The best sports fans in Canada live east of us in Saskatchewan. You can talk about Hab fans and Leaf fans, but there is something other-worldly about ’Rider fans. I am obviously a big fan of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and I barely make the grade by comparison to hardcore ’Rider fans. The devotion to the team is eerily reminiscent of cult fanaticism, without the grape Kool-Aid.
Don’t get me wrong, every sports team in Canada has a core group of fans that will run all day with the best of the ’Rider fans — even the Argonauts. But nobody will even come close to the high percentage of Saskatchewan fans who would drink the Kool-Aid if it meant another Grey Cup for the cause.
The recent level of success of the Roughriders has made the job a lot easier for their fans, but few ’Rider fans could ever be called bandwagon or fair-weather no matter what kind of season the team has had in the win-loss department.
The nucleus of fans is large for ’Rider fans. The real fans will back the team through the lean years and they will expel the bandwagon or closet NFL fans as unworthy members of the ’Rider Nation. Expulsion is swift and merciless for non-believers in the Green and White.
It is easy to screen the quasi-fans in ’Rider World. Real Roughrider fans plan their lives around the team schedule. They never ask how the ’Riders are playing during the season. They know how the season has gone and they know who is on injured reserve and the practice roster and even the negotiation list for the team.
’Rider fans ask whether Chase Daniel is on the practice roster for New Orleans and discuss his future availability to the ’Riders. Most fans would have little or no idea who the third string quarterback is on their own team let alone a prospect that is simply on the team negotiation list.
’Rider fans know the Canadian draft positions for the team and understand why less Winnipeg success means a higher first round pick for Saskatchewan in the 2010 player picks. Then they try to figure out the best player pick for the team in the draft.
Last weekend was a good illustration of ’Rider loyalty as they turned large sections of McMahon stadium green with pride. One can only hope that this kind of team loyalty is contagious enough that other teams’ fans get behind their own teams with the same kind of energy and devotion of ’Rider fans.
No team should have to prod their team to cheer with prompts given by some loudmouth with a P.A. system and no team should have large sections of their stadiums occupied by the other teams’ fans.
Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer whose column on the CFL appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at mystartcollectorcar.com