Subconsciously, Burris still wants to be a Rider
By Les MacPherson, The StarPhoenixNovember 21, 2009
Never mind the match-ups, the Xs and Os, the game plans. To understand why the Saskatchewan Roughriders will win on Sunday, you must understand the tortured psyche of Calgary Stampeder quarterback Henry Burris.
Burris is the key. If he has a big game, Calgary will win. If he doesn't, Calgary will lose. It all depends on Burris.
Of course, the Rider defence will have something to say about it. This is a defence that consistently has given the team a chance to win. There is no reason to expect otherwise on Sunday.
What I'd like to see is Stevie Baggs and John Chick make a Henry Burris sandwich. But Burris is elusive and never more dangerous than when he's scrambling. Escaping containment is his specialty. Then comes the long, weaving run up field or the deep pass to a receiver left open by overextended coverage. Nothing demoralizes a defence more than big plays by a scrambling quarterback.
Burris, at his best, is more than a handful. Fortunately for the Riders, he won't be at his best on Sunday. That's because, subconsciously, he does not want to win.
My half-baked, pop-psychology theory is that Burris is hopelessly conflicted. He still yearns to play for Saskatchewan. He was happy here. It was in green and white that he emerged as a marquis quarterback. He loved the Rider fans; they loved him.
Then he went to Calgary for more money. Burris certainly has excelled with the Stampeders, leading them last year to the Grey Cup. Even so, there's a part of him, deeply suppressed, that wishes he was still a Rider.
Smiling Hank wants people to like him. That's why he's always smiling. It figures, then, that not being liked is among his worst fears. To not be liked by Rider fans, who once adored him, is especially wounding. Rider fans intuitively, cruelly, picked up on this. They taunt Burris when he plays at Mosaic Stadium by chanting, among other things, "Henry Burris has no friends." Burris smiles and shakes his head as if amused by the attention, but inside, he's crying.
Of course, anyone who smiles is crying on the inside. It's a fundamental principle of psychology.
Subconsciously, Burris is consumed by guilt for abandoning the Riders and their fans. Under the intense pressure of a playoff game against his old team, these lingering regrets will reveal themselves as lapses in his play. Then will come the sacks, the interceptions and the Stampeders wondering what went wrong.
There actually is statistical evidence supporting my conflicted-Henry-is-going-to-lose theory. His overall record against the Riders is seven wins, one tie and eight losses, which, although mediocre, is not exactly indicative of deeply rooted neurosis. In playoff games, however, Burris is 0-2 versus the Riders. Those two defeats were consecutive Western Conference semi-finals in 2006 and 2007. In the 2006 meeting, Burris disastrously served up four interceptions and a fumble. In 2007, he stunk out the first half, fumbled and threw a critical, game-losing interception in the Rider end zone. That's how he punishes himself for leaving Saskatchewan.
Burris was redeemed by last year's Grey Cup win, but he only got there without facing the Riders. Against a team wearing green and white, he has yet to win a big game.
It happened again two weeks ago when the Riders closed out the season by clobbering Calgary 30-14 with first place up for grabs. The difference was the quarterbacks: Burris, the veteran headliner, was resoundingly outplayed by Rider quarterback Darian Durant in his first full season as a starter.
To recap, then, in decisive games against Saskatchewan, Burris is 0-3. The more decisive the game, the more conflicted he is and the worse he plays. Anyone who has been rattled by an ex-lover on the scene will know how he feels.
For Burris to get over his failed relationship with the Riders and come to terms with his guilt will take years of intensive therapy. In the meantime, we can rely on him Sunday to do whatever it takes to lose.
At least that's what I've been telling firstname.lastname@example.org
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