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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

Rider pride on the American side...

Posted 11/27/13 (Wed)

For those of you not familiar with the Canadian Football League, the CFL’s 101st championship game was held Sunday night in Regina.

It’s the first time the Saskatchewan Roughriders played in the Grey Cup game in front of their hometown fans, handily beating up on the young, inexperienced Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 45-23.

Several Grey Cups have been played in Regina over the years, but this is the first time in CFL history that Saskatchewan has hosted a Grey Cup in which the Roughriders not only played, but won the nationally televised game in front of 45,000.

And had it not been for the sea-of-green fans of this team, which claim Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Estevan and everywhere in between as home, the team may not have earned the century-old silver trophy.

But a unique thing about the Roughriders is that their fan base goes far beyond provincial borders, spilling into nearby Alberta, other parts of Canada and yes, several states including North Dakota.

This international following can only be described as the envy of the Canadian Football League.

Fans like myself and Minot banker Terry Zeltinger have been Rider fans through thick and thin, poor teams, botched plays in key playoff games, front office controversy, stadium issues, scheduling conflicts and bozo trades.

But we’ve also been there during good years when the Roughriders win and this year is one to remember as this football team marched through the playoffs, beating two solid teams, one of them on the road in Calgary.

And, there’s an added bonus for North Dakota fans. The Roughriders have a wide receiver named Weston Dressler, who is arguably the best receiver in the Canadian Football League.

Dressler is a UND graduate and grew up playing football at Bismarck High School. When he was at UND from 2004-07, he earned the nickname “Mr. Electricity.” He owns or shares 19 UND football records and was named CFL Rookie of the Year in 2008.

Not only is Dressler a popular player among fans and media alike, but he caught a touchdown pass late in Sunday’s game to seal the win. Dressler, No. 7, graces the Roughriders’ Facebook page.

My first memory of the Roughriders dates back to October 1973 when I was 14 years old. Tuning through the radio dial one Sunday afternoon, I found a football game on CKCK radio, now CKRM, 620 AM in Regina. The Roughriders were beating up on the Calgary Stampeders that day.

I have been a fan ever since and have attended many games in Regina and Winnipeg.

I can go so far as to say that I remained a staunch Roughrider fan when the CFL expanded into the United States, bringing the Sacramento Gold Miners into the league in 1993.

So for those of us who have stuck with the Riders, including Terry McEvoy, a Minnesota man who wrote the book “Rider Pride on the American Side,” there’s no better time to celebrate than now because Dressler and the Roughriders  have waited a long time to win the Grey Cup at home.