In Rider Pride’s bipolar universe, today is a manic phase. The Roughriders are playing for the Grey Cup and the game is in Regina. Kind of hard to imagine anything that will top this for a Green and White fan.
First of all, there was a time when Regina hosting the Grey Cup was considered a pipe dream. The CFL championships, for the most part, were always on a circuit between Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. If it moved to another city (Ottawa 1967, Hamilton 1972, Calgary 1975) it was a one-shot deal. The major cities had all the hotel rooms, the media attention, and the experience. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver all had domed stadiums, which, Those In The Know agreed, was the only place to hold such a great event.
Two related things happened to that idea. The CFL was plagued with poor attendance, for regular season, playoff, and Grey Cup games in the big three cities. Throughout the 1980s the CFL, perversely, ran in a way that maximized its gate revenue (blackouts, game scheduling), leaving millions of dollars of television revenue on the table. (In the mid-1980s, for example, the CFL on CTV had a popular program, called Friday Night Football. But the CFL, under pressure from the Eskimos and Riders, demanded that the league’s next television contract forbid Friday night games, as it cut into gate revenue. Half a generation later, with the league on the verge of bankruptcy, TSN came up with this wondrous idea. It was called Friday Night Football.)
So the CFL, reluctantly, decided to go where the audience was. The last real barrier to Regina’s hosting was the 1991 Grey Cup in Winnipeg – though the game itself was played at a temperature colder than Stephen Harper’s conscience, the event was a roaring success. There wasn’t any excuse not to hold it in the smallest market, and yet in the place where the CFL really mattered.
As for the game itself … I’m not sure if anyone should listen to my prognostications. I predicted the Riders would finish with an 8-10 record and get knocked out in the Western Semi-Final. Not that I’m complaining. With a weather forecast calling for a lick and windy day, I’d say the Riders would have the advantage because they can defend the run better than the Tiger Cats (as Calgary’s Jon Cornish could attest to) and they have, arguably, the league’s best runner in Kory Sheets. As we saw in the Western Final, the Riders’ offensive line also did a good job in opening holes for Sheets as well as Jock Sanders.
As well, the TiCats should never be sure which Henry Burris is going to show up. He could throw for five touchdowns: he could throw five interceptions. The man is a high-functioning head case. And one interception or even a two-and-out will have 45,000 people roaring ‘HENNNNNN…..RRRRRYYYYYY’ for the next five minutes.
On paper, the Riders are the better team in almost every phase except coaching (nothing against Corey Chamblin, but no one has out-coached a Kent Austin team.) . That’s why I think it’s going to be a Rider victory – not a total blowout, but something like 30-23 Saskatchewan.
What will Rider Nation do for an encore?