interesting piece heard on CBC radio

Sports as religion: Saskatchewan’s Rider Nation and their devotion to the game

Over the years, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have built one of the most loyal
and devoted fan bases in the CFL. Speaking to Tapestry host Mary Hynes,
Saskatoon professor Chris Hrynkow makes the case for why football fandom
in the province could be considered a "civil religion." Duration: 21:25


Does that mean the Roughriders qualify for some sort of tax exemption?

Um, yeah, about all those empty seats…


When and how did the passion ignite? I don’t think the province of Saskatchewan has always lived and died by the fortunes of the football club. Solid support, sure. But I recall the days of 16K - 18K at Taylor Field, even with really good teams. Is it solid marketing?

I’d say it began under Roy Shivers and accelerated under Jim Hopson. They marketed heavily to this community feel and people bought in.

I am sometimes astounded by the passion with which Rider fans support their team. Home games seem to be one part English Premiership (in terms of the ‘tribal’ feel) and one part Mardi-Gras (as a lot of people dress in costume). I recall the days, maybe 20-30 years ago, of a sea of “CAT” diesel caps (not green), and cheers that were no louder than any other CFL stadium, so this development is really impressive. It’s actually moved beyond a trend to an entrenched live-and-die-by-the-fortunes-of-the-club way of life for many in the province.

Hopson should be sharing his best practices with the rest of the league. All markets are unique, but there may be something that has worked particularly well that may help other teams in the CFL family. Merchandising is another area the Riders do better than everyone else.

It’s not a religion so much as a cult.

The other related CBC piece is this one, from 2 months ago.

Game day prayers: Sask. professor teaching course on Riders and religion