Battle of Alberta rivalry alive

Henry Burris. (Lyle Aspinall/QMI Agency)

Henry Burris. (Lyle Aspinall/QMI Agency)

Ian Busby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

The sloppy, misspelled words are evidence of life in the CFL’s Battle of Alberta.

The fact someone took the Edmonton Eskimos’ attempt to build some excitement for the Labour Day Classic so personally means the rivalry is still there, even if it has been somewhat dormant.

Earlier this week, the Eskimos put up a billboard on the McMahon Stadium sign standing next to Crowchild Trail. It seemed innocent enough, as an Eskimos supporter was riding on the back of a Stampeders fan with the words ‘See you Monday’ attached.

In the wee hours Saturday, a vandal climbed up and wrote a offensive phrase directed at the Eskimos in red paint.

By late morning, it was removed.

“I liked it,” said Stampeders defensive back Brandon Smith of its revamped — albeit temporary — state. “I was looking at every time I came in to the Stadium. Someone made it look a little more appealing.

“I didn’t like the billboard being on our territory. We can’t (as players) go out there and do something like that. It’s obviously a fan of ours.

“I have no clue who it is, but they are showing they have our backs.”

A year ago, the provincial rivalry was all but gone completely. In three games, the Stamps crushed the Eskimos by counts of 56-15, 52-5 and (the respectable third meeting in Edmonton) 36-20.

It takes two to tango, so when the Eskimos came into McMahon and surprised the Stamps with a 24-19 victory July 23, it looked like there was something building again.

Still, there wasn’t the hatred like years past.

Now, maybe there is some.

That victory was part of a 5-0 start to the Eskimos, while at the same time, the Stamps were 3-2.

Suddenly, it looked like the powerful Eskimos of old were back in business. Since then, the Esks have lost three times, while the Stamps have yet to lose.

Still, whoever wins Monday’s outing takes over first place — as the Eskimos would have the season-series locked up — and the bragging rights that go along with it.

“With their record being what it is, that’s what brought the rivalry back,” said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris. “There was some brash Eskimo faithful rubbing it in after their 5-0 start.

“For us, we know the people who made the billboard won’t be on the field. The team that beat us at McMahon — who embarrassed us — they will be. It upset Calgary fans even more. It’s brought an attitude to our fans on Labour Day, and we need to back it up on the field.”

Even with a three-game losing skid, folks in the Eskimos front office thought this was a good time to stoke the fire on the Labour Day doubleheader.

“This is like if your daddy goes out and says my son is going to kick your tail,” said Stampeders defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks. “The son has to go out and back it up. They had their pops do that.

“We don’t like them, and they don’t like us, so we will be trying to set the tone in this one.”

The vandals weren’t exactly tidy in their crime of defacing the billboard. They left behind a jacket they used to put over the spotlight in front of the sign, and the paint tray was also left on the ledge of the billboard. In the bushes nearby, they stashed the spray paint, ladder and rubber gloves all used in ruining the Esks advertisement.

If the Stampeders are as sloppy as the ill-informed supporters who pulled off the stunt, they could be on the south side of the rivalry.

“The Eskimos want to come back and do one thing,” Burris added. “That’s shock the world again and beat us at home again.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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