So our Saskatchewan Roughriders managed to avoid having to own up to one of the worst performance records ever recorded in CFL history last weekend by winning a game, thereby staunching the haemorrhaging win-loss record at 0-9. Granted, to accomplish that all they had to do was beat the Bombers; that wasn’t exactly asking the world of them.
Not going 0-10 was an important thing for us here in Saskatchewan. I suspect the number of Prozac prescriptions written by doctors across the province would have spiked this week if that losing streak had continued.
The reason is because being members of “Rider Nation” is really how we identify ourselves here, not as Saskatchewanians (or whatever the proper term is). After all, we live in a province that frequently sees winter windchill values south of -50, so we need something to be proud of.
We were only just getting over that too-many-men-on-the-field penalty which cost us the Grey Cup game a few years ago—an event we no longer speak of—when this season happened. The impact of that spectacular loss was widespread and devastating. I can still remember noticing the impact of it when I walked into a Tim Hortons in Regina a few months later and ordered a dozen doughnuts.
When the clerk had fully filled the 12-pack box, she asked me which other one I wanted. I said, “I think that’s 12 already”. “No,” she said. “You get one more.” So I shrugged and pointed to a chocolate dip. She crammed the lid closed on the overfilled box, I paid and left.
Clearly, the impact of that penalty for having 13 men on the field was severe and long lasting. Because the 13th man cost us the Grey Cup, we apparently now pretend the number 13 doesn’t exist and no longer include any reference to it in our daily lives.
We members of Rider Nation are a proud lot, and our numbers exist well beyond the provincial boundaries. Large sections of green can be found in CFL stadiums all across this country and beyond as I found out last month.
I was standing at the counter of a McDonalds in Gunnedah Australia and ended up having a conversation with a couple of Australian farmers who noticed my “accent” while we waited for our orders. They invited me to sit with them when my food was delivered, so I did.
As we talked about farming in our two respective countries, one of the men said he had spent a year or so on a farm near Moose Jaw. He had come to Canada to experience our kind of broad-acre farming. As our visit continued, he identified himself as a member of—you guessed it—Rider Nation.
He managed to get to a few games in Regina and still checked in now and again to see how the team was doing. You wouldn’t expect to be sitting in a restaurant in another hemisphere with a total stranger and discussing the Riders. But there I was, doing exactly that.
Sadly, we were something like 0-7 at the time. I had to break the news to him.
Come to think of it, the whole time we spoke he never did mention the number 13. Coincidence? maybe—or maybe not?
Has aversion to the number 13 become Rider Nation’s equivalent of the rumoured Mason’s secret handshake?