Chris Matthew never imagined an off-the-cuff vow he made 18 years ago would get him this much, er... exposure.
The retired schoolteacher, a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan since childhood, hasn't worn pants since an unseasonably warm Nov. 20, 2001, when he showed up to work wearing shorts and, feeling confident a Bombers' Grey Cup victory was less than a week away, told a co-worker he wouldn't wear pants again till that happened.
By now, people across Canada and the U.S. know he's a man of his word.
"It's been absolutely hectic," he says, answering a call from the 18th reporter to contact him since last week.
"But you know what? If I was dopey enough to say this in the first place, then I deserve everything I get."
What he'd really like to get, of course — along with tens of thousands of long-suffering Winnipeg football fans — is a Blue Bombers victory Sunday over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the Grey Cup in Calgary.
The story of how Matthew has spent the past 18 years wearing shorts, wishing and waiting for a win, has been broadcast across the country and picked up by American media, where none other than Golf Digest has declared Matthew the "Ultimate Canadian Football Guy."
Posted: 26/09/2018 7:00 PM
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.
Google "shorts guy" and you'll find him in the top three search results.
"I really didn't think it would ever get this big. And I really hope that I don't have to do this another time," he says with a chuckle.
"I mean, it's fun and everything, but I don't understand — I guess it's a story that makes people feel good or something, but I don't understand all the attention. But it is what it is, and I can live with it."
At home in Charleswood, Matthew has created a schedule to keep track of all of his interview requests. He's already fielded calls from Vancouver, Edmonton and Hamilton and been featured on most Manitoba news stations since his "short" story appeared in the Free Press last fall.
American sports broadcast network ESPN has scheduled a chat Thursday.
"I never thought that I would have any kind of exposure at all so, yeah, this is just, it's unwanted celebrity, I suppose, but I guess everybody has their 15 minutes of fame," Matthew says as wife Darla laughs loudly in the background.
"She has to laugh or she'll cry," Matthew says.
After the initial Free Press story was published near the end of the 2018 season, the football club gave the couple free tickets to the last home game of the season.
Matthew's ascendance to local cause celebre means he gets recognized every now and then — in large part, he guesses, because there aren't too many other people wearing shorts in the cold — including on a recent trip south of the border.
"I was on a bus trip this past weekend down to Minneapolis to watch the (Minnesota) Vikings game, and one of the guys on the bus (a fellow Winnipegger) stopped me in the hotel. He said, 'Are you that...?' I said, 'Yeah, that's me. Yeah.'"
He's particularly popular when he visits his 90-year-old mother at her seniors residence. There, the other ladies sometimes tell him they've seen him on TV.
"I guess the one that's getting the biggest kick out of this would be my mother," he says.
"She's like the queen mum or something over there."
As he does every year, Matthew will attend a friend's Grey Cup party to watch Sunday's game. He's taking a pair of pants with him.
"I really do think that they've got a good chance of winning this year. And I really hope they do, not because then it ends my wearing of shorts, but I just think that it's time," he says.
"We deserve it and the team deserves it, so I'm optimistic, but I'm certainly not going to guarantee anything again."
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.