Friday, 27 February 2015
A Condemnation of Rider Nation
I hate fans like that, and nowhere is that attitude better exemplified than with the people who make up "Rider Nation."
Earlier this week, the team itself sent out a tweet and in said tweet they referred to themselves as "Canada's Team."
Sorry to break it to everyone, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders are not, in any way, Canada's Team. In fact, NO team in the CFL is Canada's Team. To be considered the nation's team, one would have to be beloved by a vast majority of the nation. No team in CFL can claim anywhere near 50.1 per cent of the national population as being fans of their team. So just cut this Canada's Team shit out.
But it is not only this Canada's Team nonsense that irks many about the Riders are their fans. No, it goes deeper than that. And the sad part is, it wasn't always this way.
For quite some time, if you asked a CFL fan who they liked besides their own team, more often than not their answer would have been Saskatchewan. They were the plucky underdog, the lovable loser, the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Browns of the Canadian Football League. The Roughriders WERE the identity of Saskatchewan (still are, frankly) and fans from around the country wished for nothing but good things for the team in green.
But then things changed. I don't know when it happened exactly, but that plucky underdog became a hypocritical, arrogant, insufferable juggernaut and fans turned. And I don't mean juggernaut off the field. Sure, the Riders have had plenty of success over the past decade or so, but no more so than any other team. No, it was the financial success of the team that turned their fans from fun loving into full-on jerks.
Now, I must stress that I am not trying to say every Rider fan is an asshole. This is about that segment of the fanbase that rational Rider fans probably despise.
Also, I do not in any way begrudge the Riders their financial success. I laud it, I cheer for it, as I would for any team (yes, even the Argos). I want every CFL team to be not just financially stable, but to be making money hand over fist. The better off each individual team is monetarily, the better the league is as a whole.
But it seems that once the Riders become the financial powerhouse that they are today, something changed. The fans become nastier, angrier and just downright rude to anyone who dared question Saskatchewan's superiority.
It is like they forgot that not long ago, it was their team that was on the brink of folding. It was their team that needed to hold a telethon in order to keep the lights on. It was their team that needed NFL money to help keep their team from going under.
And now, because they found stable footing and are rolling in money – again, good for them – they turn their noses up at the Hamiltons and Torontos of the league who have gone through tough times. You would think, or at least hope, that a group of people who so identify with their team would not wish the same on others. But yet, whenever someone dares say that the Riders aren't the be all and end all, one of the first things they thrown in your face is how much money they have.
Another point they love to make is how attendance goes up when the Riders are in town. There is no denying that Saskatchewan has a lot of fans nationwide, but so does every other team. I personally know Tiger-Cat fans in BC and PEI. I know of Cats fans who span the globe, be it in Taiwan or England (and these are just the ones I know personally, I am sure there are more). But the dirty little secret that Rider fans don't like to talk about is that all these fans around the country are not in Saskatchewan because they were forced to move to find work years ago. Saskatchewan is now a booming economy – and again, good for them – but that was not always the case. Many residents needed to move out-of-province in order to provide for their families. And they took their Rider pride with them.
But it is not just the arrogance, it is also the hypocrisy. The CFL has a salary cap, or more accurately a Salary Management System, and because it is not a hard cap, teams have exceeded the cap. In the seven years where data is available (the numbers from 2014 have not been released yet) there have been six violations of the SMS: one by Montreal, one by Winnipeg and four by Saskatchewan.
What also needs to be explained is that one of the teams who pushed hardest for some type of salary cap was...
The Saskatchewan Roughriders!
The Riders were so concerned that they couldn't compete financially that they essentially demanded that the league implement some type of salary cap to balance the competition league-wide and allow for more parity. They wanted to take away the competitive advantage from teams like the Eskimos, who routinely would just paid for all the best players, and make the league more equitable.
How the worm has turned.
Now that Saskatchewan is the financial workhouse of the league, you will often find Rider fans scoffing at the notion that they should have to play by the rules. And their four cap transgressions in seven seasons shows that their management is in lockstep with that idea. It is a horrible attitude and one that infuriates fans of the other eight teams.
So what you have is a team that cried poor and demanded some type of system that made it easier for them to compete becoming the one to basically say, "To hell with the rules, they don't apply to us because we're rich!"
And maybe the craziest thing is, they still think everyone loves them. They remind me of Red Sox fans. When the Sox were going through their 86-year championship drought, many opposing team fans quietly cheered for them. When they finally broke through and won it all in 2004, a lot of people were happy. But then the arrogance kicked it. For some insane reason, they thought everyone loved them because people cheered for them in '04. They thought everyone was a Red Sox fan. That by not being the Yankees, they were seen as the good guys. They were the scrappy underdog taking it to the big, bad Bronx Bombers. But the '04 run was a one-off. It was not the beginning of a growing of Red Sox Nation, it was simply people who felt sorry that they went over 80 years between championships cheering for them one time. And with the Red Sox trying to make themselves out to be the anti-Yankees, it made them look like hypocrites. The Red Sox are exactly like the Yankees. They spend obscene amounts of money to lure the best players to Boston in the hopes of maintaining their winning ways. They became the very thing they fought against all those years. Sound familiar?
I am already prepared for the backlash this will create. Normal, well-adjusted fans of the Riders will likely view this and go, "Yup, he's right. We do have a bunch of assholes in our fanbase." To those people, let it be known that I am not talking about you.
But to the other side – the one who will claim I am a hater or that I am jealous or some other such nonsense – bring it on. There is a comment section below that you are free to fire back at me. But do me one favour, don't be a coward. Put your name on it. You want to be the big, bad bully, then don't comment anonymously.
So have at me, Rider Nation. I'm not backing down.