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January 30, 2017

BLOG | Moving Forward

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Matt Nichols takes off his helmet as he stands on the sideline during second half western semifinal CFL football action against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday November 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

I was listening to Maurice Leggett doing a radio interview on Bell Let’s Talk Day last week, when the hosts began talking football. First it was normal offseason questions, but then… that question again. The one that has been asked multiple times to our players and our General Manager over the course of the past few months.

“Are you over the playoff loss yet, or does it still sit with you even two months later?”

Moe paused, and the host said something along the lines of, “well, we have our answer.”

I haven’t written about that game – or the aftermath of it – mainly because, quite honestly, it was just too disheartening to want to put into words. But maybe it’s worth addressing now; does that loss help us long-term and into next year?

Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Justin Medlock (9) kicks a field goal during the first half of CFL action in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, November 13, 2016. (CFL PHOTO - Jimmy Jeong)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Justin Medlock (9) kicks a field goal during the first half of CFL action in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, November 13, 2016. (CFL PHOTO – Jimmy Jeong)

Let’s rewind a bit here…

We landed in Vancouver around 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 12. As always, players required for media along with Coach O’Shea and our web team headed to BC Place to meet with the media and TSN’s broadcast team. As the players went through the podium interviews, one media member asked if a loss the following day would erase all that was accomplished in 2016. Another asked if the team needed to learn how to lose before it learned how to win. The first question was pretty standard, but the second prompted a sideways glance over from one of the players.

At the time, I didn’t think much of it. Two months later – perhaps that exact question, and the answer the reporter was looking for – is where we are today.

Look – of course the story at the end of the game was Coach’s decision to kick a field goal. Is that the reason we lost? Of course not. But it was essentially the last play of the game, and it’s what still stands out in everyone’s mind.

Whether I liked the call or disagreed with it is of no consequence. It’s why I work in PR and am not the head coach. But the question remains; are we a better football team now, from every standpoint, for going through such a gut-wrenching loss?

I think so.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Matt Nichols stands on the sideline after the Bombers missed a field goal attempt late during second half western semifinal CFL football action against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday November 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Matt Nichols stands on the sideline after the Bombers missed a field goal attempt late during second half western semifinal CFL football action against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday November 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Our radio voice Bob Irving of 680 CJOB, who has seen his fair share of football (nearly 50 year’s worth), said it was one of the worst he’s ever seen. The silence in the locker room after the game was equal to the 2011 Grey Cup loss, coincidentally in the same locker room. The plane home? A quick glance around saw the majority of window-seated players staring aimlessly into the dark sky. A meal was served, barely anyone ate.
And no – no player, coach, staff member, or fan gets over a playoff loss like that until the ball is kicked off the tee in the first week of the following season.

“I honestly thought we had a championship team,” Matt Nichols told me as we walked to meet the Winnipeg media the day after the game.

But after the immediate shock wore off, it’s become clear how much last season has fuelled our players for 2017. A division semi-final playoff loss is hardly what CEO Wade Miller or the rest of the management group would consider a successful season. And the way we lost it? Yes, it sucked. Bad.

This business forces you to move on, however. We are into January, beginning to look at schedules for minicamp and with free agency right around the corner. And perhaps an extremely disappointing loss in November of 2016 just might end up benefiting this group come June of 2017.

Our season ticket renewals are outpacing the last few years with a lot of new season ticket members coming onboard. We can’t thank you enough for your continued support.