Sunday night was an educational evening for me.
To understand why, I first of all have to confess that I’m not a die-hard sports enthusiast. I didn’t play or watch sports growing up, therefore I didn’t have a team I could define as “mine.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll cheer for the Riders with the best of them, but I’m still fairly new to the bandwagon.
And so I learned a little more about the game that brings us all together as I packed into a living room with an avid group of fans to watch the Roughriders take down the Tiger-Cats.
I also learned a little more about the way sports can transform even the quietest of people into raging, screeching animals.
As odd as it may sound, people-watching is probably the most exciting and interesting part of watching most sporting events for me.
Sure, I can remember my dad yelling at the TV when I was younger during his beloved Hockey Night in Canada, but that has never compared to even observing hockey parents in the stands during minor hockey games.
And it definitely didn’t prepare me for the deafening shrieks of Rider fans.
“D!! D!! COME ON D!!!!”
“GET HIM! GET HIM!! GEEEETTT HIIIIIIMMM!!!!”
“IF YOU ACCIDENTALLY TURN THIS TV OFF AGAIN I’M OUT OF HERE!!”
At times it was somewhat terrifying.
By the end of the night, my hand was sore from giving high fives, my ears ringing and my brain hurting from stress (mostly out of concern for what would take place in the room if the Riders didn’t win).
It’s such a complex and fascinating Rider-fan relationship that I’m surprised no masters student has ever conducted a study on it as part of their thesis.
After all, what else could prompt a family of five to proudly don white and green war paint on their faces and helmets carved from melons? What else could bring a 40-something-year-old man to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth in front of the television as part of his game-day ritual? What else could lead hoards of people into the streets of a quiet small town waving flags and screaming at the top of their lungs and for only one night evoke laughing and cheering from the neighbours instead of a phone call to the cops?
Only in Saskatchewan would you literally find an entire province backing a team.
November 24 was one of the few times you could witness grown men breathlessly sobbing, “I’m so happy right now… so happy…” with sweat pouring down their forehead like they had put just as much effort into the win as Sheets and Durant right there on the couch, Pilsner in hand and covered in Cheetos.
Then they call up everyone they’ve ever met – from their dentist to their 90-year-old grandmother – and scream incomprehensibly into the phone, only to have equally piercing screams made back at them. End of conversation. No actual words necessary.
Yes, it all seemed very bizarre to me.
But it’s a pleasant and entertaining kind of weird. And it just wouldn’t feel right to have it any other way in Rider Nation.
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