I can hear the keyboards mashing the words “snowflake” and far worse before I even get to the heart of this lede but it may be time to get rid of the Banjo Bowl name.
The home-and-home games between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the Labour Day weekend and the following weekend are fantastic. That should stay. But marketing the name with an absurd origin may have gone on far too long.
If you don’t know the story behind the Banjo Bowl — and a surprising amount of football fans I know don’t — it goes like this: Former Winnipeg kicker Troy Westwood said Saskatchewan fans are “a bunch of banjo-picking inbreds”.
That’s the reason you see promotional tweets like this:
This week is The “Banjo Bowl,” but didjaknow how that name first came about?
We’ll if you didn’t… pic.twitter.com/71WQFoS1Ci
Before the two teams met in the 2003 West semifinal — which the Riders won 37-21 — Westwood apologized for the comment.
Well, sort of. He said “the vast majority of the people in Saskatchewan have no idea how to play the banjo.”
But this isn’t about Westwood or shaming him for those more than 10-year-old comments. In fact, Westwood has said many times it was all in fun and that his mother’s side of the family is from Regina.
The next season, the game was first branded as the Banjo Bowl. There is even a trophy.
The Banjo Bowl name has been embraced by many Riders fans, including Premier Brad Wall.
But can you imagine that happening today and then being branded as a promotion?
Can you imagine if Saskatchewan head coach Chris Jones said it about Winnipeg fans before the game this weekend? The media and social media backlash would be relentlessly negative. There would be calls for fines and demands for an apology.
It’s highly unlikely the CFL would use the quote as a promotion in its tweets.
When rivalries go too far
The fan bases of the Bombers and Riders have always chirped each other, but there has also been a long-standing respect for the two smaller-market teams.
I have been to every Labour Day Classic since 2007. Not once have I interacted with a rude, violent, or disrespectful Bombers fan. There are plenty of people like that…