© Photo courtesy of Eric Bell
Daily Herald managing editor Perry Bergson (left) gives the thumbs up as former Daily Herald intern Eric Bell takes a selfie at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field on July 12 as the Roughriders faced the B.C. Lions.
I returned to the belly of the beast last weekend.
On Saturday evening I made my way down to Mosaic Place at Taylor Field in Regina for the Canadian Football League game between the Riders and the B.C. Lions.
I’m very much a casual CFL fan these days, with my passionate love of any professional sports teams a long ways behind in the rearview mirror. I figure that I get enough stress in other parts of my life so adding made-up, pretend stress is kind of silly.
But I entered Mosaic Place as a lifelong Blue Bombers “fan,” something I like to tease my co-workers about by occasionally wearing a Big Blue golf shirt. Last season they had a lot to say; this season things are a bit quieter, at least for now.
Anyway, a trip to see the Riders in person is always a treat, regardless of who’s on the other sideline. Ever since my trip to then-Taylor Field in 2003, I’ve considered the nutty people in green to be the league’s best fans.
If you like people watching, this is a gift that keeps on giving.
By a nice coincidence, my tickets for the game on July 12 were in an almost exactly the same spot that my parents’ season tickets were at the old Winnipeg Stadium, on about the eight yard line in the first row.
Fortunately, the guy who sat about three down from my parents in Winnipeg wasn’t there.
They told me that he was a gym teacher. He was a big guy who always wore sandals, despite the fact that he had toenails that would look bad on a yak.
He was a big, loud obnoxious man known primarily for one thing; regardless of who visited, he cheered for them. He hooted when the Bombers made a bad play and was quick to praise the visitor for everything they did.
He was universally loathed by everyone within earshot, and since he had a big voice, that was a lot of people.
Even my happy-go-lucky little mom occasionally wished that someone step up and pop him in the mouth.
I’m sure he’s now at the new stadium annoying a new section of people, because guys like that can’t be stopped. They’re like mould.
But back to the Riders game.
I came by my incredible tickets entirely due to someone else’s good fortune. A friend won them and couldn’t attend the game. I was the happy recipient so I contacted former Daily Herald intern Eric Bell and met him down in Regina for the game.
There are, of course, three ways to Regina.
You can head straight down on Highway 2, a 363-km trip on a narrow road that seems to have a lot of bends and turns.
You can take Highway 11, which is now a divided four-lane beauty but includes a slow trip through Saskatoon as well and is the longest at 399 km.
Or you can take Highway 3 over to Melfort and head down Highway 6, a 373-km trip on a two-lane highway with shoulders. That’s the Goldilocks route for me; it feels just right.
Plus it includes a glimpse at the giant Santa statue in Watson, a nice reminder that snow is only four short months away.
There are spots along the way where you can clearly see how much water is on the land this summer. One home had most of the farmyard under water and had a dike made of bails holding the water back from the house.
I saw hundreds of ducks and geese and even a soggy field with a bunch of pelicans floating around. It was one of many times that I wished that I brought my camera.
I met Eric at his folks’ house and let him drive to the game, figuring the hometown guy will know a place to park. And of course he did.
We arrived early, sampled some of the fine dining at the stadium and chatted until kickoff.
This will get me in trouble back in Manitoba but I cheered for the Riders during the game.
If you watched it -- and since you live in Saskatchewan you probably did -- you’ll remember that there were some great plays but it wasn’t a very well-played game.
The Riders failed to put up a point in the second half and the two teams must have combined for 30 penalties, never an indicator of a can’t-miss game.
I did come away impressed by the talent and toughness of Taj Smith, who took some vicious licks during the game but kept getting up.
While it wasn’t an artistic evening of football, it’s always worth the long trip. I drove away from Regina around midnight and pulled back into my garage just after 3:30 in the morning, weary but thankful for another chance to soak in the atmosphere at Mosaic Place.
You do it right, Riders fans. Thanks again.
Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org