LABOUR DAY CLASSIC 2016 ROUGHRIDERS AND BLUE BOMBERS: ONCE IN A BLUE (BOMBER) MOON

It is fair to say that we may have witnessed the greatest Labour Day Classic ever.  Wrong result, but there is nothing wrong with letting the Bombers win one every decade or so.  The Roughriders’ season was already over at least two weeks ago so we might as well let the baby have his bottle this time.  And a win now and then helps keep the Bomber fans coming back each year so we can all have a good laugh at their expense most of the time.  Besides, the Bombers deserve another chance to get beaten in the Grey Cup by a Western team if they can string enough wins together to maybe cross-over this year.

Let’s talk about the weekend. Well, my weekend, anyway.  I had made plans to meet up in Regina with some friends from Vancouver and Winnipeg, all originally from Saskatchewan, for the final Labour Day Classic at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field.

I flew into Regina on one of those prop planes that Air Canada runs on the Prairies.  I’m not sure if this is how they treat their Eastern Canada customers, but I’m not impressed.  WestJet has real jets and they let all of their customers fly in them, not just the hoity-toities flying between the big cities.

My parents picked me up from the airport and immediately complained that it took me forever to get off the plane.  Next, we had to deal with the dreaded automatic parking lot system.  Regina Airport lets you park on the premises but you can’t leave until you hand over two lousy bucks.  This required my mom to insert her credit card into the vending machine that dispenses the permissions slips.  My dad assured us that he would never put his credit card in such a sketchy contraption.  The Russian mob might steal his identity, although I suspect that if they did, they would quickly return it in disgust.  For my mom, she had a story of someone she knew who lost his credit card in a similar machine in Libya, and things did not go well for him after that.  But please…  Premier Brad Wall is no Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.  Robert Mugabe, maybe.

We went to lunch at the Hotel Saskatchewan where my mom cross-examined the waiter about the exactitudes of the menu and provided a lengthy explanation as to the reasons behind each one of the items on the menu she was not going to order.  When we all went to lunch during the 2013 Grey Cup weekend in Regina, we went to Crave a few doors down.  There, we insisted upon being moved four times due to the “draft”.  The waiter at the Hotel Saskatchewan assured us that if we found it too drafty, he would let us eat in the adjoining room.  We didn’t take him up on the offer, but I suspect that just knowing they would go to such ridiculous lengths to accommodate our delicate sensibilities was enough for us to enjoy our meal.

I stayed at my dad’s place.  He has a tendency to treat me like an idiotic 15-year old and he was in fine form this time.  First, he would not allow me to have a key to his house.  He insisted that I knock on this front door to get in, even if it was three o’clock in the morning coming home from the bar.  He is afraid that I will lose his extra key and some ruffian will find it, figure out which house it belongs to, break into his house and stab him with one of his own knives.  Can’t argue with that logic, and if it prevents just one murder, it was worth it.  Second, he issued instructions to me on how to walk down his stairs.  He did not want me to break them because it would cost a lot of money to fix, and he reminded me that I’m “kinda heavy.”  Third, he would not let me drive his car.  I’m not talking about driving to the bar or anything like that.  I mean during the day, just around town so I could go to the new Mosaic Stadium open house, visit the Rider Store or just feel like an adult.  It’s probably best that I did not make it to the Rider Store since I will buy anything with a Rider logo on it.  Historically, I have made some very questionable purchases. I guess my dad was just trying to save me from myself. And he offered to call me (but not pay for) a cab.

None of the above came as any surprise to me.  In the past, my dad has provided me with instructions on how to operate the thermostat, instructions that included his insistence that I place my hand against the wall to the side of the thermostat so that, if I tripped while approaching the thermostat, I would not bang my head into said thermostat, thus breaking it and requiring him to replace this terribly rare and valuable thermostat (that was apparently manufactured by NASA sometime during the Borden Government).  Other lengthy instructions included a ten minute lecture on how, and how often, to remove the lint from the dryer lint trap, instructions that ended with him deciding I could not be trusted to do it correctly and, as a result of the fire that would burn his house down if I had unsupervised access to the dryer, I was therefore to call him to replace the lint in the lint trap any time I was about to use the dryer.  I won’t even get into his whole routine about how to turn on the lamp on his all-purpose reading and eating table, mostly because I have forgotten those instructions so I do not use the lamp just in case I do whatever it is that he thinks cannot be done with this incredible piece of space-age technology otherwise known as… a table lamp.  He is also very particular about how I turn on the shower (“don’t pull it right out; just jiggle it out”) and which towels I can use (“the ones on the two lower shelves; not the ones on the two top shelves” “What about the one on the hanger?” “Just leave that one alone.”).

