For the better part of the last 10 years, Rider Nation has spent time feuding with fans of the B.C. Lions and more recently the Calgary Stampeders. However, if you’re older than a millennial, you remember a time when fans of the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders shared their fair share of bad blood.
Both teams have struggled at teams over the past decade, rarely fielding competitive squads in the same season, and that’s cooled things between the fan bases. But the decision by Chris Jones to join the Green and White as their new vice-president of football operations, general manager and head coach immediately after winning a Grey Cup as head coach of the Esks has rekindled things nicely.
First, there was the cry from some Esks fans that their squad deserved compensation for Jones when he packed up for the flatlands. But things really heated last week when fans of the double E and some local media took exception to Jones wearing his patented black shirt while taking the Grey Cup trophy back to his hometown of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. The shirt itself wasn’t the issue but more so the logo that appeared on it: even though Jones won the cup with the Eskimos, it was a big S-is-for-Saskatchewan that appeared on the upper corner.
Of course, Jones could not have worn an Eskimos shirt as he no longer works for the organization. Jones probably could have worn a plain black shirt, as I’m sure he has at least one or two of them in his closet. But the logo was upsetting enough in the province of Alberta that fans in Calgary were coming to the defence of the Eskimos, a sure sign that some sort of CFL apocalypse is upon us.
This story has been one of the biggest of the winter out West, in large part because it involves two of the league’s strongest fan bases. It’s kept the league front and centre during the long stretch between free agency and the opening of training camps when CFL news can be hard to come by.
The league could have further capitalized on the rekindled rivalry by having the teams square off to open the season, preferably in Edmonton. The CFL prefers a Grey Cup rematch open the season, though the Redblacks contest versus the Eskimos will hardly have the same cache without Jones. Instead, Esks fans will have to save their vitriol until Aug. 28 (sorry, the pre-season game on in June 18 won’t have the same feel has the real deal) while the Riders host the Edmonton in Week 3.
I think we all know what Jones will be wearing.