REGINA — Gainer the Gopher has tossed away the contact lenses and gone back to what works best — dark eyes.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders' beloved mascot since 1977 unveiled his second makeover of the week on Saturday when the Riders hosted the Calgary Stampeders. And the early thoughts from fans were more positive than the first time around, with his pre-game introduction drawing a loud ovation from those at Mosaic Stadium.
"Much better. Gainer looks like Gainer again," said longtime Riders fan Maria Green.
Gainer showed off his first new look at the team's home opener on July 1 — a 32-7 victory over the visiting Toronto Argonauts — and many Saskatchewan fans were unhappy with the visible changes to the gopher's appearance, especially his eyes.
Social media channels flooded with memes and GIFs mocking Gainer's look, a slimmer body and creepy green eyes, and Hashtags #BringBackGainer and #NotMyGainer trended on Twitter.
An online petition asking him to be changed after Monday's game generated more than 4,375 signatures leading up to Saturday night.
Dozens of comments on the petition website were negative. The comments describe the changed Gainer as "creepy and evil looking," "a psychotic anorexic chipmunk" and "crack binge Gainer."
The Riders organization chose to remain silent on the controversy through the week, issuing a statement saying: "We've decided to let Gainer speak for himself."
And he did.
Ahead of kick off against Calgary, the Riders posted a video on social media showing Gainer in the locker-room, where he took his short-lived green contact lenses and threw them into the garbage before heading to the field with black eyes similar to his original look.
Craig Slater, The Canadian Press