Something Positive To Talk About

My team won last Sunday.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers handily defeated the Hamilton Tiger Cats 33 – 12 in the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup final. I was proud. It has been 29 years since the team could call themselves champions.

I haven’t really followed the Bombers much since I moved from Winnipeg five years ago. In fact, this was the first game I had watched on television all year. When I lived in the city I used to catch all, or most, of the team’s games on CJOB radio. I used to know the names of the offensive and defensive line. I knew the coaches, and became familiar with the team’s strengths and weakness. Occasionally I saw a glimmer of hope, but each season I would be ultimately become disappointed with the performance.

Still, I remained a fan. Blue Bombers fans are nothing, if not loyal. We call it prairie pride.

Football is an easy game to follow on the radio. I grew up listening to the games with my father. I presume the Bombers were his team as well; he grew up in that city. I was raised two hours down the highway. The Bombers were the pride of the province and, for the longest time, the only professional team.

Winnipeg is a city near and dear to my heart. I lived there almost half of my adult life. I went to university in the city of about 700,000. My daughter was born there, and I moved back and forth between Brandon and Winnipeg a couple of times. Then I moved to Toronto.

I’m still a Bombers fan, however. I still have an affinity for the province, and Sunday’s big win was good for the city of Winnipeg. They were celebrating with a parade through downtown yesterday.

But, there hasn’t been a lot of good news coming out of the Manitoba capital lately. The murder rate is sky high, just shy of the record 41 murders in 2011. There is still more than a month left in the year. A rash of violent liquor store robberies has put the city into the national news, and a mix of heroin, meth and opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil are taking a toll on the hearty prairie city. Public safety is not what I remember it to be.

I visited the city in June, and was warned by a few people not to venture out at night, as I planned. Often, in whichever city or town I happen to visit, I will head out with my camera to photograph the local landscape. This past Winnipeg visit, I was especially interested in capturing changes to a city I had not been to for a couple of years.

“The streets are not safe, especially at night,” I’d written in my journal.

It was sad, really, to see or feel the disintegration of a place I had thought of as home. Violence and drugs are now common elements in any urban environment, but I used to think it was more obvious in larger centres like Toronto. It is a reality everywhere.

I’m hopeful the football victory will help heal the damaged psyche of the city. The record of a professional sports franchise is not something you can (or should) count on, but maybe the Bomber win will give citizens something positive to talk about.

Maybe, like the Bombers, the fortunes of the city can be turned around. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long.

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