CFL rivalry: Stamps get ready to take on Riders at home
Hang onto your watermelons!
The Calgary Stampeders will take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders, on Friday, Oct. 24, for the first time at home. Tensions will be high, as the Riders come off of a four game losing streak.
Yet, the atmosphere at any CFL game, where the two teams meet, is always heightened because of the deep rooted rivalry. Some may view the Edmonton Eskimos as the Stamps’ biggest enemies, but the beef with the Riders seems to go to new levels.
“I know a lot of the Stamps love winning in Saskatchewan even more than they love winning in Edmonton,” says Nic Sgaggi, a fourth-year public relations student at Mount Royal University, who worked for the Stampeders this summer.
Football teams and their fans combine provincial and sporting norms to create unique mini cultures. Fans use sporting events to build communities and create strong loyalties. Arthur Raney, in the article Enjoyment of Sports Spectatorship, explains that sports fans often experience emotional affiliation with teams they follow. It’s no surprise that Rider fans take this concept seriously, with many claiming that they bleed green.
“Being that the Riders are Saskatchewan’s only pro sport’s franchise, it would be fair to say that the majority of those raised in Saskatchewan are die hard Rider fans,” says Josh Haire, rider fan and current second-year geometrics engineering student at the University of Calgary.
Loyalty and emotional connection make it easier to choose who you like and who you don’t like in the CFL. Passionate Stamps and Riders’ fans set the stage for a stronger rivalry. Sgaggi says fan passion makes all the difference when it comes to competitiveness.
“I think there is such a strong rivalry between the Stamps and Riders because of the fact that they’ve consistently been the two most competitive teams in the CFL in recent years, but a lot of it also has to do with the fans. When the Riders come to McMahon Stadium you feel their fan presence.”
Sgaggi says that while he was doing Stampeder interviews over the summer, players even helped ramp up the rivalry.
“I remember when I interviewed Bo Levi Mitchell, I asked him what his favourite CFL road city to visit was. He told me, ‘Saskatchewan. I love winning in Saskatchewan. Make sure you put that in my video.’ It goes to show that the rivalry makes it fun for the fans and players alike.”
How could we possibly forget the Cornish corn-hole incident? On Sept. 24, John Cornish, Stampeders’ running back, was fined for mooning fans during a game in Saskatchewan in 2012. He stated to CBC that he “definitely took it one step too far,” yet it could be argued he was being equally cheeky within the rivalry.
Another factor, that has brewed the CFL squabbling for 30 years, is the migration of Saskatchewan people to Alberta. According to the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, the ‘80s saw a massive immigration of people leaving the province for work opportunities, with the average rate rising from 1,000 people per year to 9,000 people per year.
The encyclopedia also states that over the past ten years, 55 per cent of migrants go to Alberta. Take a look at the stands during a Stamps verses Riders game at McMahon; it’s clear how many former Saskatchewan people and families are in Calgary.
Security increases are also common when the Roughriders come to McMahon Stadium. One of the most memorable ramped up security games was in 2009. It was a shining example of how even the team’s organizations like to poke fun at one another.
On Aug. 7, 2013, the Stampeders’ official website published an article called “The Ten Reasons Why Riders Fans are Annoying.” Now removed from the site, the piece made variety of statements including Rider fans are whiners, they don’t know their drinking limits and that they shouldn’t have left Saskatchewan in the first place.
In an interview with CTV, shortly after the article, current Stampeders’ President Gordon Norrie, said the list was compiled by the marketing department and that it only contributed to the good natured rivalry.
Of course, there was retaliation from the Riders. Rob Peterson, known as the “voice of the Riders” posted an immediate response of others on his blog stating that Henry Burris, at the time Stampeder’s quarterback, was the biggest whiner of them all, that Stamps are the biggest instigators in the league, and that the CFL would be nothing without the financial support of the Riders.
Ultimately, it’s the fans who fuel the fire. According to Anthony King, author of Postmodernity of Football Hooliganism, fans can often create strong emotional boundaries and loyalties to their teams. They can often become overly possessive and aggressive to protect theses ambiguous boundaries.
Inappropriate acts of violence during games aren’t fun for anyone. Although these instances occur at games, it’s not a reflection of the fan collective for either teams.
“I definitely do think there is a downside to too much rivalry. Some fans ruin it for everyone. But you’re going to get that between any two teams in any sport. That’s unfortunately just the nature of the game,” says Sgaggi.
Haire says that some fans take it to too far at games and that when Riders come to Calgary, it’s way more likely to happen.
“Riders and Stamps games can sometimes lead to violence in the stands, verbal abuse and other negative consequences. Some people struggle to disconnect real life and what is merely a form of entertainment.”
Overall, poor fan conduct can’t be seen as a reflection of the entire team and, for the most part, rivalries create entertaining atmospheres.
“I think CFL fans do a good job of showing respect for one another no matter who is playing. Whereas, appropriate competitive banter makes game day fun” Says Sgaggi.
No matter who you cheer for on Friday’s game, it will be exciting both on and off the field. Seats are still available, and MRU students can use their student ID to purchase tickets for $15 in the “fan zone” at ticketmaster.com. The event is also a CFL Pink game in support of women and their families experiencing cancer.