So hollow

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The Eskimos had just crashed the Party on the Pacific.

When Dennis Skulsky left B.C. Place, the P.A. system was playing Fats Domino's Ain't That A Shame. And when the volunteer head of the 93rd Grey Cup festival organizing committee arrived home, his voice mail message light was blinking.

"There were a bunch of them from Edmonton. The first one came from a party and all that was on it was that old theme song playing with a bunch of old friends hooting and hollering in the background."

You know it. It's so old, it's almost a groaner when they play it every home game at Commonwealth Stadium. CJCA's Peggy Miller wrote it in 1954.

"We're cheering fight, fight, fight on Eskimos. We're marching right, right, right on, Eskimos. We're charging down the field for all to see and shouting rah, rah, rah, fight on to victory.

"We're marching on till every game is won. The Green and Gold is bold and when we're done we'll tell the world we're proud of Edmonton and the Edmonton Eskimos."

'TO A SEVEN OR AN EIGHT'

Skulsky, who before the game had told me that his Party on the Pacific would go "from a nine or a 10 to a seven or an eight," if the Lions didn't Roar, you Lions roar, to quote their ancient theme song, couldn't help but think back to being a kid in the Knothole Gang at Clarke Stadium.

"I was born and raised in Edmonton," said the man who went from jobs in circulation and promotion at the Edmonton Otherpaper to becoming president of Pacific Press and publisher of both the Sun and Province in Vancouver.

"It's hard to get that Green and Gold out of you," he said. "I grew up in that Knothole Gang at old Clarke Stadium. You paid 25 cents and got there early so you could get in first and run like hell to the top of the bleachers when they opened the gate."

Skulsky is in an interesting position. As the head of 'The Waterboys' -- as the volunteer committee calls itself in reference to Lions' CEO Bobby Ackles's beginnings as the team waterboy -- he wanted the Lions in the game. As a newspaper publisher, with papers to sell, he wanted the Lions in the game.

The only, er, up side is the number of want ads the papers may sell with B.C. fans interested in getting rid of their Grey Cup tickets now.

HUNDREDS OF WANT ADS

Back in 1987, when the same thing happened here and the Eskimos beat the Lions in the Western final to get into that Grey Cup game, there were hundreds and hundreds of want ads with Lions fans trying to dump their tickets.

"I don't know if that's going to happen. I may be wrong. We have no special plans at the papers to put together any special sections for people to sell their tickets.

"We're sold out and we have been for a long time. It's not like the last time the Grey Cup was here. They had 10,000 tickets left unsold. The crowd was 45,000 and a lot of that was papered," he said of the 1999 dud of a Grey Cup week here when you could buy a ticket for $2 at kickoff.

A WET BLANKET

Still, there's no doubt that the Eskimos getting to the game has thrown a wet blanket on the Party on the Pacific, a theme thatoB, was taken from Edmonton's Party in your Parka.

As Lions receiver Jason Clermont put it after the game: "I feel like we let a lot of people down. All my family is going to be here from Regina. I know they're not coming all this way to watch Edmonton play."

Eskimos CEO Hugh Campbell says he can relate. It was like that in Edmonton in 1997 when Saskatchewan beat the Eskimos in the Western final and came back two days later to move into their dressing room.

"I know what it's like. I feel sorry for them. It's hard when you don't get into it," he said of the Lions who started the season at 11-0 and inspired the early sellout only to lose seven of their last eight.

"I'm delighted to be in it. But I feel sorry for them."

Scott Ackles, the son of the CEO, is the top employee of the organizing committee.

"I grew up around football. I know you can't depend on your team being in the game. You have to plan the Grey Cup as an event not as a game featuring your own team. It's still going to be a first-class festival.

"It's like I told my committee after the game. 'You have one day to feel bad.

" 'Do it tonight. We had to get up in the morning and make sure that all the people coming here are going to have a fabulous time.' "


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