VANCOUVER -- Paul McCallum has the worst job in the world for a guy who arguably became the greatest goat in Saskatchewan Roughriders history.
"I work for Sask Energy. I travel all over the province. One end to the other. All four corners."
McCallum, a month ago, against the Edmonton Eskimos, missed a 38-yard field goal which kept the Roughriders from clinching their first home playoff game since 1988.
Yesterday, in the Western final, he missed one from 18 yards in overtime, which cost the Riders a trip to the Grey Cup.
When it went wide, McCallum kind of collapsed, sagging to his left like the air had been let out of him, ending up almost in the fetal position, holding his helmeted head with both hands when the kick sailed wide.
Not everybody in Saskatchewan assumed the same position. But it was a visual they'll remember forever.
McCallum refused to face the media for the longest time, hiding out in a room off the Roughriders main dressing room.
Eventually he emerged to offer a quote to the Rider Nation.
"S---. I don't want to face anybody," he said.
"I let a lot of people down, especially the guys in this dressing room."
GM Roy Shivers didn't dodge it after the 27-25 overtime loss which sent the B.C. Lions to the Grey Cup against the Toronto Argos.
"He didn't do his job. It's that simple," said Shivers of the Roughrider with the second-most games played for Saskatchewan in his career.
"We had 39 other guys who did their jobs. He didn't do his."
AN ASSOCIATED GOAT
Mind you, there was an associated goat in this game. Kenton Keith fumbling on the B.C. five yard line to turn the ball over on the play which will be remembered as the reason this game made it to overtime.
"You don't turn the ball over on the five-yard line. And we gave them two broken play touchdowns."
This isn't a story of how the West was won. Not this year. This year the West was lost. And from one end of Saskatchewan, to the other, Paul McCallum is the guy who lost it.
Assisted by Kenton Keith.
Saskatchewan fans remember Dave Ridgeway slipping on the ice in 1992 in Commonwealth Stadium to miss one with no time remaining, which resulted in a 22-20 loss. But he slipped. It was the semifinal. And it wasn't from the 18-yard line.
How does a veteran kicker with 162 games experience miss from 18 yards?
In the get-to-the-Grey-Cup game?
Keith, who had tears in his eyes when the media entered the room, and wasn't talking, after one of the greatest playoff games ever played. And that's saying something.
The Western final is almost always a Canadian football classic.
CALM AND COOL KICKER
When Duncan O'Mahony, a first year Lion who is considered even more off-centre thanyour average kicker, calmly and cooly booted a second- down, 40-yard field goal to win it, the long-suffering Saskatchewan fans were left to contemplate another bleak prairie winter.
It was the first playoff overtime game since 1968. Calgary beat (you guessed it) Saskatchewan 25-12 in the second game of a best-of-three series that year.
It was the second overtime game the Lions won here this year. They defeated the Eskimos here when kicker Sean Fleming hit the crossbar in overtime.
When this one was over, it was as devastated a dressing room as I've seen in this league.
The Riders sat for the longest time still in their uniforms and one was still wearing his helmet when most of the media left to see if anybody was still in the other dressing room, the one with the players going to the Grey Cup.
This was a Saskatchewan team which had lost last year's Western Final in Edmonton last year and came to this game convinced they'd be taking the Rider Nation to the Grey Cup in Ottawa.
It wasn't like they'd played poorly in this game with lead changes, twists and turns, and plot switches galore.
They played great.
"Henry Burris played his best game in his career," said Danny Barrett of his quarterback who completed 26 of 29 passes trying to make it happen.
"This is really hard to put into words," said Burris.
"You can't put it in Paul's hands."
"There's the biggest lump in my throat and in the stomach," said defensive lineman Scott Schultz, a Moose Jaw native.
"I'm sure a whole province feels like this. This is much tougher than last year."
Offensive lineman Gene Makowsky, the longest serving Roughrider and a Saskatoon product, said it's devastating.
"Any time you get this close to a Grey Cup and lose, it's hard. But we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
"This is the worst loss I've been through in my entire career."