They live among us — and this Sunday, you’ll see them don their green jerseys and watermelon helmets, honking their horns and banging pot lids like it’s midnight on New Year’s Eve.
There will be no holding them back, after their team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, beat the Calgary Stampeders last Sunday to earn a berth in this Sunday’s Grey Cup… which is being hosted by the city of Regina.
Win or lose, they may be difficult to live with or work with next week.
Shelley Empey, a lab technician at Fraser Canyon Hospital, had less than 12 hours to organize our “Rider Nation, Hope Chapter” photo shoot for sundown on Tuesday — but a half dozen jumped at the opportunity to show their Rider pride. Like Empey and her husband Evan, most were born and raised in Saskatchewan, including former Rosthern resident Nichole Desjardins, wearing her new watermelon helmet.
“I’ve worn them before,” said Desjardins, “but this is the first one I’ve made. It’s my first carve.”
A Riders sweater and matching mittens complimented her head gear.
“I’ve been a fan since the day I was born, I’m sure,” said Desjardins. “I’ve spent almost half my life in B.C. now — and I’ll never not be a Riders fan.
“I bleed green!”
Curiously, Desjardins has never been to a Riders’ game in Regina, though she’s worn the green in BC Place a number of times.
Jon Polishak, who couldn’t make the photo shoot, spent a lot of time in the old Taylor Field stadium when he lived in Regina in the 1990s.
“I used to play for the Regina Lions’ band and we played at the Riders’ games,” said Polishak, an English and theatre teacher at Hope Secondary… a hot-bed of Saskatchewan-born staff members.
“One of my first jobs was working in the concession at the stadium,” he added. “After half time, they’d send me out to sell left-over hot dogs in the stands.”
Polishak recalled the last time the Riders met the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the Grey Cup. It was 1989 and Dave Ridgway scored a last-second field goal to win it 43-40 for the Riders.
Fun facts: the Tiger Cats’ head coach, Kent Austin, was the Riders’ quarterback in 1989 — and his starting quarterback this Sunday is former Rider, Henry Burris… who’ll be passing to former outstanding Riders’ receiver Andy Fantuz.
Hope Secondary’s principal, Rosalee Floyd, is a long-time fan — though she’ll be out of town on Sunday. Her husband Len is a Rider fan as well… despite another fun fact. He’s American, from Montana. They lived just across the border in Opeim (population 85, in 2010) and they’d come across the border to the Riders’ games.
“I think it’s going to be a good game — but I highly anticipate a Rider win,” said Floyd.
Not so fast, though. The Riders are favoured to win over the Tiger Cats — but if you’re a true Riders fan, you’ve got to be ready for really bad stuff to happen.
The Riders’ Grey Cup wins are so memorable because there have been so few of them. As in three. That’s the least Grey Cup wins of any CFL team.
Meanwhile, the Riders have the record for the most Grey Cup losses, at 15. Five losses for every win. They last won in 2007.
A win will sit fine with Empey, who said the spirits can run a little high when the Riders are struggling in a big game.
“The language from the ‘gentlemen’ gets quite colourful when the boys are down.
“The guys wear their hearts on their sleeves when it comes to their beloved Riders,” she added.
Small wonder, when they have a history of heart-breaking losses — the most recent in 2009 when Saskatchewan had the win guaranteed after Montreal missed on a late field goal… only to be called for too many green men on the field.
Montreal got to try again, from 10 yards closer and they won by a single point.
“Hopefully the Riders practice counting from 1 to 12 before the big show,” said Empey, grinning.