No it isn’t over yet and not by a long shot. At least that’s what the little guy inside me that always rooted for the underdog wants to say out loud. I always rooted for the underdog, ever since I was a kid getting into Seria A soccer as a fan.
“Who’s the best team?” I’d ask my dad. “Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan,” my dad would say…then he’d additionally point out a team like Lazio, and state that they were a team with decent money but loyal players who weren’t the most expensive, but they always fought their battles tooth and nail, and no they didn’t always win, but they won the hearts of their loyal fan base.
I was enamored immediately, and I loved Giuseppe Signori, the midfielder with a precise corner kick—one he often scored goals with…the ball landing in the net from the corner kick position! The underdog was someone I rooted for all the time and still, all these years later as a sports journalist, I find myself unable to be non-biased. The big franchise team is hard to root for.
Is it easy to root for the arrogant prom king who’s mean to the kids reading superman comics in the library and Black Belt Magazine? Who the hell roots for that guy? But the kid in the library, perhaps icing a black eye suffered at the hands of the aforementioned prom king, with the sounds of the girls in the hallways laughing their heads off at him the only chorus in his head.
Now I’m not saying the Saskatchewan Roughriders are the underdogs. Their season is perhaps over and they won’t appear in the playoffs. I don’t like to state that too early folks, but we must call a spade a spade, or rather the possibility of it being a spade at least. They are in danger of this yes, but really they didn’t have a season that was filled with a lack of heat.
Disciplinary problems, issues with the fan base (that had a right to voice their concerns), and a sad string of losses not becoming a team that in retrospect should have had their act together…or so it seems.
Take QB, Cody Fajardo. Just recently Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post came to the young quarterback’s defense and I must join him…Cody Fajardo played the season with a messed up knee, folks–a great portion of it. It hasn’t been 100% since the second game of the season for crying out loud despite reports! And he still played on that thing. Was it smart? No, but maybe right now, that’s beside the point. The worst of the injury is behind him but still.
And yeah, a lot of players work hurt, but the fact that Cody tried to hide this fact–the severity of it at first–speaks volumes.
Vanstone also suggested that there are equally those against Cody Fajardo than there are those for. In the end, everyone has critics, and in the end a spade being called a spade here, the team has been on a massive losing streak, and one that has caused fans to be, for lack of a better term, ‘upset’ over the sad, sad state of affairs at the Riders’ doorstep.
But if we’re sticking to the facts, it’s as good as done that the team will be missing the playoffs, many will chorus. After the bye week they have two regular season games left…and both games are against the Calgary Stampeders, who until this week’s utterly surprising victory by the BC Lions over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (what many have been calling a fluke), were in the running of being the new number 2s in the West Division.
The only way the Riders make the playoffs is if they win and the Ti-Cats lose or end up with a split with the Redblacks in their last two games, or if they manage a split with Calgary and the Ti-Cats end up losing both of their last two games of the season with Ottawa. So yeah, the odds are stacked against them. But believe if you want to, and if you pray to the sporting gods, pray. That never hurt anyone in the end.
I started this piece with soccer and I’ll finish it with yet another soccer analogy…this time world cup soccer. My dad has always said, if a team makes it to the qualifiers and needs to count on other teams to lose in order for them to make the cup, did they ever really belong there in the first place?
It’s sad, because since the beginning, I’ve been rooting for this team, a team I cover, as I also cover the BC Lions, but for some reason for me, it was easier to root for the Riders…the underdogs after all it seems…and to root for Cody Fajardo, who wrapped and braced his knee since game two, who went out there and played for his team, his coach, Rider Nation, his wife and his newborn son. Now that’s worthy of putting some old childish hope and support into, I’d say.
The first game with the Stampeders goes down on Saturday the 22nd at 7 PM EST.
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