the television ratings the last time the Blue Bombers won a Grey Cup.

Consider that the Bombers were the toast of the town just as a fledgling sitcom starring Jerry Seinfeld was getting off the ground, Sam Malone and the gang at Cheers were still dominating the TV landscape, and Bill Cosby was still a beloved icon rather than a jailed sex predator.

Ice Ice Baby was No. 1 on the music charts, Milli Vanilli were being exposed as lip-syncing frauds and forced to return their Grammy awards, and Madonna was teaching the world to Vogue.

Macaulay Culkin was tripping up the bad guys after being left Home Alone, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore were heating things up from the afterlife in Ghost, and Richard Gere was trying to buy Julia Roberts’ affection in Pretty Woman.

"I’ve fallen and I can’t get up," was just becoming a thing, thanks to the now famous commercial for a senior alert aide called Lifecall.

U.S. President George H. W. Bush was mobilizing troops as Operation Desert Shield, otherwise known as the Gulf War, was about to get underway in Iraq. Canada, under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, would join the coalition of allied forces.

Kids, you might need to Google some of those historical references. Google's a tool which, ironically, wasn’t around at the time either.

When the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last hoisted the Grey Cup Britney Spears and Ricky Martin were on top of the pop charts. (The Canadian Press files)

When the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last hoisted the Grey Cup Britney Spears and Ricky Martin were on top of the pop charts. (The Canadian Press files)

Of course, Winnipeg’s 2019 Grey Cup opponent is also a bit starved for championship success, having failed to reach the promised land this century as well. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats last tasted glory in 1999, when many around the world were focused on whether the dreaded Y2K bug would bring society to its knees. (It didn’t.)

They won the title when Haley Joel Osment was seeing dead people in The Sixth Sense and Mike Myers was stopping international espionage as Austin Powers in The Spy That Shagged Me.

When Regis Philbin wanted to know if that was your final answer in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

When Ricky Martin was Livin' La Vida Loca, Santana and Rob Thomas were getting Smooth, TLC had No Scrubs and Christina and Britney were battling it out for top spot on the pop charts with Genie In A Bottle and Hit Me Baby One More Time.

You get the picture, which, ironically, you would have had to still take with an actual camera and wait for actual film to develop, as the first mass-market digital camera phone was still a few months away from being released in Japan.

It was also a time when the Bombers and their fans were only nine Novembers into their dry spell, still thinking that next year was going to be the one! Oh, bless their naive little hearts.

Like I said, it was a bit of a simpler time. The good old days, if you will.

That's 28 years waiting to drink from the Cup for Winnipeg and 19 for Hamilton. Add it all up and you have the Drought Bowl, a compelling matchup of the two teams that time seems to have forgotten when it comes to CFL glory and have gone the longest north of the border without a championship.

Some might suggest it's a shame both clubs can't find a way to win on Sunday. Although, given their collective histories, you'd almost expect both could actually find a way to lose.

Of course, it's guaranteed one of these dubious streaks is about to reach its climax on Sunday night. The winner will be left to bask in the afterglow of their achievement, satisfied with a job well done. As for the loser, it will be yet another major disappointment, with plenty of regret along with questions of where it all went wrong.

The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. The end of one marathon streak. The continuation of another. Doesn't it all just get your heart racing?

 

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

Read full biography

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