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Friday, 22 November 2013 07:00

About to experience something special

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When Saskatchewan Roughriders’ running back Kory Sheets ran for 30 yards near the end of the Western Final Nov. 17 and then leaped over the pile on the next play scoring a touchdown thus sealing the Calgary Stampeders’ fate and sending my beloved Roughriders to the Grey Cup, a tear came to my eye knowing I had a ticket for the past couple of months thanks to a former colleague.

I almost got choked up. No, seriously, I did. Going to a Grey Cup is one of those “bucket list” items I’ve always had and have never been able to go.
For someone who hates football or sports in general, you’re probably either shaking your head or snickering at the thought of a 40-something guy getting somewhat emotional about people he doesn’t even know in an athletic competition.
However, if you’re a Rider fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. What the Riders did last Sunday is the ultimate for watermelonheads everywhere. They are playing in the Grey Cup for only the 12th time in the Canadian Football League’s history, but it will be the first time the Roughriders will play in the game while hosting it. The team has won the Grey Cup only three times.
Anyone who has seen television highlights of Riders’ fans knows, those who cheer for the Green and White are borderline rabid fans. Reports of Regina being a borderline madhouse with a lot of wild Grey Cup parties and the over-the-top Rider Pride and all the cheesy cheer songs — well those reports don’t do justice to the overall ultimate euphoria going on in Regina and Saskatchewan in general.
I’ve read on riderfans.com of people coming from Beijing and Iraq. On Sunday night, a pair of prime tickets were being sold on Kijiji for $3,600.
Why is that? I mean for those who are Calgary Stampeders’ or Edmonton Eskimos’ fans or diehards of other sports, why do people get so crazy about this football team? It must be mindboggling for some to understand why a team which has only won three times in its 103 year-history would get the support it does. The New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens and Manchester United, the Riders are not, when it comes to sports championship success.
To non-sports fans who have the Jerry Seinfeld-opinion about sports (“we’re rooting for laundry”) the idea of people painting their faces, or purchasing garden gnomes, antifreeze, ice cream, chips, alcohol and infant clothing that have Saskatchewan Roughrider logos plastered on it probably seems absurd.
If you take the emotion and nostalgia out of it — really, it is.
However, there’s some sort of unexplainable mystique about the Saskatchewan Roughriders that is hard to explain to anyone who isn’t a fan or who lives outside the province and isn’t from Saskatchewan. Most people from Sask. — not all — but most people love that team.
I am the same diehard Riders’ fan I was when I was a small child and I haven’t lived in Saskatchewan for almost 19 years. One of my earliest childhood memories was my father and one of his cousins taking me to a Riders’ game when Regina’s famed football field still had natural grass turf. I was three years old and I remember yelling ‘go George Reed’; ‘yay Ronnie!’
At the age of four, I could tell anyone who would listen to an overzealous and pushy toddler, who every Roughrider was along with their number and position. I remember trying to read stories in the Regina Leader Post in kindergarten because I loved the Riders.
I could tell you exactly where I was and how I cried at the age of six watching Ottawa’s Tony Gabriel get behind the Riders’ secondary to make the game-winning catch in the 1976 Grey Cup (it wasn’t Ted Provost’s fault).
It’s etched in my mind watching Dave Ridgway kick the game winning field goal in 1989.
 I remember every game I went to in Regina including one particular game vs. the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the 1980s. I was going to hockey school in Regina and it was one of the first camps I ever went to where I was away from home. I was scared, but we had tickets to a Riders game vs. Hamilton. To top it off, the power went out, causing a major delay.
I’ll never forget the Riders’ mascot Gainer the Gopher, entertaining the crowd. He allowed himself to be passed along through the stands on top of the fans’ hands (i.e. like at a rock concert), performing professional wrestling moves on a toy tiger for 90 minutes straight. I felt better and it calmed me down. I loved football that much. Still do.
Taking a group photo of all the students and staff dressed up for Rider Pride Day Nov. 15 at Waldeck School (see Page A17) and looking into their eyes of genuine “rah-rah” spirit for a professional football team was really a fun experience for me.
The students were equally as excited. 
Arguments can be made that people love the Riders because it’s the only professional game in town/the province unlike bigger centres such as Toronto or Calgary, which have many other sources of entertainment and other professional franchises.
Maybe everyone roots for the underdogs because of the obvious lack of championship success or even the fact Saskatchewan is a smaller-populated province.
No matter how you slice it, Saskatchewan loves the Riders and will prove it again on Sunday.
If you have a sociological or psychological interest in human behaviour or even if you just enjoy watching spectacles, watch how 40,000 people spend more than four hours in frigid conditions enjoying themselves to the extreme ... especially if the home team wins.
Everyone has something they truly enjoy: whether it’s a dream concert at the Australia Opera House, the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville, NASCAR at Daytona Beach, Wayne Newton or Criss Angel in Las Vegas, Octoberfest in Germany, World Cup soccer — there’s always some event somebody has wanted to see. Even non-sports people can appreciate that feeling.
Going to Grey Cup in Regina watching the Riders play for the championship doesn’t top meeting my wife, getting married, the birth of my twin boys, graduating high school or university or anything along those lines. But when it comes to reliving my youth when I went on those special trips to Taylor Field with my dad and my brother and watching those terrible Rider teams suffer through years of loss after loss, but still enjoying just being at the game, Nov. 24 can’t get any better ... unless the Riders win. (Sniff).
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Read 1137 times Last modified on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 13:17
Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor