Dirty Bird Blog: A Tale Of Two (Canadian) Cities

The funny thing about rivalries is that they can last a day or a lifetime. With only 8 teams, are rivalries in the CFL intensified or just fodder to sell tickets? Since there’s a chance of playing on the same team, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for players & fans to hold grudges against opposing teams & its players.  But who would Alouettes fans consider to be their rival?

Edmonton makes a great case given our Grey Cup history with them. Toronto & Montreal has the greatest rivalry in hockey, but not so much in football. The CFL tried to make rivals out of B.C. & Montreal due to them being the league’s western-most & eastern-most teams respectively.  All make valid cases, but none of those teams really incite Alouettes’ fans anger much these days. But one team has come up and thanks to the past few games played, became the Alouettes’ biggest rival by default. That team is the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Let’s have a look at this rivalry & how it leads up to this Saturday’s tilt in Regina.

Two different teams that both represent their province; The Riders aren’t just Regina’s team, they belong to the entire province of Saskatchewan. The Alouettes & its fans are responsible for Quebec being a powerhouse in football development at all levels. There’s this notion of the fan bases being the hard-working farmers vs. the worldly aristocrats. West vs. East. Hillbilly vs. Eurotrash. Pilsner beer vs. Molson Ex… I could go on. There’s a ton of passion on both sides, but Riders fans live and breathe the team 24/7/365 while Alouettes fans have to endure the Montreal Canadiens dominating the sports news in Quebec.

On the field, when both teams have played each other the results have been one for the record books.  2009 saw both teams play each other in their 1960′s retro uniforms and 2 outstanding plays from each game come to mind. In Regina, Ben Cahoon made an INCREDIBLE catch by wrapping his arms around Tad Kornegay’s helmet. In Montreal, Darian Durant shook off 2 tackles and scrambled to throw a remarkable touchdown. Then of course, the 2009 Grey Cup featured both teams playing each other in that game for the first time in the league’s history and will go down as one of the most unforgettable games in CFL history.

2010 saw the first game of the season on Canada Day in Regina feature both teams in what was billed as the Grey Cup rematch. It took 2 overtimes, over 100 total points scored and ANOTHER too many men on the field call vs. the Riders that led to a spectacular 2 point conversion catch by S.J. Green, but the Roughriders managed to emerge victorious. The game in Montreal featured the 1970′s uniforms and was easily the loudest game on record, as all 25,000+ fans were on their feet for yet another thrilling finish. Montreal held on for that victory and I nearly blacked out in the stands from cheering & screaming as loud as I ever had at a football game.  And it all led to another thrilling Grey Cup match where Montreal was again victorious, this time with no controversy or excuses.

When I was at that Grey Cup in Edmonton last year, I got to experience first-hand the sheer magnitude of how deep the Roughrider fanbase goes. I’d say for every one Alouettes fan I saw, there was easily 7 Riders fans. They are loud, proud & will walk into hell for their team. Having won the Grey Cup against them the year previous, I found there wasn’t a whole lot of jaw-jacking from their fanbase, just good-natured ribbing. But I’m all about that, as it was great to have fun with them.

While waiting in line to go zip-lining in -20° weather at the CFL fan festival,  I happened to see a Riders fan dressed as Santa Claus except for the suit being forest green. Decked out in red & blue Alouettes winter gear from head-to-toe, I couldn’t resist. I yelled to him at the top of my lungs, “HEY SANTA! IT’S GONNA BE A BLUE CHRISTMAS FOR YOU!! GO ALS GO!” Not only did this draw a ton of laughs from everyone in line (who joined me in the GO ALS GO chanting), but even “Santa” himself had to smile and wave.

I also busted a few chops with this photo:

The sign showing how far McMahon Stadium for the Stampeders isn’t visible, but all the others are…except one team whose sign I decided to “improve” upon.

A few Riders fans saw this and booed me intensely, but one fan had to admit that I had “a ton of balls to do that with all the Riders fans nearby”.

I feel safe in saying this has become a great rivalry. There’s no true hatred as I am friendly with a lot of Roughrider fans & enjoy trading barbs back & forth, always in good fun. No feelings hurt. And maybe it’s the early history, but there’s no better match-up than these two teams. They seem to bring out the best in each other. Kinda like Batman & the Joker, these two are meant for each other. One cannot be without the other.

This Saturday’s match will be a classic. It has to be, history says so.

I’ll be attending a viewing of the game with a big group of fellow Alouettes fans & I encourage other fans to join us. You can get details HERE, should be a lot of fun!  And yes, I’ll be live-tweeting as well. No matter where you are, enjoy the game!