The “Drought Bowl” An Intriguing Matchup of Longtime CFL Underdogs

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Dane Evans will make his first Grey Cup start for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday in Calgary.

1999.

That was the last time the Hamilton Tiger-Cats won the Grey Cup.

1990.

That was the last time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the Grey Cup.

One of those droughts will come to an end Sunday in Calgary when the two teams tangle in the 107th Grey Cup from McMahon Stadium.

The other will continue for at least another year.

That, and many other things, is what makes this matchup – aptly dubbed “The Drought Bowl” – so intriguing.

There is plenty of history between these two long-standing CFL franchises, but none of it being recent. Back in the late-1950’s and early 1960’s (from 1957-62, to be exact), the Ti-Cats and Bombers collided in five of six Grey Cups, including three in a row from 57-59. (Winnipeg was victorious in four of the five meetings.) But when the teams hit the field Sunday for the 107th edition of the big game, it will be for the first time since 1984 – a year that saw another Bombers victory, 47-17. Much of that is, of course, due to the fact that both teams played in the same division from 2006-14 following the disbandment of the Ottawa Renegades.

It’s amazing to think this will be the Blue & Gold’s 4th appearance on the CFL’s ultimate stage since the turn of the century. By contrast, the Calgary Stampeders have appeared in that many in the last five years. More shocking than that, though: Hamilton’s presence in the big game has been even less frequent, playing for just a pair of Grey Cups since 2000 – both coming in back-to-back years (2013 and 2014), and both, of course, being losses.

All that being said, this is a dream matchup – for fans of the two teams, obviously – but for worshipers of the league itself. The idea that, in a nine-team league, any organization can go 2+ decades without a title is perhaps one of the greatest anomalies in all of sports. In theory, every team should win once a decade. Of course, that’s not how stuff works, but to go, in Winnipeg’s case, nearly 30 years null of a title: wow.

What the matchup also illustrates is a possible return of parity to the ‘C.’ As is well known, the Calgary Stampeders have been the team to beat for much of the last decade. Since 2008, the Stamps have appeared in six Grey Cups, winning 3. They have also finished first in the West seven times over that span. In contrast, the Bombers finished third in the West this year with a 11-7 record, and are playing their biggest game in almost a decade. 

This contest features two teams who were picked by many league pundits to be here before the season began; then they started playing. Jerimiah Masoli was injured in Week 6 and replaced by relative-nobody Dane Evans, who had the epitome of a coming-out-party. On the other side, Matt Nichols was injured two weeks later, and now Winnipeg’s starter is someone, in Zach Collaros, who was on the Bombers’ archest rival when he was knocked out in Week 1 with a concussion – against Hamilton (because, of course) while with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Whichever squad has the upper-hand as the 4th quarter clock hits double-zeros late Sunday night will have earned its biggest ‘W’ in recent franchise history. These are two teams that are more evenly-matched than their records indicate, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see either team revel in the league’s highest prestige. Droughts, comeback stories, and coming out parties dominate the pre-game themes, but the only theme that matters to the two teams: win. None of the other chatter matters. It is, however, that chatter that makes this Grey Cup one of the most anticipated battles in its long and storied history – to which both its latest combatants have been waiting for what seems like an eternity to add. Which one will get that chance? We will soon find out.

Tweet: We are three days away from Grey Cup 107, arguably the most anticipated edition of the big game this century.

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