Take 100 grown men -- half of them dressed in green and white, the other half in blue and gold -- trot them out in front of an emotionally charged full house and what do you get?
A marketing man's dream, straight from the hype handbook of WWE kingpin Vince McMahon.
The renewal of Thursday night's Bomber-Rider rivalry hadn't even started yet when the testosterone took over in the pre-game warmup. The Riders emerged from their dressing room just before the Bomber introductions, camped out near midfield and began jumping and jawing at the home side.
The officiating crew had to separate the two sides and Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea was none too pleased -- yelling at the officials during and after the incident and then, reportedly, broaching it with Rider head coach Corey Chamblin before the game.
"It's gamesmanship," said O'Shea in his post-game media conference. "Whatever. It's fine. That part has no bearing on us."
Asked what he and Chamblin were saying to each other afterward, O'Shea grinned, then added:
"What was said before the game?" said Chamblin when asked about the incident Friday in Regina. "There was a little heated words there. There was a miscommunication as to what time we were supposed to come out on the field and how we came out.
"It seemed like it was a sign of disrespect, but it wasn't. We just came out later than we should have. No disrespect to the Bombers or their pre-game ritual."
Chamblin was still beaming about the win a day later, telling media a regular-season game in August meant as much to him as some of Saskatchewan's playoff victories under his watch.
"There are no words to describe it," said Chamblin. "I mean, you had to be there. It was an energy-filled game. It was a tough game. It was like a championship game, I can really tell you that. It was a defensive battle, but we were happy to come out with the win.
"I'd say right now there's a 1 and a 1A. Us winning in the semis vs. B.C.... the Calgary wins... but this is probably one of the tougher ones, because that stadium is probably the loudest stadium in this league and once they get going it's hard to turn them off.
"It started with the pre-game," Chamblin added. "Pre-game was heated. Everything was heated. Those guys... Mike had his guys ready. And I guess their mindset was if they beat the champs then they're legitimate in what they're trying to do. It was just the energy and emotions of the game, the grit and the strategy and everything about it."
Take note: the rematch, the annual Labour Day Classic, is in Regina on Aug. 31 with the Banjo Bowl a week later here on Sept. 7.
PLAY WITH FIRE/GET BURNED: The Bombers had been the only CFL team this season to lose the turnover battle and win a game, entering Thursday's contest 3-0 in those situations. But that all caught up with them against the Riders as Winnipeg committed seven turnovers -- three Drew Willy interceptions, a Willy fumble, a Demond Washington fumble and the crazy end-of-the-game play where the Bombers attempted to lateral the ball around on third down before fumbling.
"Whenever you lose the turnover battle, you don't have a very good chance of winning the game," said Bomber offensive tackle Glenn January. "We've been playing with fire this year and it caught up to us tonight."
Added O'Shea: "It's bound to catch up with you. But, once again, we got the ball with under a minute to go and we still had a chance to drive down and win. There's something positive about that.
"Taking care of the football is one of the things we inspect on a daily basis. This game it might have got away from us a little bit."
THE BEAST EATS: Rider end John Chick got to Willy three times on Thursday, boosting his league-leading sack total to nine -- in just six games.
"He's a beast," said Chamblin. "John Chick is one of my favourite players, ever. Twenty years from now John Chick can call me and anything he needs I'll give it to him, because that guy is going to be a guy that I remember for a long time. He has a tremendous heart and he's definitely the heart and soul of our team."
QUOTABLE: O'Shea, when asked if he was into silver linings and the notion the Bombers pushed the champs to the edge in Thursday's defeat: "No. It's a loss. It stinks. That's one loss. It's not the end of the world. We play again in five days. Let's get rid of it, as we do with every other game. Let's prepare to go into Toronto and win a game."
BLUE NOTES: Demond Washington's days as a returner aren't over, despite his second-half fumble Thursday that contributed to the momentum swing for the Riders. Said O'Shea: "At some point he will (return kicks again). Yeah, absolutely. Demond Washington is arguably the best athlete we have on our team."... Messam became the third Riders running back in six games to crack the 100-yard rushing mark, along with Ford and Anthony Allen.
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