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A woman enters Grasslands Rider Store.

For some, wearing a watermelon is a sign of pride, for others, it’s just crazy.

 

“There’s this thing with watermelons that I don’t understand,” said Olivia Rozema.

 

When Rozema moved to Regina in late summer from Ontario, she didn’t know what to expect of her new home in Rider Nation. Her first experience with it came only a few short days after arriving to the Queen City.

 

“I left my hotel room and suddenly everything was green and the city was honking and there was gridlock and people yelling. It’s sort of like Regina is the Hulk and overnight had turned into this green monster,” she said.

 

She described walking down the street and a sea of people in green honking and screaming.

 

“Outside looking in, it’s like stepping out into an alien planet when you leave your room on game day,” she said.

 

Rod Pedersen, the voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CKRM, called Rider Nation “its own distinct society.”

 

He said that some people take their Rider pride too far, though.

 

Pedersen recalled the movie Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Fallon’s character, an obsessed Red Sox fan, is asked, “You love the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?”

 

“That’s something that Rider fans need to remember. I’m not saying the Riders don’t love their fans, but be a little more grounded here. I don’t think it should affect your mood for a couple days after the game, but it does,” he said.

 

In the past, fans have even taken their game anger directly out on the players.

 

In 2004, kicker Paul McCallum received threats from fans, had his house egged and had manure dumped on his lawn after missing a field goal and a chance to secure a trip to the Grey Cup in overtime.

 

Last year, when the Roughriders lost their fourth game in the fall, Pedersen had a friend text him that he was done with the team because they always break fans’ hearts. When Grey Cup week rolled around, Pedersen saw him at the Rider Store buying merchandise.

 

“And, I said, ‘I thought you were done!’ and he said, ‘Well, I was upset!’”

 

Pederson has learned to give fans 24 hours to cool off after games.

 

On the other hand, Pedersen has experienced the positive Rider Nation love across the country.

 

“When we’re on the road for a game and I’m out for a run outside and I’m wearing Rider gear, and I run into someone wearing Rider gear... they always smile or just nod. So, that’s the Rider nation... you’re either part of it or you’re not.”

 

Last season, the Roughriders earned more than $11.1 million from regular season and Grey Cup merchandise.

 

This not only broke records for highest merchandise sale revenue for the Canadian Football League, but also put the Roughriders in third place for highest merchandise sales of all Canadian sports. They only fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens.

 

It’s a completely different story, from the team that had to hold telethons about two decades ago to keep afloat.

 

Pedersen said, the Roughrider pride began to take off in 2007 once the Saskatchewan economy exploded, along with the population.

 

“We had a bunch of new fans, we had a lot of young fans, and a lot of them had money to spend on the team. And, that is the crest that we have been riding ever since,” he said.

 

But, nothing lasts forever, Pedersen said.

 

The Roughriders have made 19 appearances at the Grey Cup, but have only won it four times, including last season’s 101st Grey Cup home win.

 

“The Riders didn’t get to where they (are now) without winning a lot and appearing in Grey Cups,” Pedersen said.

 

What happens if they start losing remains to be seen.