Request to the Cougars: Be our Rocky
Fans and teams all in it together
Todd Colin Vaughan
Our Mount Royal Cougars have moved into the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Canada West division. Prepare for some wins, right?
Well, eventually anyway. We assume.
Our Cougars have moved onto greener pastures with their ascension into the upper echelon of post-secondary athletics. This coincided with the institution becoming a full university, its 100-year anniversary and finishing years of dominance over their former Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference (ACAC) rivals.
What should we expect our athletic jungle cats to achieve out of the gate?
Brutal truth? Growing pains. Silver lining? Hope and fast progress.
A general trend in the sports world is that expansion involves initial struggle and heartbreak. In professional ranks, this comes from the difficulty of forming a winning culture and also relying on young players to grow up fast.
In the collegiate ranks, this comes down to understanding a new level of competition and earning enough notoriety as an institution to attract top-tier talent.
This means the goal for this year is to lay the foundation of excellence needed to ensure Cougar athletics will one day dominate their new stomping grounds.
Does this means wins? Not necessarily.
What that actually means is playing through heartbreak, getting over hurdles and creating expectations of growth and teamwork. Yeah, I know this sounds a bit like sports bologna, but give it a second.
What are the best sport stories? Is it the one about the team that always wins and pummels their opponents? Is that the dream we all have? Of course not. We crave human struggle.
We want Rocky, we want Rudy Ruettiger and of course we want to see the Mighty Ducks’ Charlie Conway hit the penalty shot that his former-Hawks coach Gordon Bombay never did. We all want the underdog.
The Cougars will be our underdog. They’re going to be our success story and they need us fans to get them to that next level.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples to mull over.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have won three Grey Cups in just over 100 years. In a league that has rarely had over 10 teams, this seems like the epitome of mediocrity. So why does a team with such a suspect track record still exist?
The 13th man, of course. “Ridernation”, as they affectionately refer to themselves, are the loving fans of their Green Riders. It’s these fans who create a culture of success and expectation that keeps their team alive, competitive and thriving.
Each of their Grey Cups are spoken of as legend. Their former players, most namely Ron Lancaster, are spoken of as gods and titans. Their field, still Taylor Field despite whoever owns the naming rights now, is their Garden of Eden.
What can we learn from Ridernation? Well, obviously we need to support our team in the bad times. It really is the only thing a responsible fan should do. Don’t count wins.
Instead you should count moments, count memories and count the friends you make while supporting your team. Hell, we should even get a Cougars tailgating team started. Wins are great but being a fan is more than that. It’s a commitment and we, as a school, are equal partners with our team.
Another example comes from Major League Baseball. The Boston Red Sox went 86 years without winning a World Series after selling the immortal Babe Ruth to their principal rivals, the New York Yankees. The drought was known as the Curse of the Bambino.
The team routinely outspent their opponents and still managed to never break the curse. Boston fans stayed loyal.
A lot can be said about the loyalty of Sox fans, the same as Ridernation, but one of their rallying calls has always been to hate the pinstriped uniforms of their Yankee rivals. A bonding method for teams and their fans can always be an obvious enemy.
Luckily for Mount Royal, the obvious enemy is just a 10-minute drive up Crowchild Trail: the University of Calgary Dinos.
Now, I’m not saying get out your old Jurassic Park toys and burn them in effigy but a healthy rivalry is exactly what this program will need.
In essence, if you don’t support your teams on any other days, do it on the days that our cross-town rivals are in our barns. Grab your air horns, talk some smack on Twitter and get out there.
So, those are the facts. Mount Royal has an uphill battle but they’re also a program on the upswing. They will handle their business on the court, turf, field, ice and wherever else. We need to help them in the stands.
They’ll be our underdog; we’ll be their divine intervention.