Time to dust of those Banjo strings…
Rivalries often represent the cornerstone of fandom for so many people. When you think back to your formative years growing to love sports, you see your team as the virtuous heroes going against villainous rivals. While as you grow up you come to the realization that there is no good and evil teams, just players trying to make a living. But the rivalries still hold a special place in your heart. The rivalry games can also serve as a benchmark within a season, which is exactly what this weekend’s Banjo Bowl will prove to be.
While the Banjo Bowl has always been a crowd pleaser and often the most anticipated game of the season in Winnipeg, the match-up between these teams has been fairly one-sided. The Riders have dominated the Bombers over the last decade and a half. For a rivalry with so much passion on each side, the resentment among the losing side has continued to rise over the years.
The 2016 season began with a lot of hope for Bombers fans. After a summer that contained many glamourous free agent signings, including Winnipeg born star running back Andrew Harris, there was the hope that this season could feature a significant turnaround. Perhaps one as dramatic as 2015’s Ottawa REDBLACKS going from 2 wins their previous season to the Grey Cup.
The #Bombers struggled to find chemistry as they stumbled to a 1-4 record out of the gate, leading to the benching of Drew Willy. Since that point, the Bombers have won five straight games. This includes their most recent win on Labour Day against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The win ended a 12 year losing streak on the weekend, and hope is once again beginning to surface.
When it comes to the rivalry between the Bombers and Riders, you usually would be wise to throw out the record of both teams. While the Bombers have been the better team this season, the entire Labour Day match-up was an uneasy one for Bomber fans. There was the constant fear that the #Riders could come away with the victory. But that didn’t happen, the Bombers found a way to overcome a late collapse and found a way to win.
These rivalry games can signal a changing of the guard. It can help instill confidence in a fan base that has been thirsty for something to believe in. This weekend’s Banjo Bowl can help show fans that this team is capable of consistently taking care of business and is moving towards something in the future. It is the subtext within this long and storied rivalry that adds to the stakes of the game, and helps propel the tension to another level for the fans that are involved.