November 28, 2019

What it means to win the Cup | By Drew Wolitarsky

Everyone wants to know how it feels to win the Cup, but each time my answer seems to change.

It was painful. It was sweet. It required sacrifice from many –  from colleagues, friends, family. It is best described as a champagne shower falling from its victorious height, then running through our eyes and open wounds.

This sting is known as the “pain of victory” as Coach O’Shea called it.

That’s what it is to win the Cup.

Each time it is raised in celebration I think back to certain memories: the sea of green at Mosaic Stadium, the deafening cheers from our fans at the Banjo Bowl,  the nail-biting wins and the excruciating losses. Everything happening as part of our preparation for the biggest stage so that when we arrived, we had already learned everything necessary to accomplish our task.

I thought about these moments as I was sitting in our locker room after returning from the parade on Tuesday where I had witnessed how much this win meant to the city. As my teammates poured beer and drank from the cold, silver cup, I looked around and watched the faces of their families, eager to drink their own share.

We celebrate an accomplishment like this because it is scarce and so difficult to achieve. There is a brevity in being a champion. The road to victory is long and daunting. It builds slowly, occurs quickly, and then subsides.

I was sitting beside Zach Collaros and we talked about the speed of things, how we get lost amidst the time. We were watching as our teammates laughed with each other, sitting around the trophy.

Being the lovers of music that we are, Zach and I began listening to a song by Bob Dylan called “Boots of Spanish Leather” which, in short, is about one person going away and another person staying behind. It is a tale about how things that are close and vivid can so quickly become distant memory. Yet, it is also about accepting that fact and embracing this change, knowing that the people around us are not ours to have, but here to teach and help us achieve to our highest capability.

Entering the Grey Cup game last Sunday, I knew it would be my last time playing with some of these men and there was something beautiful about that. It filled me with love and gave me strength.

It is incredible what can happen to a group of strangers over six months. How much they can develop, drop personal agendas and work for a common goal. As the weeks pass we find ourselves becoming friends, and by the end we have made up a little family. We eat together, we laugh, we argue, and we compete all in the name of our common goal.

It is hard to say goodbye.

I don’t know where we will be next year or what the Grey Cup will mean to me then. Our victory is sweet. I am so proud to be a part of it, and to see the impact it has made on a deserving community.

I also know that this feeling will pass, and one day our trophy might go to the newest and the strongest. This doesn’t worry me. For it’s the things I’ve learned and experienced that will not fade. It’s the moments outside of the white lines. The people who helped me get here. The ones who help me still. These things endure through the failures and the successes.

I look around one last time at all that has occurred. Family built. Fans lining the streets, showing us gratitude. Cigars burning. Champagne bursting. The Cup standing proud in Winnipeg.

We are all reminiscing of these things, memories will flood as we return to the families that raised us and the families we now raise.

We bear the pains of the long season but we are full of love. I can feel it. I know it’s what we had. And it is that which makes us champions.


– Drew Wolitarsky