Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 11/26/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats never had a chance.
This was not a game between the Eastern and Western representatives of the Canadian Football League.
This was a game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the entire province of Saskatchewan, and no matter how well the Ticats had played up to this point in the off-season, they didn't have a hope of bringing it home.
If Jonathan Martin -- the player that walked off the Miami Dolphins because of alleged abuse from Richie Incognito -- had been watching the 101st Grey Cup, he probably would have withdrawn his grievances from the NFL, and sent Incognito a thank you card for his warm welcoming.
Henry Burris received pilings of abuse in this game, the likes I have never seen before.
In any Regina watering hole leading up to kickoff, the chants of "Hennnnnnn-rrrrrrryyyy" cascaded off the bartops every 15 minutes like a grandfather clock.
Old, scandalous photos of Burris wearing women's undergarments resurfaced and were blown up and Photoshopped and made into picket signs, T-shirts and costumes -- and this was all before the game had even started.
As any athlete who has played in front of a capacity crowds knows, the energy and electricity that emanates from the grandstand after a big play is so palpable it can overwhelm you with excitement.
So what happens when the exact opposite transpires and almost 45,000 people mock and jeer you in unison?
When they hold signs with your name on it and direct an equal and reverse force of ill will? At one point I felt that Burris might spontaneously combust on national television with all the derision being directed his way.
The fact he completed 45 per cent of his passes and only threw one interception is actually one of the finest performances I have witnessed under duress and in the most hostile of environments.
A lesser quarterback would have been broken by the end of the first two-and-out in the first quarter.
As we all came to realize by halftime, it is one challenge to play and defeat the Roughriders at Mosaic stadium in the regular season, and a completely different animal to confront them at home for a championship title.
With only six minutes gone in the game, Darian Durant scrambled out of the pocket and fumbled the ball up in the air.
In any other game, any other place, that football ends up being recovered by the opposition with a huge momentum swing.
With the Riders playing for the Grey Cup at home, Riders running back Kory Sheets catches it in stride and the play goes for 42 yards.
When we played the Riders for the Grey Cup in 2007, the thing that always stayed with me was then-Rider defensive tackle Scott Schultz talking about why they had to win.
He didn't go as far to guarantee the win like Brandon Boudreaux did foolishly for Hamilton this week, he just said they had to win as a measure of tribute to the most loyal and passionate fans in the business.
He made it seem like this nation of football fans, this "Rider Nation," was a juggernaut, an irresistible and compelling force, without rival or equal.
And though that game was played 2,000 kilometres from Regina, and even though as the Eastern representative we were the "home team," it was made all too clear who the visitors were and the kind of fight we had in store.
Last week I was convinced the Riders would win simply because of their experience playing outdoors this post-season, and the elements would be one of too many factors for the Tiger-Cats to overcome.
After spending a few days in Regina this weekend, it dawned on many of us it wasn't even fathomable that this team could lose this game.
Sometimes a will is so strong it cannot be denied, and when you have the support of an entire province behind you, there was no other way this was going to end.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and the days following game days in the Free Press.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2013 D5
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