If real life offered more perfect endings than rainy Mondays, Ray Jauch would have finished his stay in the Canadian Football League with a glorious victory in Toronto's Grey Cup Sunday. His exit south to coach the Washington Federals of the United States Football League might have been on a cloud, or at least on his players' shoulders.
Instead, he was going to drive.
Jauch's Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost a shot at Canada's Super Bowl by losing, 24-21, to the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday. The coach is understandably disappointed, but too occupied with packing up 17 years of CFL life to dwell on the loss.
"The players deserved to win, and there were a lot of times in the game we could've won," he said. "But we missed a few field goals, let them have a couple big bombs, and that was it."
There was no tinge of bitterness in his voice. "In one way I'm sad, but in another, well, it's over with and time for new things."
Jauch has only been able to deal with the new job in snatches, long-distance calls sandwiched between long practices and meetings.
"When I made the commitment to Washington, I said I had to have time to finish things with Winnipeg, so what little I've done has been by phone," he said. "I said when the time comes, I'll jump from one swimming pool into the other.
"I haven't had discussions with players, other than the odd guy calling me up. I've had no contact other than that."
On a cold, wet Winnipeg morning two weeks ago, just before a Blue Bombers workout, Jauch pondered a roster of players signed by the Federals. "I had Frank Dark up here, and he was potentially one of the best defensive backs ever," he said. "When he heard I took the job, he called, wanting to know if he could get in on it (the team) . . . Charlie Wysocki, Angelo Wells -- I've heard of these players, most of the ones we have, but it's been a while since I've seen them, or else I haven't seen them at all."
Jauch isn't bothered or embarrassed by the situation. He'll have plenty of time to evaluate his new personnel. "In Florida, in January," he said, with the smile of a man who has shoveled a lot of snow.
Hired last summer by Federals General Manager Dick Myers, Jauch managed to push his club to an 11-5 record despite his lame-duck status.
Predictably, he was the target of some flak when his decision to leave town became public knowledge midway through the CFL season. But Jauch shrugged off the criticism. This was no sudden move on his part.
"Almost a year and a half ago, I got information that there'd be a new league forming in the States," he said. "One friend, a Canadian, asked if I'd be interested if he got a franchise, and I stayed close, following it along those lines."
The friend was John Bassett, who owns the Tampa Bay franchise. But before Bassett got his team, Myers had approached Jauch about coming to Washington.
"Even though John wanted me, he recommended me strongly to the Washington people, and Dick's deal came about in a week's time," Jauch said. "I like the way they handle situations."
Jauch paused to grin at a situation he handled well. "Earlier this year, when it looked as if George Allen was coming to the CFL, he wanted to meet me, since I've been in the league so long," Jauch said. Aware of Allen's frugal tendencies, Jauch "outfumbled him for the lunch check."
"How many people can say that?" Jauch said. "If it ever gets out, he'll always be trying to get me back, but I feel I'm one up on him."
Jauch hasn't hired any assistant coaches yet, but intends to have "at least a few with American football backgrounds. With a mixture of myself and maybe another coach or two from here, we'll have no problems."
Without a Grey Cup countdown, Jauch and his wife, Sarah, went through all the moving-day details. "We're in the process of closing on a house in Vienna," he said. Jauch hasn't seen the place, but he trusts his wife's taste.
"And we'll have our Christmas presents there -- my wife sent them to her brother in Virginia. Looks like we'll be settled in time for me to get a little breather before training camp begins and I do it all over again."
And when Jauch's second football season is over? "I'm going to take a long, long vacation," he said. A hunter and fisherman who's had no chance to indulge those passions "becuse in Canada, the seasons coincide with football," Jauch looked down the road past the USFL's rookie year.
"I had my gun out to clean today," he said earlier this week. "I'm getting ready."