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Commentary: Sask. roots on display in Rider’s front office
Roughrider's GM Jeremy O'Day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell
Published Friday, May 24, 2019 10:25AM CST
Last Updated Friday, May 24, 2019 10:34AM CST
At the end of the day, I wiggled my way into the local media business so I could cover the Roughriders, because I was no different than you. I was a big Rider fan.
Growing up in Regina, the Riders were the biggest attraction in town and still are. I recall fond childhood memories of sitting in the old CKCK Radio Rider Rookie end zone section at Taylor Field hoping to catch a football. In a game against Hamilton, I managed to snag a Joe Zugar kick, then quickly raced out of the stadium with a security guard in hot pursuit.
The next day I proudly showed the stolen prize off to jealous onlookers at my local park, only to have the coveted official pigskin stolen an hour later.
As a so-called Rider Rookie after games, you could illegally scale the north end wire fence and run around on the field. It was nice natural grass back then. Once after a clumsy fence scaling in 1967, I asked then Rider tight end Jason Franci for his chin strap. Much like the Zugar ball, I lost that chin strap within the week. I was sorry to see that Franci died in California last October, after a tremendous career as a high school football coach.
Many of you have similar memories if you were a Rider fan growing up in Saskatchewan. We all have our stories and some are better than mine.
That is why the Riders are more than a football club, they weave right into our provincial fabric. We are all united by that. Historically this province is humble, sincere and hard working. Saskatchewan is an underdog. With those traits, The Roughriders represented us on a national stage.
For the past three seasons, Chris Jones ran the football side of the Roughriders. Jones led the Jolly Green to within one game of a Grey Cup berth in 2017, so he did have his decent moments.
It was obvious from the get-go that Saskatchewan was just a stopover for Jones. He was from somewhere else and he was going somewhere else. Jones arrived with a suitcase and left with a suitcase.
He lived in a hotel. Did he ever unpack? He pretty much avoided Saskatchewan winters, although maybe he was smarter in that way than the rest of us.
The fact that Jones had his eye on another prize should not be held against him. It’s professional football with a lifestyle akin to the military.
The moving van is often just a season away.
There is a very different feeling now with GM Jeremy O’Day and Head Coach Craig Dickenson running the football side of the Roughriders.
O’Day and Dickinson seem to be more like the rest of us here in Saskatchewan. They are made of our same woven, Saskatchewan fabric. They have Roughrider memories, especially O’Day. They talk and act like we do. They are sincere. They want to be here. They winter here.
It’s like we got our team back.