Bombers forget their lines again

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce holds his head as he walks off the field after defeat at the...

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce holds his head as he walks off the field after defeat at the hands of the Lions during the CFL's 99th Grey Cup game at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 27, 2011. (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:19 AM ET

VANCOUVER - This isn't how good stories end in Hollywood, but it's how they end for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers all too often.

Four years ago it was Milt Stegall, one of the all-time CFL greats, trying, and failing, to go out a champion.

This time Doug Brown was supposed to be the hero, carried off on the shoulders of his teammates-- actually, that might have been tough -- in the perfect culmination of a Hall of Fame career.

The Bombers, though, have a habit of getting on that big stage, squinting into those bright lights and forgetting their lines.

Sunday afternoon, in Brown's hometown, no less, the B.C. Lions were only too happy to jump in and ad-lib their own ending, riding off with a 34-23 victory.

In case you're scoring at home, and Winnipeg fans have no doubt broken cases of pencils and thrown notebooks across the room doing just that, the 99th Grey Cup marks the fifth straight time the Blue and Gold have made it to the big dance, only to be left watching the girl walk off with someone else.

In the end, she didn't even give the poor guy a chance, stringing him along for nearly 45 minutes before slapping him in the face and storming off.

Sure, the Bombers refused to take no for an answer, falling behind 31-9 before making a furious pitch just before they turned the lights off in the place and sent everybody home.

Valiant, to be sure.

But the cold, hard reality going into another barren Winnipeg winter: the Bombers have now equaled the longest Grey Cup drought in modern-day, franchise history -- 21 years.

That's right, those who were around for the Great Famine of 1963-83 can no longer tell the kids they ain't seen nothing compared to what they went through.

This generation gap reads 1991-2011.

"Our fan base deserves better than to have this streak continue," an emotional Brown said in the losing locker room, the third one he's experienced as a Grey Cup performer. "We had an opportunity to put a smile back on their faces. And it's just more misery. We've had enough of that."

If you want to give the Bombers defence credit for hanging in there, I suppose you can. But when the collapse came, it was epic.

In the final analysis, Swaggerville was let down by its mayor and the rest of his posse up front.

Rush end Odell Willis and Winnipeg's vaunted pass rush -- it led the CFL in quarterback takedowns this season -- was impotent against B.C.'s front five, allowing Lions quarterback Travis Lulay to work out the kinks until he hit his CFL Most Outstanding Player stride.

His counterpart, Buck Pierce, never found even his relatively modest rhythm, missing targets that were barely open and throwing at too many that weren't.

"Not good enough," Pierce said of his play. "I didn't do my part. That's hard to handle right now."

And there's no consolation prize for getting this far.

"Our expectations are to win Grey Cups," Pierce said. "We didn't achieve our goal. We were one game short. Maybe a few quarters short."

Pierce's story was another the Bombers squandered, ruining a homecoming to the team that cut him loose two years ago, not to mention a comeback from a career-threatening elbow dislocation in 2010.

"Emotionally, it's hard," the quarterback said. "All the hard work everybody's done to get to this point. To fall short, that's hard to swallow."

I don't know if the Bombers were overly wound up or if that's simply the way they roll, but they stumbled out of the gate for the umpteenth time this season.

And it cost them.

Cost them rings, and a place in franchise history.

And put them in next-year country, yet again.

That's a tired script if I've ever seen one.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: friesensunmedia


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