FROM THE HOME OFFICE
And all it took was a simple 30-29 Saskatchewan home victory over the Ottawa RedBlacks!
I'm joking of course, because Friday's long-awaited victory by the Saskatchewan Roughriders was anything but simple. But it has completely turned this province's frown upside-down and today, as we begin a brand new week, you'd have to look long and hard to find someone who isn't smiling ear-to-ear after the Roughriders' last-minute victory the other night.
That simple little triumph has lifted Saskatchewan out of the West Division basement at 1-3 and now your friendly neighbourhood Roughriders head to Montreal this Friday with the prospect of, with a win, potentially coming home tied for third in the West.
What a difference a win makes.
People are giddy and once again the Roughriders were the number-one topic across the Wheat Province over the weekend only this time, it was for all the right reasons. "We played better in other games and still lost," one Rider fan said to me on Sunday.
Funny how it's "we" when the Riders win and "they" when they lose.
But no matter. The Rider bandwagon is filling up and team President Craig Reynolds is at the front of the bus taking tickets. There are plenty of seats still available.
To be honest, it's not like anyone was tearing down the walls around here over the past few weeks anyway. In fact, on last Friday's home game day, I was floored to see all of the people adorned in green and white on the streets of downtown Regina. At least 2-in-3 were wearing a Rider jersey, golf shirt or some sort of Rider garb even though their club hasn't won once in the calendar year.
I bumped into Ottawa RedBlacks Defensive Coordinator Mark Nelson on Regina's downtown Scarth Street - he was out to grab a morning coffee - and he was equally impressed by the show of support from the Rider Nation.
"You'd never know we're 0-3!" I mused to the Nick Nolte-lookalike.
"That's the beautiful thing about Regina," Nelson smiled back. He'd know, since he spent one season as a linebacker with the Green Riders back in 1986.
Frankly Friday's victory over the previously-unbeaten RedBlacks was just a bonus as far as I was concerned. Head Coach and General Manager Chris Jones had already demonstrated to me at Thursday's pregame news conference that this football club was indeed on the right track. I asked the motorcycle-riding coach if the players on this football club still believe they are a good team because, after all, they hadn't won yet and talk is cheap.
"“I think they believe they are internally,” Jones said. “But again, it’s 12 new guys on defense and there are a lot of rookies in the room so until you win a football game ... you’re judged off whether you win or lose.”
I couldn't have been more comfortable with Jones' response. You could tell in his eyes that he was tired of losing, even if it's only been a handful of games to start the year. He even admitted to reporters that he was getting frustrated and that his coaching staff wasn't used to losing.
Jones knew full well that it was time to put up or shut-up but even I knew that once those 44 players took to the field, their performance was generally beyond their coach's control. Were they ready to take that next step and actually win a game? They'd been so close to winning the past few weeks but had come up empty.
I was simply satisfied with the fact that Jones wasn't content to blow sunshine up the Rider Nation's skirt any longer. He saw what we all saw: a blossoming young football team that's on the rise but if they didn't win soon, would start questioning their own abilities and maybe even the direction they were given.
And then, VOILA!
Before a crowd of 31,071, Canada's Team went out and dumped the RedBlacks on a last-minute 53-yard field goal by Tyler Crapigna (Crah-PEEN-Yah), on another glorious Saskatchewan summer night.
Oh and by the way, has anyone else noticed we've had perfect weather for each of the four home games so far this season in the last one on Piffles Taylor Way? I've heard God's a Rider fan and he's certainly set the table nicely for the Farewell Season at the old Mosaic Stadium.
And it really struck me in Friday's game that when Taylor Field/Mosaic Stadium is truly rocking, it's going to be impossible to replace. You know the kind of atmosphere where it's so loud that the west side grandstand is shaking? (You can tell on television because the TSN cameras are shaking). It's bedlam.
That's what we had the other night and with this win, the Saskatchewan Roughriders - I believe - are over the hump. Look out, rest of the CFL. We told you it's building and it's coming under Chris Jones.
Only six games are left at Mosaic Stadium and the Roughriders are coming off the mat.
Are you going to be here?
MONDAY QUICK HITS
1 - THANK YOU CFL!: Post cereals and the Canadian Football League have teamed up to offer Canadians an Ultimate Experience at the 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto! The CFL shipped me a box full of this cereal last week with the note, "Hope you have lots of milk". The guys and gals in the league office asked me to spread the word amongst you blog readers and Rider fans about this great summer and fall promotion by the CFL and Post. Pick up a box today at your local grocery store and fill out your entry! Meanwhile, I've got some cereal to eat.
2 - UH OH IN WINNIPEG: Is it too late to replace that photo of Drew Willy on the Honeycomb box with a pic of Matt Nichols? Willy's been benched after a sub-par outing last week against Calgary and Matt Nichols will start this week when the Bombers visit Edmonton on Thursday.
As if the Blue Bombers didn't have enough problems, now they have the Roughriders to contend with. At least with their own struggles over the past year and a bit, the Bombers could point to Saskatchewan and say "Well, we're better off than them".
However now the Riders have leap-frogged the Bombers in the West Division (by virture of their game in hand) and it's clear Saskatchewan is only getting better. Unfortunately for the Blue and Gold, it would seem they're only getting worse.
As one CFL personnel-type said to me last week, "Why would they go with Matt Nichols? He's just another version of Drew Willy, only worse".
Who knows. What other teams do is their business.
3 - THE CUP RETURNS TO REGINA: Regina's Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins is bringing the Stanley Cup to Regina for a third time. Kunitz's day with the Stanley Cup is Tuesday, July 26 and there will be a celebration from 3:30-5:30 pm at City Square Plaza across from Victoria Park. Fans will be able to meet Kunitz and get their pictures taken with the Cup for a donation to charity. Of course organizers came to 620 CKRM to help promote it and our own Phil Andrews will be the MC for the event!
Come on down
4 - OKAY BLUE JAYS: Meanwhile on Tuesday the Toronto Blue Jays caravan is rolling through Regina and will be present at the Regina Red Sox game that night at Currie Field. It's an interactive exhibit where fans can get their photos taken with Marcus Stroman, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Aaron Sanchez. They can also get virtual autographs from those four players! You can also be on the cover of magazines like Sportsnet, People, Hello Canada, McLean's and Today's Parent. There will also be free popcorn!
5 - DON'T FEAR SOCIAL MEDIA: If you're a small business owner who knows you need a social media strategy but the whole idea is just too overwhelming or intimidating, then stop fretting! The first edition of the PedersenMedia Social Media Handbook if just for you and I've added a special "Introduction to Social Media" for the business owners who are starting from scratch. Are your numbers down in 2016? Well social media commerce was up 300% in Q1 and Q2. Start taking advantage of it! Email me for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THAT'S IT FOR NOW! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4:00 PM