Crushing finish to Hall of Fame career
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers Doug Brown in the locker room after the B.C. Lions beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34 to 23 to win the CFL's 99th Grey Cup game at BC Place in Vancouver on November 27, 2011. (Carmine Marinelli/QMI Agency)
VANCOUVER -- The initial media scrum had dissipated, leaving Doug Brown seated alone at his locker deep in the bowels of BC Place, tears in his eyes.
Alone to contemplate yet another season ending on the cusp of the ultimate team glory, only to go horribly wrong.
The third Grey Cup loss for the Blue Bombers defensive lineman, though -- Sunday's 34-23 setback to the B.C. Lions -- had far greater implications than the previous two.
Individual implications. Final, nail-in-the-coffin implications for a 37-year-old who'd just played the last game of his career.
"It's overwhelming, the gravity of the situation right now," Brown said. "I'm just trying to focus in on this being the last game of the season for this team. It's hard to weigh where it sits. It's too immediate. It's kind of numb. Disbelief that it's closed out this way."
How it closed out was Brown walking off the field in his hometown, in the same building that saw him win a B.C. high school title two decades earlier, his parents and sister in the stands, a hole in his heart.
Following a similar script to so many games before, the Bombers started slowly, dug themselves a hole and this time couldn't get out.
"They're too good of a football team ... when they score you have to counter-punch," Brown said. "And we weren't able to do that until too late in the game. The way we played wasn't anywhere near enough."
Falling behind 11-0 early, the Winnipeg defence regrouped, only to collapse at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.
At one point the Lions led, 31-9, and the writing was on the wall for a future Hall-of-Famer's 11-year CFL career -- a career bookended by losses in the league's championship game.
"Our team has been on such a long road," Brown said. "To go from where we came last year to get so close this year. So many deserving players in this room ... it's a lot of information to process."
Across the locker-room, his best friend on the team lamented the way it ended for No. 97.
"He's a guy I go to with my troubles," an emotional Glenn January said. "We've celebrated some stuff together and we've worked through some stuff, like my injury (last season). He really helped me with that.
"For him to go out this way, it's better than if he went out last year, with a 4-14 season. But the next 24 hours are going to be pretty painful for him, and all of us."
Brown was considering retirement a year ago, but a last-place finish is not what he wanted to remember.
Losing in the Grey Cup isn't either, but Brown didn't sound like somebody who might change his mind.
"I don't think I can do this anymore," he said. "But I don't even want to think about it. It's enough disappointment for one day."