The September 20, 2008 match-up between the BC Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders certainly had its up and down moments. A once again sold out stadium, filled to above capacity at 30,945, got to witness possibly the most exhilarating game ever.
Minutes before kick-off, the Roughriders' organization honoured the loss of the legendary Ron Lancaster. The players wore retro jerseys, and had the number "23" added to their helmets. On the field, they added two circles; one saying "23", one saying "RL" (Lancaster's initials). There was a video montage of some of his greatest moments, followed by a moment of silence (except for a few un-respectful fans who decided to yell while we were all thinking about "the Little General").
When the national anthem was being sung, most people turned their attention to the Sasktel scoreboard. Everyone's jaw dropped when they showed an image on the screen, and then we all looked off to the south to believe it was true. On the SGI building downtown, all four sides of the building had the rooms lit up to perfectly show the number 23.
That feeling of sadness and gratefulness was still present at kickoff, but the anger and hatred was the more powerful feeling. As everyone knows, BC and Saskatchewan have the strongest rivalry in all of CFL (maybe in all of football in general).
Saskatchewan made a lot of mistakes during the game (such as the eight turnovers), some the fault of the players, and some probably the coach's fault. Darian Durant was not playing at his best, and Michael Bishop did not get to play much at all. It was no help that both Jeremy O'Day and Wes Cates were lost to injury.
The biggest disappointment was having the ball on the one-yard line, with a first down. Instead of trying to squeeze over the line on the third down, they decided to pass it off. Obviously, this was not successful. That was Saskatchewan's opportunity to take the lead in the game, and they lost it.
Another bad choice was with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Riders were third-and-seven. Instead of going for it, they decided to punt the ball away. It made us fans upset, as it made it seem like they were giving up when even though they still had a chance.
The fans were peeved from the beginning, and the attitudes continued to get worse. There were stadium-wide chants of "BC sucks!", and other profane sayings that cannot be repeated.
The last straw was during the start of the fourth quarter. Saskatchewan had the ball in good position. There was a facemask by the BC player, which caused Saskatchewan to drop the ball. The refs ruled this a fumble. The stadium erupted, especially on the east side. The booing was so loud that you had to scream in the ear of the person beside you or they could not understand what was being said.
Ken Miller threw the challenge flag, and the booing/swearing continued during the review. The BC fans were taunting us, trying to show off that they had gotten away with something. When the review was still ruled a fumble, and the MaxTron replayed what happened (clearly showing the facemask again), the fans lost it. Something I had never even heard of before followed.
Us fans sitting closer to the field received a beer shower. Yes, beer. Fans from as high as three sections up began throwing full cans of beer at the BC Lions bench. Some of the players did in fact get nailed in the backs and arms. There was at least 15 cans thrown at them. Wally Buono panicked and ordered all of the players to run to centre field while they did a clean up. 15 or 20 security guards then came out and covered all areas of the field on the east side.
I can understand the anger, but that was uncalled for. It makes Regina look like a bad city, and I expect some form of fine to be handed out to the Roughriders organization because of it.
The screaming continued to be crazy afterwards, which is no surprise. BC came out with a 27-21 victory. The announcers though said something to lighten the mood, by repeating a quote from Lancaster, saying "You never lose, you just run out of time."
Unfortunately for the Roughriders, this means remaining only two points ahead of Calgary and Edmonton for first in the west.
A very touching moment was after the game was completed. The starting line up from both clubs all went to centre field. They played one of the video montages of Lancaster on the MaxTron again. Each player knelt down, took off their helmets, and bowed their head. It is amazing to know they can put aside their on the field hatred for each other and come together that way.
I spoke with Bishop after the game. He was of course disappointed with the loss, but he knows it was because of sloppy plays and those eight turnovers. Bishop was shocked by the fans throwing beer at BC, and felt disappointed. He said that Saskatchewan is much different than Toronto because of the chemistry.
In the locker room here, all the players have chemistry even after they lose. None of the other players were much in a mood to chat, and looked sad. So I give kudos to Bishop for still taking the time to speak with me, my best friend, and his co-worker.
I think feeling many different emotions in a game is rare—to go from sadness, to anger, to disappointment, and to honour. I hope that all other fans in attendance can appreciate the rarity. I know I sure did.