That hurt. That really, really, really, really hurt.
Football. Can’t live with it. But sure as heck can’t live without it, even as it kicks me (insert Paul McCallum joke here) over and over again. That pretty much sums up today folks.
The comparisons to the glory year of 1989 were all around. 9-9 records for both teams. A rare win at Commonwealth Stadium. Three road games. And who could forget the good luck charm of last year’s Grey Cup in Regina. Normally these things would be considered good omens. For every other team but the Riders, Maple Leafs (do you see a pattern emerging here?) and the Chicago Cubs.
But alas, it was not to be. But couldn’t it have not been in regulation? Did we really need the overtime to rub it in a little more?
Apparently so. But it was an unbelieveable experience. The energy and noise of BC Place was unbelieveable. And to watch a game with everything on the line was gripping. Amazing plays. Great catches. Hard-hitting tackles. Excitement. Emotion. It was all there. And with 1:05 left, it looked as if it was meant to be…
I was nervous all morning, and right up to game time. I took a cab at 11:30 to the stadium, as I was told I’d have to wait in line for up to pick up my ticket. Uh, try 30 seconds. So, it was 11:45, an hour and 15 minute to game time. So, I was around the entire dome. And bought 50/50 tickets. You would have too – the jackpot was over $30,000. And desperately looked around for any hint of green. And green there was.
After walking around and then to the upper level, I found my seat and watched the warmup, my knees starting to shake – they didn’t stop until I got home. I had a funny feeling about Sir Paul in the warmup. He didn’t look good. Oh the foreshadowing! But on second thought, neither did Mr. O’Mahony.
The seats began to fill up, and I began to be surrounded by Lions fans. But finally by cousins from Hope came to my rescue, and things were looking up.
The game was great. A hard fought battle every step of the way. And no penalties, except for that one holding call…
Then came the final minute of the 4th quarter. I thought that we might possibly do it this time. Like last week, I went through every possible situation that might transpire. But unlike last week, one of them came to pass. The guy to my right said, “Don’t worry, he’ll never make a 49 yard field goal.” And my mind said, “Just wait. He will this time.” And he did.
Overtime. Why did they bother running the ball? It hadn’t worked at all up to that point. Why would it work now? And then the kick heard around the country. Poor Paul. Poor, poor, poor, poor Paul. But don’t blame it on him. Blame it on the fumble at the 5 yard line. The decision to play zone defence (?!?!?!?!??) on 2nd down and 19. Blame it on the holding call that wasn’t. Blame it on fate. It wasn’t meant to be.
And as soon as it all began, it was over. The season. Gone. Hopes of another Grey Cup blown across the Prairie for another year.
It took me an hour to find a cab to take me home. I wandered from BC Place down Smithe Street up to Granville Street and walked up and down for awhile, looking for a cab and letting the rain dull my thoughts. I shed a tear. Seriously. First time I’d ever done that.
I know it’s just a game. A silly football game that doesn’t matter compared to all of the hurt and heartache in the world.
But there’s something about this silly game and these “lovable losers”, as recently named by TSN.ca, that resonates with me. I’m not about to start talking about football as a metaphor for life, but the Riders are Saskatchewan’s. Uniquely ours. And it saddens me when they’re always looked down upon, or never taken seriously.
The Riders will win next year’s Grey Cup. It’s in BC Place. And I’ll be watching.