WINNIPEG -- Just sipping brown bubbly out of the strange-looking trophy bearing two tiny banjos would be an ideal way for Brendon LaBatte to celebrate his birthday.
The Saskatchewan native has had to bear the slings and arrows of losing to the Roughriders every time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have played them since the guard became a full-fledged CFLer last season.
But LaBatte will get another chance to play a happier tune when the Bombers play host to the Roughriders in the sixth annual Banjo Bowl at Canad Inns Stadium today (2 p.m.).
"Right now, I'm 0-3 playing against the Riders and when I go back there, I have to live with that," said LaBatte, who turned 23 yesterday.
"I definitely don't want to be 0-4 against them, so we want to come out this weekend with a win ... and maybe even do it convincingly. That would be very good. That would be huge."
LaBatte stayed in Regina for a few days after last Sunday's 29-14 loss to the Roughriders in the Labour Day Classic.
"It wasn't that much fun," he said. "When you go there and perform like that, it kind of sticks with you and it's not something that just goes away afterwards. Even after a couple of beers, it stays in the back of your mind and it kind of ruined the weekend. It wasn't a fun trip back home at all."
With the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' loss to the Toronto Argonauts Friday, the 3-6 Bombers are four points behind the second-place Ticats (5-5) in the East but are also tied with the 3-7 Argos for last.
"We're right in the middle," LaBatte said. "We control our own destiny. If we win a lot of these games in the second half, we're going to be alright ... But we've got to start getting wins."
Bombers tailback Fred Reid firmly is determined to start winning this afternoon.
"They got the best of us last week and we need to come out and show them who the best football team is this week, and I believe this is the week to do that," said Reid, who was held to 41 yards on 12 carries last Sunday.
"We need to come out in the first quarter and jump on these guys and show them what we're all about. If we can do that, we'll be good to go."
The Roughriders, 5-4, are in the thick of the Western playoff race, tied for second with Edmonton Eskimos (5-5) and two back of the Calgary Stampeders, (6-4), who beat the Eskimos 35-34 on a touchdown with 22 seconds left late Friday night.
"It's going to be big for us," said Riders defensive back Eddie Davis. "It's always a dogfight in the West, so right now these are the games we need to get."