One more thing.  The water pressure is terrible.  Before you take a shower, the whole block needs to go on lock down.  No one move; no one wash their hands, and for godssake don’t flush a toilet.  To be clear, it’s a great part of town—two blocks from the legislature, two blocks from former Premier Devine’s Regina residence, two blocks from where Colin Thatcher’s wife was murdered—but the water pipes are all clogged with tree roots.  That’s how I feel about my large intestine, by the way.

I’m not complaining.  My dad bought me two little Cokes to drink for my stay and two sandwiches in case I got hungry, and they really hit the spot.  Seriously.  And I got to sleep in my own room.  It has a fantastic bed and the spaceship wallpaper really brings back a lot of good memories.  Most of all, his toilet paper is the best.  The best, Jerry, the best.  He’s a little cagey about what brand it is, but trust me, three-ply is the way to go, folks.

My friends from Vancouver inexplicably decided to stay at the Coachman Motor Inn.  For those people living in Regina, it is across the street from the Milky Way on Victoria Avenue.  Everybody in Regina knows what the Milky Way is; it’s an ice cream stand that is lined up all day, every day, from open to close.  Less well known, outside of the Regina Police Service, I suppose, is the Coachman Motor Inn, which looks like the motel at which Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  If you are less famous but still have a hankering to be assassinated, at least in Regina, this is probably the place to go.  But here’s the thing.  The Internet has been around for a while now and no one needs to stay at a bad motel anymore unless you are fleeing from a natural disaster or on the run from the authorities.  By this time in our planet’s history, it’s really not that difficult to use the google machine.  Hell, just go to TripAdvisor.  The first review of the Coachman is “Worst motel stay ever….” and the second is “Motel from hell!”.  I presume the rest of the reviews were confiscated by the police as evidence.  Anyway, for whatever reason, my friends stayed at this motel.  Aside from their description of the stain in the bathtub and the motel’s Norman Bates-like reluctance to hand out extra towels, the oddest thing was the little chain that hung down over the bed.  It was for turning the TV on and off.  It’s a flat screen, mind you, but that just made the whole thing even weirder.

Anyway, my Vancouver friends arrived in Regina around 5 o’clock on Saturday after visiting the old Corner Gas set at Rouleau, Saskatchewan, and the Great Wall of Saskatchewan (google it).  This was a “Prairie Odyssey” for them, so they wanted to hit all the Saskatchewan high spots. Like the Coachman Motor Inn.

We agreed to meet at Casino Regina, which is the name of the casino in Regina.  Casino Regina.  I think they had a contest to name it, and that was the winner. Not very original, but short, accurate and to the point. It’s a casino.  This is Regina.  Casino Regina.  That name beat “Regina Casino” by a hair; no cache.

We had a few drinks at The Last Spike Restaurant, where we found out that the bartender free-poured my drink, Jack Daniels, but he used the gun to pour Roland’s drink, Wiser’s.  My friend Roland confronted the waitress about the discrepancy (I had to wait ten minutes to start drinking so that he could show her the difference between the pours) and, upon learning why I got more booze, he thereafter ordered Jack Daniels, although he insisted it was for girls.

We walked over to Dewdney Avenue where there is a string of bars and restaurants.  Things were decidedly not happenen’ there.  We stopped at Bushwakkers where we couldn’t complain about the service; there was none.  Thankyouverymuch. No, the service was fine once they noticed us. There were a few knots of Bomber fans but otherwise a relatively quiet time.  My last experience with Labour Day in Regina was about 25 years ago when the centre of activity was the old Regina Inn, where most Bomber fans seemed to stay, and the bar downstairs (either Lauderdale’s or O.C.C.’s.) was a social hub.  These days, who knows where everyone goes anymore.  The Pump?

Anyway, after Bushwakkers, I headed over to a bar a few doors down, the name of which escapes me.  Something like “Thursty Someone”.  It had a weird combination of biker types, wannaby biker types, old people like me (maybe not as old as me but close enough), normal humans, a sprinkling of Bomber fans and a smattering of youngsters who were probably just lost.  The doorman insisted that the $5.00 cover charge was worth it since the band was, he claimed, the best live cover band in Regina.  The best, you say?  In all of Regina?  I couldn’t resist a sell-job like that.  Inside, I believe the band was the same one that was at Riderville at Grey Cup 2016 in Winnipeg.  Indeed, they are very good so it was a $5.00 well spent.  My favourite is their version of Robert Palmer’s Bad Case of Loving You; “A hot summer night…”

I stayed out until 3 o’clock just so I could wake up my dad knocking on his front door.  The joke was on me.  He didn’t care and I was dead tired the next day.  The joke’s always on me when it comes to my dad.

