The longest Grey Cup drought in CFL history was extended for at least another season Sunday, as Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans walked into the cold night air after watching their team fall 34-23 to the B.C. Lions on Sunday.
Hundreds gathered downtown at the two-storey 4Play Sports Bar — across the street from the MTS Centre where the NHL's Winnipeg Jets play — to get their faces painted blue and gold, cheer and watch the game on a mammoth theatre-style screen.
They started the evening with hope, even though Winnipeg last won a Grey Cup in 1990.
Barb Boychuk knew it would be tough to beat B.C., but thought the Bombers could do it.
"It's long overdue," said Boychuk, who came with her mother, both wearing team jerseys.
"Our city needs this and with Doug Brown retiring, what a way to go out."
Brown, the veteran nose tackle who spent his entire 11-year CFL career in Winnipeg, has said this would be his last season.
Despite that optimism, the Lions grabbed an early lead. It led to some grumbling in the room but the Bombers finally battled back, narrowed the gap and gave the crowd something to cheer about.
That abruptly changed as Odell Willis dropped an interception that could have altered the course of the game, and an attempt at an onside kick fizzled when it failed to travel the required 10 yards.
The crowd saw the end coming and grew silent.
They watched as the final seconds ticked away and it was clear it would now be 21 seasons since their once formidable football team last came home with the cup.
The Bombers' rally was too little and far too late, said some, echoing the thoughts of Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice.
"It's not enough …You can't go three-and-a-half quarters without scoring a touchdown," said a disappointed Xander Larue after watching the clock tick down to zero, his gaze fixed on the screen.
But he gave them credit for a great season, finishing on top of the East Division after digging themselves into the CFL's cellar last year with a 4-14 record.
"They can take it to the bank, come back next year and give it another shot … They battled through and they showed a lot of people wrong this year that doubted them.
"Next year we'll take it one more step. We'll be there."
Barb Johnson agreed.
"I'm a little bit disappointed but you know what they did a great fight all year and you know we've got to take what we can get," she said.
"They made it this far and I feel really great for the team, what they've done and accomplished this year. I feel proud of them for what they did."
Some took consolation in the small things as they walked out of the club.
"At least there's no riot," one departing fan quipped as he walked to a stoplight on Portage Avenue.
"Not at this temperature," said his companion, watching her footing on the icy sidewalk.