Another Grey Cup appearance

For the Dunlop Art Gallery’s exhibit for the 100th anniversary of the Roughriders, (Dunlop Art Gallery) I did a few hundred words on the Roughriders’ history and the sense of community it has created – both in Saskatchewan and, to a lesser extent in cyberspace. I mentioned that the Riders didn’t seem to have a real rival in the CFL. Oh yeah, there are teams the Riders have grudge matches with, in the ups and downs of CFL on field fortunes, but there was no real rivalry that stemmed from a cultural grievance, the way Celtic and Rangers carry the grudges of Catholic Scotland/Ireland versus Protestant Scotland/Ulster/England, or the Catalonians of Barcelona versus the ruling Castilians of Real Madrid, or the English/French and Protestant/Catholic battles of the Leafs/Canadiens (at least, before the Leafs were hornswoggled into Harold Ballard’s orbit, sending the Leafs into a black hole of suckitude from which they may never emerge).

That’s one paragraph I would like to have rewritten, knowing now what I didn’t know then.

There’s now a cultural war between Saskatchewan and Calgary that underpins the battle between the Riders and Stampeders, which Stephen Hunt of the Calgary Herald illustrates, if incompetently and rudely. Calgarians see Saskatchewan the way Londoners see the Irish – oh yeah, they talk like us and look like us, but, in the opinion of most Calgarians, Saskatchewanites are clearly inferior beasts, even though one quarter of the city’s population is comprised of former Saskatchewan residents. It’s used as the way to debase this province – if Saskatchewan was such a wonderful place, Calgarians ask, why are you working here?

That culture clash gives an edge in Stamps-Riders matches that the Riders (and to be fair, the Stamps) don`t get when they play anybody else.

The Western Final. Well, haven`t you heard? There wasn`t a heck of a lot to complain about in the game’s quality, unless you`re a Stampeder fan with a bad case of projecting your inadequacies onto somebody else. The Stampeders committed 92 yards` worth of penalties, which, in a close game, is a killer, and many of those penalties were of the stupid, selfish type. And Henry Burris is 0-4 in four playoff games against Saskatchewan.

The reason why the Stamps made so many excuses for their poor play – it was all the referees fault – is something that frosts my buns, as a sports observer. It’s the reason why I can’t bear to be around some members of my family when they talk about the Riders of their day. It always seems there’s a giant conspiracy that involves the CRTC, the CBC, CTV, Bay Street, and maybe the Freemasons or the Catholic Church (probably the latter, since both my father and uncle are Freemasons) who conspire to pay off the referees or slick the field or something that prevents the Riders from winning in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. (Not true. Though Rider general manager Ken Preston managed to stock the first-team Roughriders with loads of talent, the Riders never had the bench strength that would allow them to get through a season without losing some games when the starters, inevitably, got injured, or tried to play hurt because a Al Benecick or a Bruce Bennett at half-speed was still better than the second-stringer).

If you’re playing the game, you know the rules beforehand, and there’s a likelihood that despite your best efforts, it may not be enough. And if you can’t face that as a player, take the damn uniform off and look for a real job. And if you can’t accept that as a fan, turn off the TV or give up your tickets, and take up knitting. Or whatever.

There’s more here on the Western Final (Monday Morning Perspective courtesy riderfans.com).

As for the Grey Cup, call me crazy, but I can’t get up the hate for the Montreal Allouettes that I can for other Western Division teams, nor for the club that defeated the Riders thanks to the infamous 13th man penalty on the last play of last year’s Grey Cup. Not like some people at prairie dog, anyway. There’s still some old-time stalwarts who bitch and moan about the CFL’s problems in Quebec – two teams in Montreal folded in the 1980s – but for those who refuse to understand the passion and knowledge of the Francophone sports fan, head to tsn.ca and look at the CFL games on video-on-demand. During the Eastern Final, at Stade Olympique, listen to the fans. When the Als were on offense, the fans were quiet as church mice when quarterback Anthony Cavillo barked out the signals. But when the Argos were on offense, Toronto alleged quarterback Cleo Lemon faced a wall of sound from 55,000 Montrealers that would have made Phil Spector jealous.

The two communities where people give a damn about Canadian football are getting togdether for a match on Sunday. It’s held in Canada’s largest football stadium, and will almost certainly attract the biggest television audience in CFL history. That’s the way it should be.

Author: Stephen LaRose

2006 winner of the Canadian Association of University Teachers’s Award of Excellence in Journalism for a bunch of prairie dog stuff. Invited into the best homes in Regina. Once.