Sunday game day starts at 10:00 AM at the Pregame Fan Fest on the Rider practice field adjacent to Mosaic Stadium.  The Fan Fest is the Roughrider equivalent of the tail gate party.  Despite the current fascist government, this is the land of Tommy Douglas and we are naturally very suspicious of individuals who try to organize themselves for their own enjoyment.  While most jurisdictions in North America hold tailgates, in the Saskatchewan socialist paradise, we let the authorities tell us how to have fun, comrade.

All of the usual suspects were there:  Batman; Green Rider Batman.  Jesus. Green Rider Jesus.  Wonder Woman and Green Rider Wonder Woman.  Ninja turtles, Mad Hatters and Power Rangers.  A few Jedi and some green Stormtroopers.  Leprechaun carrying a man.  Lots of babies wearing headphones.    Some 21-year old kid in his underwear who was very concerned about how his hair looked.  An extremely rotund white male with a giant red bullseye painted on his ample naked torso. Just the normal stuff.  There were a few watermelon heads, but mostly just foam or plastic replicas at this point in the watermelon evolution.  (I claim to have started the whole watermelon-on-the-head thing back in 1988.  Prove me wrong, Rider Nation. Prove me wrong.)

The band at Fan Fest looked like it had time-travelled from 1972 and their music was very Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden-centric.  I’m not complaining; they were great.  The practice field was packed but no one was paying attention to the band except for one girl in tight jeans too young to know who Iron Maiden was, dancing languidly in front of the stage.  She looked like she was with the band.  Anyway, the band put on a hell of a show.  At one point, Jesus showed up and rocked out beatifically, but he was quickly accosted by people looking for a selfie. He forgave them.

For the most part, Blue Bomber fans stayed out of Fan Fest.  They coagulated in the back yard of some guy who lives in the alley beside Mosaic.  The Roughrider Drum Line marched by provocatively close, but I’m not sure the Bomber fans were sober enough to notice the racket.

The player introduction at Mosaic is the best in the CFL; there is no comparison. The visiting team gets a quick announcement followed by some Herb Alpert music.  Then the entire stadium rises and a montage of Roughrider greats, and great moments, gets the Rocky III and IV treatment on the jumbotron, along with stirring music.  The fireworks go off, they crank up Bring ‘em Out, and the team pours onto the field.  It. Is. Awesome.

I was a little choked that the Snowbirds didn’t show up.  Two CF-18’s were good, but we couldn’t see them up in nosebleed section 206.  We watched them fly away after their second strafing.

Okay, about the game.  Here’s the deal with the Roughriders. I don’t know whose job it is to prepare the team, but they might consider stepping up their game since the Riders don’t seem to realize this is a real live game until the second half.  Fortunately, Darian Durant went into his “I’ve had enough of this bullshit” mode in the third quarter, which is somewhat akin to Hulk Hogan hulking up.  You can always tell when Darian has decided to put the team on his shoulders and win the damn game himself: he throws for 400 yards, he starts running, and he hands out interceptions like candy.  Throughout his career, he has been the man doing everything to win a game, and if the team decides to come along, so be it, but he’s not waiting.  Sometimes, the team doesn’t come along.  The 2009 Grey Cup was one of those games, the 2012 Western Semi Final was one of those games and, unfortunately, the 2016 Labour Day Classic was one of those games. I’m just hoping that this current team grows up fast enough to eventually turn into one of those Rider teams that can keep up with Durant.  He’s not getting any younger.

So, dear reader, Labour Day in Regina is the best in Canada.  Hamilton and Calgary are good, but this is the Labour Day Classic (even if it is not actually played on Labour Day).  Nobody seems to understand this, and this ignorance was brought home when one of TSN’s ever-growing roster of hotties did one of the “Now You Know” features discussing the importance of the Labour Day games.  Most of the shots and clips were from the Hamilton/Toronto game day, and the least were from the Roughrider/Bomber game.  Trust me Canada.  This is the place to be for football on Labour Day.

Anyway, the game did not end well, at least as far as any right-thinking human is concerned, and the Roughrider season is effectively over, if it was not already.  But Roughrider fans went home happy.  This team is showing enough to tell us we might really have something here.  Something big.  So what if we have to let the Bombers have a little fun at our expense this year.  And besides, we still love Weston Dressler.  The little guy deserves some fun before he is concussed out of the league.

At the top of this article I complained about the prop plane Air Canada used to fly me into Regina.  Well, I flew out of Regina on a WestJet jet, but damn, WestJet would only serve water, tea or coffee.  No pop.  No Coke or Sprite or nothing.  What the hell?  I want my damned pop, and yes, I do want the whole damned can.  So now I don’t know what to do.  Air Canada Props are slow and lame, but WestJet is cheaping out on the pop.  I’m flying Air Canada to the Toronto Grey Cup this year, but that’s a jet.  I don’t know what I’ll do next year if I decide to visit the new Mosaic on Labour Day.  Damn.  Decisions-decisions. What would Green Rider Jesus do?

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