Manitoba

Agony and Ecstasy: Blue Bombers fans anxious for Grey Cup drought to end

Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans are ecstatic after Sunday's 20-13 win against the arch rival Saskatchewan Roughriders, giving the Bombers a chance to compete for their first Grey Cup since 1990.

Bombers looking to clinch first Grey Cup since 1990

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrate defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL West Final football game to advance to the Grey Cup. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans are ecstatic after Sunday's 20-13 win against the arch rival Saskatchewan Roughriders, giving the Bombers a chance to win their first Grey Cup since 1990.

"It was pretty exciting," said Roy Rosmus, a self-proclaimed "Bombers nutcase" who is in the process of publishing a fifth book about the franchise's history.

"It's been a long, long time. And even though I've seen seven of the 10 Grey Cups, I was excited."

Rosmus noted, however, that younger fans were probably even more excited because they might see the Bombers win the Grey Cup for the first time.

"I had the younger kids asking me about that — ones in their early 30s down to the youngest fan — because they've never seen one.

"I said, 'They must really be itching.' But even I'm itching," Rosmus said. "It's been 29 years, and this is pretty exciting stuff for the city."

Roy Rosmus, a 72-year-old Bombers fan, is in trying to publish his fifth book about his favourite team's history

Winnipeg sports nut Tyler Soares is one of those younger fans. Soares, who has a man cave dedicated to the Bombers and is making the trip to Calgary, started following the CFL club in 1990.

"My heart is finally coming down a little bit," he said.

Some people consider him a curse, he says, but he likes to see it as a bad streak. Regardless of the drought, he thinks the Bombers can return home with a trophy.

"As fans, we're just really excited and nervous," Soares said. "I just need the game to start already. I'm going to probably lose a bunch of weight, just not eating [because I'm] thinking about the game.

"We've had our hardships for a long time, and now it's time to turn that page and dominate this league."

Former Blue Bomber weighs-in

James Murphy, who won three Grey Cups with the Blue Bombers, told CBC News that he was on the edge of his seat watching Sunday's game at a sports bar, like many other fans.

"So many different thoughts just went through my mind," Murphy said. "It was one of those thoughts again, thinking it's not going to happen again. They're going to score a touchdown, we're going to go to overtime, and we're not going to make it.

"Lo and behold, it worked out in our favour."

Murphy was part of the 1990 Grey Cup Bombers squad, and he couldn't have imagined the drought lasting this long.

"Are we cursed? The football gods don't like us? What's going on?" he said are some the questions that have gone through his head.

"What's really, really disappointing is when you have great players like [offensive lineman] Doug Brown and [wide receiver] Milt Stegall — guys who just left everything on the field for the city and for the team — not to be able to get a Grey Cup.

Former Blue Bombers wide receiver Milt Stegall played with the team for 13 seasons, was an all-star nine times, and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012. ((Marianne Helm/Canadian Press))

"At the same time, all of that can be erased with one single victory next Sunday."

With all of the electricity in the city surrounding the Bombers, Murphy added that he can only imagine what a championship parade would look like.

'Bombers are Winnipeg'

The Blue Bombers are an institution in this city, and Rosmus says that culture was established early on in the franchise's history.

More than 30 local business people formed the board of directors in the team's early days that paid for everything, he said. After the team won its first Grey Cup in 1935, the team was broke, and the team's president paid $1,000 (more than $18,600 in 2019) out-of-pocket.

When CFL teams started bringing in non-Canadian players — imports — they focused on bringing in the best talent possible. But Winnipeg wanted the best players that also wanted to live in the community, Rosmus said.

Murphy is one of those imports that had (unexpectedly) made his life here after football. He currently works with the Manitoba Construction Sector Council.

"People often ask how are they so engrained, that's why," he said.

"Bombers are Winnipeg, and Winnipeg are the Bombers. You just realize how much a part of Winnipeg they are and vise versa."

Winnipeg recently tied the highest number of homicides in a year and continues trying to cure a meth epidemic, so Soares said the Grey Cup presents an opportunity to uplift.

"This is something we can use as a positive reinforcement for 'Winnipeg isn't really that bad,'" he said.

Blue Bombers fanatic Tyler Soares in his game day garb. (Marina von Stackleberg/CBC)

Bombers v.s. Ti-Cats

Though the Bombers-Roughriders rivalry may be more famous, the Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats also have some historic beef; six of Winnipeg's 10 Grey Cup victories, and two of their losses, were against the Ti-Cats.

Looking ahead to Sunday's title game, Rosmus said it could be a tight match-up, but believes destiny is a factor.

"When you look at the whole year, the way everything's happened — up, down, sideways, quarterbacks falling, this happening, [quarterback Zach] Collaros coming here. It's like the boys from the past are willing this thing to happen," he said.

On Sunday, Rosmus will be watching for solid rushing from running back Andrew Harris and quarterback Chris Streveler, status quo from passing QB Collaros, and the defense shutting down the Ti-Cats offense.

The Ti-Cats could be the favourites heading in because they've played solid football for several weeks, Murphy said. But if the Bombers play the way they have in the playoffs, it'll be tight.

"On any given day, you can be beaten [in the CFL], if you're not focused and prepared to go over and beyond the call of duty" Murphy said. "And I think [the Bombers] are ready to go over and beyond the call of duty. Because they know how much it means to this city, to be able to bring a Grey Cup championship back to the province."

Soares is a bit more blunt in his message to the Ti-Cats: "You have no shot. Bombers all day. Go Blue!"

Kick-off between the Blue Bombers and Tiger-Cats is 5 p.m. CT on Sunday.

1990 – Blue Bombers bring home the Grey Cup:

1990 – Blue Bombers bring home the Grey Cup

3 years ago
Duration 1:28
At the 78th Grey Cup, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers battled the Edmonton Eskimos at BC Place in Vancouver. The Blue Bombers defeated the Eskimos 50 - 11.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is a CBC Saskatchewan reporter based in Regina, who specializes in producing data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Alberta. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at nick.frew@cbc.ca.

with files from Marina von Stackleberg, Janice Grant

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