Winnipeg, MB –
Saskatchewan native and life-long Roughriders fan, Matt Slewski is finally coming to terms with the fact his home province might be off track with its CFL passion.
The 35-year-old moved from Regina for work 5 years ago and began noticing his enthusiasm for the Riders and CFL was not matched by local’s love of their own team.
“Every game day I’d do what we were brought up doing in Saskatchewan,” Slewski said. “I’d wear my Riders green jersey and get fired up for the game. When I lived in Toronto I noticed nobody else wore football jerseys on game day. It was like they didn’t even know there was a game.”
After living in Ontario, Slewski moved to his bitter rival’s city of Winnipeg. It was a tough decision, but to advance his career he had to make the move.
“When I came to Winnipeg, I expected to see blue and gold all over the place on game day,” Slewski said. “There were more than I saw in Toronto but nowhere close to the sea of green in Regina.”
Slewski suspected there might be a trend happening and travelled to other CFL cities on game day and was shocked at what he found.
“You’d see a lot of jerseys at the stadiums and quite of bit of enthusiasm in Alberta and Manitoba but it was nothing like Saskatchewan. We might be way too over the top with the football thing.”
The results of his investigation led him to wonder why no one else seemed to care as much as Rider fans.
“I started talking to opposing fans and realized they seem to have other things in their lives they were more interested in than football,” Slewski explained. “They liked their team and the CFL but it wasn’t the only thing in their life.”
“In Saskatchewan we don’t have anything else to look forward to. The Riders are the only thing giving us hope and a will to live. There is absolutely nothing else.”
Slewski points out people in Toronto had so many other things to do they seemed to forget about football.
“In Winnipeg, they’re keener on going to the lake in the summer and then the Jets start up and that’s what most people talk about. They care about the Jets almost as much as we care about the Riders.”
While he is looking forward to this week’s Banjo Bowl, Slewski admits the rivalry isn’t what he used to believe it was.
“Sure Bomber fans have the noisiest stadium in the country but they aren’t devastated when they lose in the same way Rider fans are.”
“Now that I’ve been away for a while, I’m a little embarrassed by the way Saskatchewan folks insist on wearing Rider gear all the time. It’s not their fault, they just don’t understand cheering that hard for a CFL team is a little over the top.”
“It’s a bit like that odd kid in high school who thinks they are cool by being a super-fan of a fringe band nobody else cares about,” Slewski offered. “Sometimes they grow out of that stage and realize the rest of the world isn’t as into it as they are.”
His investigation uncovered an uncomfortable idea on why the CFL isn’t better supported across the country.
“One guy in Vancouver told me people there think that the CFL can’t be that great if it’s cool in Saskatchewan,” Slewski said. “I guess it is like Corner Gas. We think it’s the best TV show ever but the rest of Canada finds it only slightly amusing and didn’t really notice when it was cancelled.”
Despite his realization that the CFL isn’t the big deal people in Saskatchewan think it is, he still plans on wearing green and white and partying it up with Bomber Fans in the rivalry of CFL cousins.
“Our game is called the Labour Day Classic; the Winnipeg game is called the Banjo Bowl. I guess we should have realized no one else takes this seriously. Winnipeg hasn’t won the Grey Cup in 26 years but it’ll still be a party on game day. Maybe taking it a little less seriously is a good thing.”
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