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There’s a criteria for the perfect, fun story.
It has to be quirky. It has to have an element to it that resonates with people, that lets them feel what the subject of the story is about. It also needs to come along at the right time, so that even if it’s not the newest thing, there’s something that gives it new life.
As we inch closer to Sunday’s Western Final, Chris Matthew and his no-pants vow check all of the necessary boxes.
The diehard Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ fan made a vow 18 years ago that he would only wear shorts until his team ended what was then an 11-year Grey Cup drought.
Chris Matthew on being "shorts guy", the Blue Bombers & where the bet came from https://t.co/YeSytQYaXJ
— OverDrive (@OverDrive1050) November 14, 2019
It was 2001. The Bombers were led by an upstart quarterback by the name of Khari Jones, who would go on to be named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player that year. Doug Brown was named the Outstanding Canadian. Dave Mudge was the league’s outstanding offensive lineman. Charles Roberts won the outstanding special teams award. Dave Ritchie was the coach of the year. The Bombers finished 14-4 and were heavy favourites to win their first Grey Cup since 1990.
So Matthew got cocky and made the vow.
“I thought it was a no-brainer,” he told the CBC in November of 2018. “Apparently I’m the no-brainer.”
The Bombers lost 27-19 to Calgary and Matthew has been sans-pants ever since.
This story isn’t a new one to Winnipeggers. Matthew has been written about and interviewed many times over. But after 18 knee-knocking years of Winnipeg winters, his beloved Bombers have a shot to get him some coverage from the knees-down.
The Bombers, of course, are heading into Mosaic Stadium on Sunday to play the Saskatchewan Roughriders — public enemy No. 1 to Bombers fans — with a berth in the Grey Cup on the line.
The CBC caught up with Matthew again leading into this week.
“If they play as well as they did (against Calgary), they could beat anybody,” he said.
The real star of this story is Matthew’s wife, Darla, who sounds like she has the patience of a saint.
“We have been walking down the street when it’s cold out and I have a fur coat and he’s in shorts and people stare. And I just assure them, yes, he’s an idiot,” she told the CBC.
“I don’t care. He likes it and I know that win or lose, he likes the shorts. And he complains, but I think he loves the attention.”
This clip of their interview has gotten a lot of attention online in the last couple of days
— CBC News: The National (@CBCTheNational) November 13, 2019
At Bombers practice on Wednesday, I got a chance to ask a few people about Matthew, his vow and what they thought of it.
“I would love to see that man in some jeans, some sweatpants, something,” Bombers D-lineman Willie Jefferson said.
“He deserves it. This would be a great year to put him in some pants. Shorts in January would be brutal. That’s frostbite down to your ankles. He’s a strong guy and I salute him for his pledge. Hopefully we can get him in some pants this off-season.”
“I’d love to meet him,”O-lineman Jermarcus Hardrick said. “I’d love to fix that for him but we’ve got to win on Sunday.”
“Hopefully we can get it done and he can start wearing some pants,” Bombers kicker Justin Medlock said.
“I think he’s all-in,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said.
“Everybody’s got their own little things they do and I mean, he wouldn’t be the only one that would have their superstition or their dedication. I think it’s fantastic.”
There’s the obvious draw in this story to cheer for Matthew, to get the man in one of the coldest cities on the planet back in pants for the first time in 18 years. Watch the video though, and listen to the exhaustion in his poor wife’s voice and it’s clear who would really benefit if this vow comes to an end this year.
If the Bombers needed a rallying cry for what they’re hoping are the final two games of their 2019 season, here it is: #doitforDarla