Nasty Blue streak

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

It began as an innocuous thought (are there any others?) on a slow day in the toy department.

With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers now guaranteed to extend their Grey Cup drought to a full two decades, how does this franchise’s futility compare to others?

It seemed to me being unable to finish as the best of eight or nine teams for 20 consecutive years was worse than, say, missing the NHL playoffs, where you have to beat out 14 teams, for 20 straight years.

How, then, does this Blue and Gold debacle compare to the worst championship droughts in the other major sports?

It turns out the current blight on the Bombers is worse, even, than the condition afflicting the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Without a Stanley Cup since 1967, the Leafs franchise is generally considered the poster child for futility in pro sports in Canada.

Well, it’s time to change the poster.

Because a statistical analysis suggests Winnipeg’s 20-year gridiron gaffe is even less probable than the Leafs’ 43-year ice folly.

That’s because the Bombers have been part of a nine-team league, on average, during their drought. Mathematically, they should have won the Grey Cup every nine years.

By going 20 years, they produce a futility factor of 2.2 (20/9), meaning, in essence, they’ve made their fans wait more than twice as long as they should have.

By comparison, the NHL has iced an average of 23 teams during the Leafs’ 43-year famine, giving Toronto’s lovable losers a futility factor of “just” 1.9. In simple terms, the Leafs should have won basically two more Stanley Cups since they last paraded down Yonge Street.

Of course, neither the Bombers nor the Leafs can hold a candle to the Chicago Cubs, who remain the undisputed heavyweight chumps in this fight for failure.

At 102 years and counting, and with an average of 21 teams in Major League Baseball during that time, the Cubbies are the runaway leaders of losing, their futility factor at 4.9.

Cubs fans would, no doubt, have settled for one World Series title the last century, never mind four or five.

The Bombers can also point a finger in the direction of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings (58 seasons, futility factor 2.9) or the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals (62, 2.6), both of whom have managed to defy even greater odds than Winnipeg.

Using our methodology puts the Bombers in some pretty undesirable company, just the same.

The NFL’s hapless Detroit Lions, for instance, have the same futility factor (2.2) as Winnipeg’s, based on their 52-year drought.

All this, of course, is based on the idea that every team should have the same chance of winning over the long haul.

Well, shouldn’t they?

All things, like management and coaching, being equal — of course.

Fortunately, they don’t hand out the Grey Cup by turns, the way they do the chance to host the game.

You have to earn it, and clearly not all teams are created, or operated, equally.

The Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts, believe it or not, have each won four Grey Cups during the Bomber famine.

Hell, a team that no longer exists in Baltimore won one.

Not that the Bombers have been all bad over the last two decades.

Twice, they’ve been on the cusp of winning it all, but blew the 2001 Grey Cup as the heavy favourite and narrowly lost the ’07 game to Saskatchewan after starting quarterback Kevin Glenn broke his arm.

Still, as would-be owner David Asper once told me, you’d think they’d stumble into one once in a while.

A team playing in a 32-team NFL, as it stands today, would have to go 70 years without a Super Bowl to match the Bomber streak, relatively speaking.

In a 30-team NHL, Winnipeg’s drought correlates to 66 years without a drink from Lord Stanley’s mug.

And we thought the Leafs were bad.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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