The Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are all set to lock horns this weekend in a football showdown. For 19 years, this game bore the moniker, the “Banjo Bowl,” but the Riders have opted for a fresh brand – the “Labour Day Rematch.”
The name “Banjo Bowl” traces its origins back to 2004 when Blue Bombers board member David Asper coined it. The name was a humorous response to comments made by former Bomber Troy Westwood during the 2003 season, ahead of a match with the Riders. Westwood belittled Regina locals, labelling them “banjo-picking inbreeds.” Westwood subsequently apologized, light-heartedly adding that most Saskatchewan residents couldn’t even play a banjo.
The incident gave former Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, a chance to exhibit his own humour. In 2013, he uploaded a humorous video of his attempts at playing the banjo. Wall jested in the video, likening his lack of banjo-playing skills to the Bombers’ football abilities.
Despite the colourful history behind the name, Riders head coach, Craig Dickenson, expressed his preference for the “Labour Day Rematch.” He conceded, however, that if the original name helped sell tickets, he wasn’t against it.
Similarly, Mitch Picton, Riders receiver and Regina native, chuckled while reminiscing about the “Banjo Bowl” term, admitting he still calls it that, despite the playful jab by Westwood. Jaxon Ford, another Regina native and football player, was more indifferent about the name. He confirmed he tags the game as “Banjo Bowl” nonetheless.
Logan Ferland from Melfort, Sask. found it amusing when questioned about the name. Ferland remained nonchalant, emphasizing his central focus was simply playing football.
Interestingly, despite the media and rest of the world still calling the game the “Banjo Bowl,” the Riders organization seem determined to shed the title permanently.
Mario Alford, a special teams member unfamiliar with the rivalry’s history, acknowledges he’s heard the term often. “You can call it the Banjo Bowl then,” said a bemused Alford.
The upcoming game marks the 19th meeting between Riders and Bombers. The Bombers hold the series, boasting 11 wins. Despite a crushing 54-20 loss in last year’s encounter, compounded by a bout of stomach flu among the team, the Riders have had some bright spots, sweeping seven of the home-and-home series, with the most recent win in 2018 under current Bombers quarterback, Zach Collaros.