Last night in a thrilling overtime contest, the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the hated Saskatchewan Roughriders 39-36. It was the second half of a Friday night doubleheader for the CFL, and didn't finish until about 11:20pm local time. It was also played in front of a mere 34,000 fans.
It's just the latest data point in what can be charitably called a very disappointing 2016 Edmonton Eskimos schedule.
The season opened June 25th with a Grey Cup rematch against the Ottawa REDBLACKS†, and then an immediate bye week‡ before resuming in last night's victory against the Stubble Jumpers (which was also be our Purolator Tackle Hunger® game). Weeks 5, 6, and 8 also feature home games, meaning that Edmonton's schedule is front-loaded with home appearances. This is (mostly) good, considering what the climate is in this neck of the woods.
Edmonton is still stuck with that CFL failed-experiment-that-won't-ever-die though: the Thursday night game. This one is especially bad since it's going to be on Thursday July 28th; that means in the middle of Klondike Days the Eskimos are going to have to fight for your entertainment dollar. This shouldn't be entirely difficult: the Klondike Days performers that night are something called "Coleman Hell" and "Andee"§, so it's not like they're up against X-Ambassadors or Moist, but it's still yet another thing that will leave Commonwealth Stadium mostly empty. More people then the best-attended Argonauts home game of the season, most likely, but still disappointingly small.
The closest we get this season is the Hamilton vs. Eskimos tilt on Saturday July 23rd, which will be at 5pm. It's not bad, but that means the game ends sometime in the 7-8pm range and therefore it might start cooling off and/or be starting to thunderstorm. It isn't going to be like the great day we had out at the stadium on June 29th 2013 (1:30pm Saturday start time, +26°C) where...while the Esks lost (this being the 2013 season we went 4-14 after all) we at least got to enjoy a beautiful day out in shorts and tanktops, and when the game ended and we needed to get far away from the Sister Kisser fanbase, it was still late afternoon and we were able to get in some time at a Whyte Avenue patio while still in the aforementioned shorts and tank-tops.
There's definitely a different atmosphere at an early afternoon Esks game. You get a more casual crowd, you don't feel bad about slamming an extra half-dozen beers, and of course the hot dogs and burgers taste extra good when the hot sun is bearing down upon you! When it's all over, the hot sun is still bearing down upon you and then you can go out and enjoy some more wobbly pops before it starts to cool off/cloud over. And for the second consecutive year, we've been robbed of it.
I'm not even entirely sure why. The game is against an Eastern Conference opponent (the Tiger-Cats), which means that it's going to start at 7pm Hamilton time and run until about 10pm. It's the only CFL game of the day, so it's not like there's an afternoon matinee in Montreal that an earlier start time would be in competition with.
The earliest afternoon game in Edmonton is going to be 2pm all right, but it's in Week 20...and November 5th is highly unlikely to be tank-top weather. Other than that, Esks home games are all evening affairs. It's a lost opportunity, and one that hopefully (along with the end to Thursday night games that only serve to keep the NFL at-bay in the Toronto market) is rectified in the 2017 season.
† Remember: by law you have to shout it, even when reading this blogpost on a crowded LRT train. Go ahead, do it. Shout it out. REDBLACKS.
‡ The CFL has to sabotage Edmonton's chances for a repeat, after all.
§ Andee is a singer-songwriter from Quebec whose websites "tour dates" section only shows her upcoming Edmonton show. I have friends whose bands have bigger tours coming up.