For 364 days the Saskatchewan Roughriders waited patiently for revenge. Twelve months later the pain of the 13th man from a year ago only intensified, as the Montreal Alouettes upended the Riders in the 98th Grey Cup and are back-to-back champions because of it.
A tidal wave of green splashed over Commonwealth Stadium on a beautiful Sunday evening in the Alberta capital; many of the over 63,000 onlookers were hoping for a Rider win. The atmosphere was palpable, electric even, and as the Snowbirds flew over the stadium after “O Canada,” a roar went up that sent chills down my spine. This was another true Canadian moment.
But then the game started. I’m not sure if it’s just me that feels this way, but when Montreal took a knee to end the game, I was in shock as to the where the game went. It flew by. It was as if there should have been another half of football. The game couldn’t be over — we needed more time.
Darian Durant’s only major mistake of the game was a costly one, but not one you can place a great deal of fault on. The sheer fact that Durant was able to fight his way out of a pile of Alouettes and heave up a prayer was a credit to this man’s strength and determination to win. How many times have we seen Durant pull a Houdini act and make a play? We needed one more act.
It was dÃ©jÃ vu all over again.
Rider fans silently filed out of the stadium as blue and red confetti littered Commonwealth Stadium. Unlike last year when I couldn’t bare to watch Montreal hoist the cup, I watched a deserving team, especially Anthony Calvillo, partake in a yearly tradition of raising the trophy high above their heads. But losing never gets easy.
Not since 1996-97 has their been a back-to-back Grey Cup Champion and surprisingly enough it was the Toronto Argonauts who accomplished that feat at the expense of the Riders. The game was also played in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
Part of me wants to lament over the game; what happened to the explosive air-attack we all expected? How did the Riders get fooled again on a faked punt? Why didn’t we try and kick field goals from 47 and 45 yards out? How could we let them win, again? These are questions Rider Nation will debate through the cold dark winter months on the prairies; some green-clad fans will choose to focus on the positives.
Unlike last year’s unbearable post-game press conference with coach Ken Miller, this year was much different. Miller was cool, calm and collected; he was even joking around with media as he headed up to the podium. Despite the fact his team just lost another championship, it wasn’t even close to the heartbreak suffered a year ago. Miller thanked his team, the fans and went on to explain that he has plans to take his team back to the Cup one more time. And in classy Ken Miller style, he thanked everyone as he left the podium.
In a season full of 100-year celebrations it was as though the game itself was secondary to a big birthday bash. And while the Saskatchewan Roughriders couldn’t end 100 years of football on the prairies with the exclamation point they were hoping for, one thing holds true: Rider Pride will endure.