There is little doubt that Rider Nation is the most passionate fan base in the CFL. That passion generates expectations that can create immense pressure for those running the organization.
Brendan Taman joined Derek Taylor on 620 CKRM for The Road To The 2013 Grey Cup, an ongoing series reflecting on Saskatchewan’s most recent championship season. He spoke to the increased expectations that accompany the opportunity to appear in a home Grey Cup.
“I was working for the [Riders] back before the last Grey Cup was in Regina and we weren’t very good that year,” said Taman. “That was not a fun year to go through.”
Saskatchewan hosted its first Grey Cup in 1995, during which time Taman served as the team’s assistant director of player personnel. A pair of 11-7 seasons in 1993 and 1994 had raised expectations in the province, though the team faltered out of the gate with a 1-7 record. The Riders finished 6-12 on the year, well out of the playoff picture.
Regina hosted the Grey Cup for the second time in 2003. The Riders finished 11-7 in the regular season and came close to earning a spot in the championship game, losing the West Final to Edmonton by a score of 30-23.
Taman acknowledges that the pressure was on again in 2013, the team’s third opportunity to appear in a home Grey Cup.
“A guy like myself, I’m not gonna sugarcoat things and make things up like, ‘There wasn’t any pressure.’ Come on — there’s pressure when there’s a Grey Cup in your home park,” said Taman.
The 53-year-old had been through Grey Cup host seasons before. Vancouver hosted the game in 1999 when Taman served as B.C.’s director of player personnel and was the general manager of the Blue Bombers when the Grey Cup was in Winnipeg in 2006.
“When you talk about it in Saskatchewan with the expectations we had, I think our first seven or eight games that year we had at minimum 35,000 people coming to our games. Do they think they’re just coming to watch an average to so-called average team that can’t get to a Grey Cup? I don’t think so.”
The pressure Taman faced wasn’t solely generated by the team’s passionate fans but also from within the organization itself.
“Internally, I significantly felt it (the pressure) and it started at the end of 2012. It was very clear that the expectation was not only just the playoffs but to get into that game. That was very clear. So I was not gonna sit back and just go, ‘Well I hope we win and we’ll do what we can.’ What I was going to be — the word I like to use looking back at that year was ‘aggressive.'”
The Saskatoon native worked three different stints in Saskatchewan’s personnel department, most recently serving as the team’s general manager (2010-2015). The Riders went 44-55 in the regular season under Taman’s watch, earning three playoff berths (2012-2014).
The 2013 Grey Cup marked the final time that Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field hosted a championship game. The Riders built a commanding 31-6 lead by halftime over the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats on a pair of touchdown passes from Darian Durant to Geroy Simon.
The final score was 45-23 with Kory Sheets being named the game’s Most Valuable Player after rushing for 197 yards and two touchdowns. It was Saskatchewan’s fourth Grey Cup title overall and its first at home in Regina.