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June 6, 2024

The Lede: “This place is unbelievable.”

Movie aficionados were already no doubt aware of this detail, but earlier this week social media was flooded with references to ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ because while the movie was released in 1986, his actual day off as portrayed in the film was June 5, 1985 — 39 years ago this week.

Now, we know what you’re thinking here — what in the wide, wide world of sports does this have to do with the Blue Bombers hosting the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League’s season opener at Princess Auto Stadium tonight?

Well, hang with me for a moment and allow me to explain…

See, one of the classic lines in that iconic flick was this: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” And it’s here where we attempt to make the connection to the Bombers and Alouettes meeting in a Grey Cup rematch in south Winnipeg.

The Blue Bombers are in the midst of the most-dominant home stretch of success in franchise history, having posted an absolutely ridiculous 37-3 record — including wins in the last three Western Finals — since the fall of 2018.

Kenny Lawler and Dalton Schoen celebrate. More to come in 2024.

Just to hammer that home further, that’s a winning percentage of 92.5 percent and given the sample size — 40 freaking games, people — that’s astonishing. The only two comparable runs at home in Blue Bomber history were a stretch from the end of 1983 through 1988 when the team went 40-6, including playoffs (86.7 winning percentage) and a run from 1990-94 when the record was 44-7, including the postseason (86.3%).

One more nugget: according to CFL stats guru Steve Daniel, there are two other dominant home runs in league history that stand out: Calgary was 50-4 (92.6%) at McMahon Stadium across 1992-97 while Edmonton went 36-3 at Commonwealth Stadium during a run from 1986-89 (92.3%).

“Man, those are amazing numbers,” began Blue Bombers receiver/deep thinker Drew Wolitarsky. “You know, I was talking about this the other day — some cities we go to there’s 12,000 people at the game and you just don’t feel that energy. Those are the games where you just have to lock in on your craft and pretend no one else is there, in a way. Now, imagine if you’re a team where that’s the case nine times a year for you.

“So, I really think we’ve got to be in the moment and enjoy things more, sometimes. That was something that hit us after last year. We’re so driven by the cup, the cup, the cup — defend the cup, go get the cup — and sometimes in that you lose track of everything around you.

“We’ve built friendships in here for life with all the highs and lows. We’ve got to enjoy the locker room. We’ve got to enjoy practices and game days. I mean, one day my life is going to change and I won’t have this in the real world. That world can be a lonely place where you’re not surrounded by guys like this, by fans like this. I’m cherishing this, dude. All of it.”

The Blue Bombers have led the CFL in attendance in each of the last two seasons, averaged 30,449 per game in 2023 and ended the year with five consecutive sellouts and two more crowds in excess of 30K. The club’s marketing department has come up with the perfect slogan to capture all this, calling Blue Bomber game nights ‘Winnipeg’s Biggest Party.’

Pat Neufeld

“It’s second to none. This place is unbelievable and it’s been the beacon of the CFL,” said veteran guard Pat Neufeld of Blue Bomber home games. “Our fans are the absolute best in the league. They’re so passionate, so thoughtful and understand the ebbs and flows of the game; when to get loud and really turn it up for us.

“There’s just a comfort of being at home and seeing people when you’re driving down Chancellor Matheson tailgating and getting the party going — that’s awesome. When we’re playing at home we want to protect our stadium and put on a show for our amazing fans.

“You always have to enjoy the moment; enjoy winning,” he added. “You can’t take it for granted. This is a special place to play and it’s taken a lot of hard work to get to that.”

That’s the key component that must be stressed here as another season opens with the Blue Bombers again pegged Grey Cup favourites and trying to get to a fifth consecutive championship game: no team has posted a better overall record in the CFL over the last four years than Winnipeg, with a record of 51-17, two titles and two more lost by a grand total of five points.

So, yeah, winning is positively key.

Willie Jefferson

“It all plays hand in hand,” said defensive end Willie Jefferson. “When you have a good team then fans start to consistently come out and buy in to what we’re trying to do. That’s the 13th man with them making noise when we need noise, or being quiet when we need it quiet.

“All that stuff matters. That’s why we appreciate all our fans for being here all the time whether it’s in rain, sleet, snow, whether it’s hot, lightning, cold. No matter what it is outside we know we’re going to have a stadium full of people.

“And when it’s time to rock, they rock with us.”

And so, as another 30,000-plus crowd is expected to be at full throat tonight, the Ferris Bueller-themed message here would be this: CFL seasons move pretty fast, Blue Bomber fans, so stop and look around once in a while, or we could miss it.