The scene that’s going to play out over the last three weeks in the Saskatchewan Roughriders organization happens every so often, in every professional sport. The Green and White have reached a crossroads…
Starting Saturday there are young guys that will get their first (and maybe only) opportunity to prove that they have the skillset to make it in the CFL, and perhaps beyond. And then there’s the established vets that are counting down the days in which they have to spend in that hallowed locker room, with brothers that they’ve forged unbreakable relationships with.
Some have an incredible opportunity; for others, it’s the beginning of the end in Ridernation, maybe even the end of a career.
Football is a beautifully brutal game and it offers no condolences, or loyalty, to even the most faithful participants. From crowd favourites to role players, one will eventually be forced to look into a future that is fogged with uncertainty.
Up until now, the locker room has been a united front where men have fought tooth and nail for the guy to the left, and the guy to the right. They have fought hard for their brothers and have never given up. There’s been enthusiasm that’s palpable, they could feel it.
On Saturday the team will take the field with a ton of extra-curricular thoughts in the back of their minds. The will to compete will be at an all-time high, but it runs a risk of disappearing immediately upon the first sign of adversity. How could it not with so much uncertainty surrounding every level of this team?
The Riders should have gone dark on the media this week. All the inquiries about who we’ll see, and who will sit,can’t be good for the locker room mentality. Those type of questions are only welcome in June. All they do now is ostracize certain players, and spotlight individual performance in what is the ultimate game.
The worst part about the situation is that the Edmonton Eskimos walk into Mosaic Stadium with all the riches of the Persian Ruler Xerxes in the movie 300. They’re now a legitimate Grey Cup Contender. Edmonton plays a fast and physical brand of football, and they have one characteristic that eludes the Roughriders; Confidence.
Confidence is another tough ask of a team that is about to “take a look” at its younger talent. Confidence requires leadership, and that’s not to say that there are no leaders in the locker room, but Brackenridge and George aren’t going, and Messam and Glenn were jettisoned to facilitate the future…That’s a lot of vocal presence that has been subtracted without being replaced.
We seem so far removed from the praises that we were heaping on the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the beginning of the 2015 season. It’s actually unbelievable to look at where the team sits now and think about the things that could have been. There’s a bunch of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s that we can chomp on. Maybe that will be the route we take on the Rider Pre and Post Game shows.
Ridernation feels like it’s been robbed of everything. The fan base cringes at the recent past, can’t stand the present, and because of all the uncertainty, isn’t allowed to look into the future. A tough pill to swallow for a nation that has been on an upswing since 2007…But fear not...every team eventually goes through this. The Leafs have been going through it for as long as I can remember (laughs out loud) the Jays are looking like their finally coming out of it #23years, and the Craig Reynolds seems bent on getting out of troubled waters SOONER rather than later.
So as you walk the final 3 weeks of 2015, understand that whatever pains that you’re going through pale in comparison to the walk that some of your favourite players are starting to make.
All the sacrifice, all the blood and sweat, all the countless hours spent in the film room, are beginning to weigh on them. One of the most important chapters in their life may be closing soon.
Eventually all athletes will face this reality and we can’t always choose the way it ends. I feel for every one of those guys that is staring the evident in the face. I don’t envy the situation.
All one can do is keep pushing. It’s the business that they’ve chosen, and all the brutality aside, nobody would choose a different route if given the opportunity...
Cups up to the boys going out and competing on Saturday!