Go crazy for a couple more seconds and then come back down to the earth; there’s still work to be done. Now it’s back to the Grey Cup for redemption against the Montreal Alouettes. It should be pointed out that for the third time in four years the Calgary Stampeders season has ended at the hands of the mighty Green and White. What’s the excuse this time, Henry Burris and company?
How could the little team on the prairies go into McMahon and upset the seemingly unbeatable Stamps? Every sports pundit in the country picked Calgary to win. Heck, the Riders would be lucky to keep it close. All those headlines seeped into the Stamps player’s heads. And let me tell you, they were one cocky bunch and lost because of it.
High above McMahon Stadium I found myself surrounded by Rider fans huddled together as one big sea of green. It was windy, snowy and damn cold. It was a battle in the stands just to stick it out and watch the game. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to stay mentally focused on the field. Whatever the case, it was a war of attrition and the Riders just wanted it more.
All I’ve heard from the Stampeders since the loss has been whining, excuses and a complete and utter lack of responsibility. It’s no wonder why these guys choke every year, because they are just flat-out unaccountable when it comes to losing. Dwight Anderson, Brandon Browner and Nik Lewis all cried fowl after the game. Good teams look themselves in the mirror and question their character when things get rough. The Stampeders look in the mirror to make sure their hair looks good. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greatest of them all now? Definitely not Calgary.
On the contrary, let’s praise the Saskatchewan Roughriders a little more. This latest game may have been the most complete team effort I’ve seen in a really long time. Sure, they only won by four points and only scored 20 points in the game. But the way they rallied around each other was a credit to everything these men are. True Saskatchewan grit. From defence, to offence, to the much-maligned special teams (minus that heart stopping fumble late in the game), the Riders played a perfect road game.
One last statistic every Rider fan should know: Henry Burris still hasn’t won a playoff game against Saskatchewan. It was his fourth post-season loss to the Riders.
So now it’s on to the City of Champions, Edmonton, for the 98th Grey Cup. And it’s the Montreal Alouettes again.
Let me take you back to almost exactly a year ago, when I found myself in the bowels of McMahon Stadium stunned, saddened and in shock after the most unbelievable and unfathomable finish to a Grey Cup game, ever. As you know the Riders lost because of that stupid penalty (I hate even bringing it up) and head coach Ken Miller tried to explain what happened. I’ve never seen a grown man so devastated in my life. His monotone voice as he searched for words that night in his post-game speech still echoes in my mind to this day.
His teary eyes, sunken posture and soft-voice made for an incredible scene. It was eerie. There were no words and still are no words for what happened.
But talk about a rebirth. At the beginning of this season the only way the Riders could undo the haunting past of that fateful night at McMahon was to meet their nemesis in the Grey Cup this year. And they got what they wanted. If that isn’t enough incentive to pluck those French hens from Montreal then I don’t know what is.
Perhaps it’s fitting that in the Roughriders’ 100-year existence they’ve been able to mount one of the more impressive ends to a season in recent memory. This team has a flair for the dramatic. After losing four straight games down the stretch and taking Rider Nation for a loop, it only seems fitting that it all comes down to this. There won’t be any crazy finishes this year in the championship game, though.
The Riders are going to serve a cold dish of revenge to the Als whether they like it or not. And just think about this: it will be the Riders’ second Grey Cup win in four years. Can you say dynasty?
Prediction: Riders 31, Als 26