Rider Nation showed up in full force Sunday to celebrate an end-of-summer tradition, as the Roughriders took on their long-standing rivals the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“It’s like the season builds up to this very day and it’s good to see fans from other provinces be one and enjoy the game,” one fan said.
The annual Labour Day Classic is a game so big, it attracts football fans from all over, like New Yorker Joe Lozito. He’s a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan with a unique fan base of his own.
“This is just something that I could have never foreseen just by literally putting up a poll on Twitter in January,” Lozito said. “As simple as it sounds, that’s where it started.”
After the NFL Superbowl, Lozito was looking for a fix during the off-season. The poll asked fans to choose one of four CFL teams to cheer for, and once Roughrider Fans found the poll, they took matters into their own hands.
“A week later the votes for the Riders beat the other three teams combined, so that was it and I’ve been all in ever since,” Lozito said. “Everyone’s embraced me [and] it’s been amazing.”
In July he attended his first Riders game in Hamilton and now he’s taking in his first Riders home game, crowdfunded by none other than the fans themselves.
“I sent maybe 20 [direct messages] in an hour and from the moment I sent my first message to the moment we booked the flight it was 24 hours,” organizer Stephen Safinuk said.
Safinuk says Rider Nation along with other CFL fans raised around $900 to make the trip possible.
“Just the fact that this has reached this level and I’ve been saying it to anyone who will listen — it’s more about the people of Regina and Saskatchewan than anything you could say about me,” Lozito said. “It’s an incredible experience and I’m so grateful.”
To top it off, the Riders came out with the win. But win or lose, the Riders have gained a fan for life.
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