I believe Shakespeare could see into the future and was thinking of fans of the Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers when he wrote the famous ‘to be or not to be’ line from Hamlet as that is the question that must cross the minds of their fans on a regular basis. It is a very difficult and arduous task that is not for the faint of heart or weak in the knees.
If you are a fan of the Bomber's you don’t have to be reminded that the local football club is in the midst of yet another disastrous season that will see them miss the playoffs for the second straight season and extend the Grey Cup drought to 23 years. The hockey club has not fared much better albeit their playoff drought is only 2 years (stretching even farther back if you count the teams’ time in Atlanta).
However, the past 2 days have given even the most distraught fans reason to cheer for something other than the fact it was a long weekend here in Canada with fairly nice weather (NO SNOW!!) as the Jets and Bombers won games within 24 hours of each other.
I know that celebrating these wins may seem odd to sports fans in many other cities but in this City the fact both teams won was a perfect way to cap off Thanksgiving as it shows that hope springs eternal and that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow.
The Jets were in free fall mode with panic quickly setting in as they were sinking like a ship taking on water after losing 3 straight games (2 at home) before downing the New Jersey Devils 3-0 at the MTS Centre on Sunday evening. It was not necessarily the fact the Jets lost those games but the effort put forth by the club that resulted in them losing.
The team lacked emotion and looked disinterested, which is hard to fathom given that this season is still in its infancy. The result had Coach Noel juggling his lines in hopes of motivating the players who have been saying all the right things but proved that talk was cheap based on their efforts or lack thereof against Dallas, Minnesota and Anaheim.
The expectations for this club have changed faster than Winnipeggers can rake the falling leaves and the consensus is that anything less than making the playoffs this year could result in Claude Noel losing his job, fans tuning out the Jets and the G.M. who opened the Brinks truck for the likes of Bryan Little, Zac Bogosian and Blake Wheeler finding himself on the hot seat.
The Jets effort against New Jersey was much better as they looked interested and played with emotion but there are still over 70 games remaining and the hallmark of this club has been inconsistency as in you never know when the good jets will show up to play.
The Jets caught the Devils at a low point as they have yet to win a game this season and played in Calgary on Saturday night so they were ripe for the picking but tonight the Jets face the Montreal Canadiens who have won 2 games in a row and are clicking on all cylinders. In other words the win was nice but there is still no reason for True North to start printing playoff tickets.
The Bombers finally managed to win a game yesterday to keep their ever so slim playoff hopes alive. It's ridiculous to think the Blue have not been eliminated despite their 3-12 record but this is the CFL where anything can and does happen. However, they put off the inevitable by winning a game that many will say Montreal handed to them as they turned the ball over 9 times but still managed to score 27 points.
The win does little to make Bomber fans forget the unmitigated disaster that this season or for that matter that the Joe Mack era was and still is or magically make the Bombers troubles disappear. The win is something positive that they can build on after being humiliated in Calgary the week before where they gave up over 600 yards of offense to Kevin Glenn and the Stamps.
The Bombers stayed with their game plan and did not give up despite being down by a field goal late in the fourth quarter. The offense and defense came through when they had too making plays that aided and abetted the win rather than rolling over all and handing the Al’s the ‘w’.
The question is where do these teams go from here? Can they build on their success or were these just fleeting moments of joy for fans searching for anything to cheer about? The Jets still have plenty of time to navigate their way through the NHL season that is only 6 games old but there is much work to be done.
It remains to be seen if Coach Noel’s line juggling will be enough to take them to the next level and beyond or will they continue to be 'team inconsistent' and languish at .500 all the while toying with their fans emotions.
The picture for the Bombers is clearer as they are in full rebuild mode. They are in need of amongst other things a starting quarterback, a G.M., CEO and probably a new coaching staff. They have the fortune of tanking in a year when the CFL dispersal draft could help improve their situation rather than hurt it as they may land a starting QB and be able to protect some the few key players they have on their roster.
They must also decide if they can or want to build the defense around Henoc Muamba although he must also decide if he wants to stay or test the free agency waters. There is no doubt this off season will shape the Bombers for years to come and they cannot squander this opportunity as the fans are walking that fine line between disgust and apathy. Once the apathy sets in it could result in financial ruin for club trying to pay off that hefty mortgage that came with the new stadium.
There is no right or wrong answer regarding whether one should be a fan of Winnipeg’s professional sports fans but one thing remains clear is that management for both clubs owes huge debt of gratitude for and are lucky to have such supportive fans who are not asking for much other than their teams being competitive, caring and consistent.