This is getting goofy.
It’s looking like the Edmonton Eskimos may play to a Commonwealth Stadium crowd close to capacity Saturday.
Despite being so bad that they haven’t managed a regular-season crowd to match their preseason game attendance of 33,708, the Eskimos are going to get something close to a sellout crowd because this time Saskatchewan Roughriders fans aren’t going to save a section.
That was what was plastered on the Stadium Road billboard before the Roughriders came here last year, remember?
“Hey Eskies fans. We’ll save a section for you!?
That game drew a CFL regular-season attendance record of 62,517.
On Monday morning, when the 1-6 Eskimos returned to the practice field from their bye week break following a 56-15 loss to the Calgary Stampeders, the staff returned from their break to find out they might be dealing with another ticket stampede similar to the one which sold out the Grey Cup game back in early June.
With a full week before Saturday’s 5 p.m. fixture, a total of 45,000 tickets had been sold!
It seems that’s roughly the magic number at Commonwealth Stadium, the number where the tough-ticket syndrome kicks in, when fans start scrambling for seat location and stop holding back, waiting to find out what the weather is going to be.
Is this a stupid season or what?
It began with Edmonton selling out the Grey Cup when training camps were opening, when the game has never before been sold out before Labour Day. Then the Eskimos play so poorly they can’t match their pre-season crowd. Now …
Well, who knows?
But 45,000 and counting …
Coming off a game that featured a record-equalling most points ever given up by the Eskimos and the biggest margin of defeat against the Stampeders, it’s logical to assume it’s not Edmonton fans buying up all those tickets.
Is it possible there are enough Saskatchewan fans out there to buy the rest?
It’s the Roughriders’ centennial season, and the celebration of 100 years of Saskatchewan football will be undertaken twice here this year (three times if they return for the Grey Cup) by the fans who (another billboard) “Walk Among You? and drive from flatland locales near and far.
“Every visit by the Riders is a hot ticket, regardless where either team sits in the standings,? said Eskimos marketing manager Dave Jamieson.
“I call it the ‘Yankees effect,’ where the brand is so strong that it pulls even casual or marginal fans out to the park.
“The rivalry is as strong as it has ever been, and we’re counting on Eskimos fans to be out in force to counteract the Saskatchewan effect … and be wearing our shade of green.?
Despite sharing the indignity of having the worst record in the CFL with the B.C. Lions in a year when there were relatively high hopes of the Eskimos returning to being a team which could, at least, contemplate the idea of getting to their own Grey Cup game, Edmonton could still end up leading the league in attendance — as always.
Despite a healthy increase in season-ticket sales because of the Grey Cup, the average attendance sits at a less-than-impressive 31,763 through the first four games of the Esks’ so-far shabby season.
In Edmonton, a number like 31,763 definitely represents a stadium half empty, not a stadium half full.
Around the rest of the league, that’s a pretty good number — and it still leads the league. Calgary sits second with an average of 31,345. Saskatchewan is third at 30,047, followed by Winnipeg at 27,046, B.C. at 26,518, Montreal at 25,012, Hamilton at 23,434 and Toronto at 21,689.
But Saturday really could be one for the books.
The Eskimos drew 31,888 in a loss against the Argos, go to Calgary and get their butts kicked 56-15, fire a coach and have another one resign and come home and maybe double the size of their crowd?
Only in the CFL, and only because of all those green people wearing watermelons on their heads.