Pick of the Day: Riders vs Stampeders

It's been 33 years since the Riders last finished first in the CFL West. They've won two Grey Cups in the interim (in 1989 and 2007), and have acquited themselves well in Calgary this year with a win and a tie to their credit (absent a brutal roughing call on John Chick in OT of the second game, it would've been two Ws) so it's not like this is an absolute must win if the Riders hope to advance to the Grey Cup Nov. 29 in Cowtown.

The same couldn't be said in 1976 though. The three years previous to that, the Riders had finished second to the Edmonton Eskimos, and after dispatching the third place team in the West semi-final, had journeyed to Edmonton to battle the Eskimos on the frozen tundra of Clarke Stadium. It's not that they got their asses handed to them. Far from it, in fact. Each game was extremely hard fought. But each year, the result was the same -- an Eskimo victory. In 1973 it was by a 25-23 score. In 1974 31-27. In 1975 30-18.

In 1976, it finally seemed that the Riders had the Eskimos number. In August they laid a 40-0 pasting on them at Taylor Field. But due to three close losses to Winnipeg during the season the Riders still needed a last second touchdown pass from Ron Lancaster to Rhett Dawson in the final game of the year against a woeful Stampeder squad at McMahon Stadium to secure first place. The Eskimos actually finished third that year behind the Blue Bombers, but defeated them 14-12 in the semi-final, setting up a fourth consecutive Edmonton-Saskatchewan final. This time though, the Riders enjoyed home field advantage. And they made the most of it, prevailing 23-13 in a game where both Rider running backs (Molly McGee and Steve Molnar) rushed for over 100 yards.

With a victory over the Stamps tonight at Mosaic Stadium the Riders will finish first. Not only would that enable them to host the West final on Nov. 22, it would also permit them to avoid a semi-final match-up against Edmonton who would instead take on the Stamps in Calgary.

Game time is 6 p.m. Later tonight, the Misfits are at the Distrikt. If you read my 14 Days blurb on the band in the Nov. 5 prairie dog, the thing they have in common with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe is that they took their name from a 1961 film that the two Hollywood icons starred in called The Misfits. Here's a scene from that flick (YouTube) that, now that I think about it, has a symbolic tie-in to the football game tonight (at least for Rider fans, who hope their team reins in the high-powered Calgary offence), followed by video of the Misfits performing Dig Up Her Bones (YouTube)

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