Thank You 13th Man: Red Deer Rider Fans Honour Their Friend

September 20, 2016 - 3:11pm Updated: September 21, 2016 - 8:41am

The concept of the 13th man is both good and bad for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The bad 2009 Grey Cup version of the 13th man cost the team a Grey Cup when that extra Rider player gave Montreal better field position and another chance after a failed field goal attempt.

The infamous 2009 13th man episode was the complete opposite of Rider Nation’s beloved other 13th man: the noisy fans who are loud and proud in the Mosaic Field stands every game.  This other 13th man provides a wall of noise at every Rider home game because the fans want to drown out the audible signals called by an opposition quarterback and create problems for the enemy offense.

This basic pump-up-the-volume concept works at least one or twice a game and causes mistakes by the visiting teams.    

We took a busload of fans from Red Deer to a Rider game this past weekend because we wanted to say goodbye to Mosaic Stadium (forever known as Taylor Field to long term fans) and, more importantly, fulfill the last wishes of a good friend and loyal Rider fan.

Ken Morrison lived and breathed Rider football for the past 50 years. He may have been born in Alberta but his heart always had a second home at Taylor Field for all of those years because that was home turf for the Riders. We attended many Rider games together over the years where we suffered through the losses and basked in the glory of victories.  

The game against Edmonton was a contrast from our 12 previous football bus trips from Red Deer to Taylor Field. Kenny Morrison was on every one of our earlier trips and he was also on this one in a different fashion because he wanted some of his ashes spread on his personal field of dreams.

2016 marks the last year for this famous home field of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It will be demolished after this season and will slip into the fond memory book for an army of Rider loyalists who will mourn its departure.

Ken was well aware of the future fate of Taylor Field before he passed away this past August. However, he still wanted to have his ashes scattered in the original stadium rather than the new facility because all of his football memories were made in this grand old structure.

We were given permission by the Riders to fulfill Ken’s wishes when we arrived late Saturday afternoon at Taylor Field. We arrived at an open house event that included activities for kids on the field and an opportunity for Rider fans to have their photos taken by a professional photographer inside the famous but doomed football stadium.

Roughrider football is a vital part of the cultural identity in Saskatchewan. It defines the province in many ways because it echoes the sentiment of the people in a place where hopes springs eternal and there is always next year for the team and the Saskatchewan residents.

In Saskatchewan, you learn to love the team early in life and you carry that sentiment for the rest of your life. Like me, Kenny was not born in Saskatchewan, but he most certainly understood the bond between the team and its legion of fans.

It is doubtful any of the other fans were aware of why our posse of football fans were on the field on Saturday. Ken was an understated guy and we stuck to our mission in an unassuming way when we scattered his ashes just beyond the perimeter of the goal line on the south end of the field.

Our simple ceremony was a brief moment in actual time but it linked Ken with the stadium and the team forever. We were happy that we could fulfill one of his last wishes to be connected with this personal bond to his team and this hallowed place that held all his football memories.      

The next day we went to the football game and hoped for a storybook finish from a 1-10 team with faint playoff hopes. The Riders delivered a thrilling come-from-behind overtime touchdown into Ken’s end zone and the stadium erupted in a wild burst of happy fans cheering their lungs out while Green is the Color blared over the speakers.

Maybe Ken was the newest version of the 13th man for the Riders in a victory against the team he disliked the most in sports.   

We got our storybook ending but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness when I left the stadium for the final time. Ken was not on the bus ride home to Red Deer with us this time because he always felt at home in his favorite football stadium. We were just along to make sure it happened for Kenny. 

Jim Sutherland

Letter To The Editor
By Submitted
The Roughriders beat the Eskimos in overtime this past Sunday (Photo: Jim Sutherland)
Ken Morrison (smiling in back) was a lifelong Roughriders fan (Photo: Jim Sutherland)

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