Loved this story on the Riders Website
While going through old newspaper stories, conducting background research for Episode 2 of THE RIDERVILLE RADIO SITCOM, I stumbled upon a Moment in CFL history that was so profound, it changed the game forever.
And but for a simple accident of discovery, this Moment would have lived on in anonymity – forever lost to the all-comprehensible gaze of hindsight and context, in the world of today’s CFL.
I would describe this moment as the birth of ‘The 13th Man’ – before we even knew what to call The 13th Man. It was September 10, 1967 – a date so sacred, it should be circled on calendars and celebrated annually across The Rider Nation.
The whole thing started innocently enough – the first meaningful game between the ‘one-name’ Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the ‘two-name’ Ottawa Rough Riders, since meeting in the 1966 Grey Cup, ten months previous. Pride was on the line. Position in the standings was also at stake. Important considerations to be sure, but nothing on the scale of what this Moment would come to spawn, for decades hence.
The game started with a flurry. Saskatchewan’s Al Ford sprang fellow HB Ed Buchanan, for an 85 yard touchdown run, half-way through the first quarter. On Ottawa’s next possession, Russ Jackson lobbed a short pass over Saskatchewan’s ‘full-fire’ blitz, hitting FB Rick Black, who took it 44 yards for the score.
The second quarter began with Ottawa deep in its own end. Jackson took the field, promptly completing back-to-back long passes to WRs Margene Atkins, and Whit Tucker. With the ball now in Saskatchewan territory, Jackson threw once more to Tucker at the goal line…
And who can say for sure, what forces in nature move to spawn the beginning of something so profound, so significant, that time itself halts. It’s like slow motion kicks in and the universe goes silent – long enough for a ‘Moment’ to be borne.
That must have been what it was like – the view from inside Saskatchewan CB Larry Dumelle’s head, as he stepped in front of that errant Russ Jackson pass…
Snaring it. Bringing it in. Hitting the ground.
Then coughing it up.
Whit Tucker was more than happy to scoop that ball out of the air, and walk with it into the end zone, drawing the ire of all 21,648 fans in attendance – the most in Taylor Field history. The score clock read Ottawa 15, Saskatchewan 6, and the quarter was only 2 minutes and 48 seconds old.
Roughrider fans, seeing that interception through green-tinted eyeballs, felt the play should have been blown dead. Game officials saw otherwise.
The Moment meanwhile, lingered – hanging in the air, unsure what to do with itself – until settling upon what all newborns do when first brought into the world…
Softly at first. Barely perceptible, but certainly very unquiet. And as The Moment’s cry grew, fuelled by the rage of 21,648 spectators, it searched for something to latch onto – a metaphorical mammary to suckle. It did not have to wait long.
At some unspecified point in the second quarter, Saskatchewan had the ball. Ron Lancaster broke the huddle, took the snap, dropped back and looked to WR Gord Barwell. He fired a strike – which Barwell caught – but then Ottawa S Gene Gaines interceded, ‘stealing’ the ball from Barwell’s hands. The play was ruled an interception. First down Ottawa.
And then The Moment caught fire. It became what we would eventually name, ‘The 13th Man’.
A hail of boos and rage rained down upon the field so loud, that Ottawa’s offence could not hear Russ Jackson’s cadence. Saskatchewan fans kept up the noise, and Ottawa wilted under the maelstrom.
With ten minutes to go in the game, Ed Buchanan ran under a Ron Lancaster pass at the goal line to put Saskatchewan up 32-23. Russ Jackson and his offence were so frustrated, they didn’t even try to move the ball with one minute left in the game.
“You call those fans here great? Why, they’re from HICKSVILLE!? said Ottawa assistant coach Kelley Mote. “That hollering when we were trying to call plays is ridiculous and the poorest sportsmanship I’ve ever seen. We prepared well for this game… we knew what their defence was going to do and we had check-offs to everything. Not only couldn’t we use audibles, but our guys couldn’t even hear the signals!?
Ottawa head coach Frank Clair then added, “That’s the most unsportsmanlike conduct I’ve seen, and the CFL should have rules to stop the shouting when a team is calling signals. We never scored a point once those buzzards started screeching.?
September 10, 1967. The 13th Man was born on that day, shutting down Ottawa’s offence, and changing the way we watch football ever after.