Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One-sided rivalry

There's no two ways about it — Saskatchewan has dominated Blue

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Tempers flared during last year’s Banjo Bowl at Investors Group Field. The game was unusual because the Bombers actually pulled out a victory. Saskatchewan has won 11 of the past 13 Labour Day Classics.

TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Tempers flared during last year’s Banjo Bowl at Investors Group Field. The game was unusual because the Bombers actually pulled out a victory. Saskatchewan has won 11 of the past 13 Labour Day Classics. Photo Store

So, at what point does a rivalry transition into just a regularly scheduled, old fashioned butt-kicking?

We're asking, of course, because for all the chest-thumping that goes on in River City about the Blue Bombers' ferocious rivalry with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the cold hard facts are one team has completely dominated the other for a very long time now.

And no, it hasn't been the team that calls Winnipeg home that has had the upper hand.

Consider:

  • The Bombers have won just two of the last 13 meetings with the Riders;
  •  The Bombers haven't won in Regina since 2004, a Labour Day losing streak of nine straight games. Yeah, but that's just lately, you're saying? Wrong -- Saskatchewan has won 32 of 50 Labour Day matchups over the years -- and 16 of the last 20;
  • The Bombers have appeared in two Grey Cups since 2007 and lost both, including the 2007 matchup with the Riders. The Riders have appeared in four Grey Cups since 2007 and won twice.

Rivalry? Well, if your definition of rivalry is slinking out of Regina with your tail between your legs once a year and generally cursing all things Saskatchewan, sure.

But if you subscribe to the dictionary definition of "rivalry" -- "a state or situation in which people or groups are competing with each other," according to Merriam-Webster -- well, let's face facts, it hasn't been much of a competition lately with our neighbours to the west.

As rivalries go, let's face it -- this one has been more Yankees-Mets than Habs-Bruins.

Truth hurts? Sure, especially when the truth is those clowns in green have been eating our lunch and cutting our grass. And not in a good way.

But if the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, then maybe it's long since past the time we all accepted in these parts that we have an uneven relationship with our western neighbours and their beloved Riders.

Or not. "I want to beat them so bad," centre Steve Morley fumed on Friday as his team went through one final rain-soaked practice at Investors Group Field in advance of busing to Regina last night.

"I will tell you right now, I don't think there would be any better feeling than to beat them in their own house. If we beat them there, I think that feeling would be just as big as a Grey Cup." A Grey Cup? Come on.

"I'm serious. You have no idea what it's like for us there," continued Morley, who has been on the losing end of four trips to Regina over the years. "Once you get to Saskatchewan, the fans are on you from the second the bus arrives. They're yelling at you as you get off the bus. You arrive at the stadium and they're all out there four hours before the game, sitting there in their Riders jerseys all hunched over and waiting on you.

"And then once you get out there for warmups, they're all sitting in their seats already. And then once you get to the bench, they're heckling you the whole time. And even when you're leaving after the game, they're in your face.

"You wish you could just beat these guys so you could finally shove it back in their face."

All of which would seem to suggest that while this Bombers rivalry has been a lopsided one, it still burns hot and bright on both sides of the field -- and in the stands.

"It's absolutely still a rivalry, even despite the lopsided numbers in recent years," says offensive tackle Glenn January.

"There's so many moving parts, it's hard to judge this rivalry by the actual teams. In pro sports, I think rivalries are built by the fans, because those are the people that are consistently there, year after year.

"But that's not to say there aren't certain teams you develop a special distaste for over the course of the years. And I can tell you there are a number of guys who've been in this locker-room who would love nothing more than to go out to Saskatchewan and get a win."

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea was asked if the lopsided history of the rivalry works for or against his team -- serving as either a motivating or an intimidating force.

Ancient news and besides the point, replied O'Shea. "We're not that team," said O'Shea. "I don't use (the history). And I haven't thought much about how it might work for or against us."

But Bombers defensive lineman Bryant Turner does believe the long and rich history between the two teams makes for a novel dynamic when they meet, creating an environment that wipes the slate clean at opening kickoff.

Turner noted the Bombers were 1-8 when they beat the eventual Grey Cup champion Riders in the Banjo Bowl last year for what was Winnipeg's only home win of 2013.

"It just feels like whatever our previous records are -- we could be 0-10 -- anything is possible when we face Saskatchewan," he said.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2014 C1

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