Scratch that Ticat fever

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Oskie Wee Wee, Oskie Wah Wah, Holy Mackinaw, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have a winning record!

If fans of the, er, Ever Luvin' Eskies think their team is coming out of the Dark Ages, what about these Oskie Wee Wee guys?

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, when they beat the B.C. Lions here on July 31, won their third game of the season.

Their June-July record last year was 1-5. The year before it was 0-5. The year before that it was 1-6.

That's 2-16 getting out of the gate before Aug. 1 in the past three years!

Sure, the Edmonton Eskimos missed the playoffs in the Western Conference three straight years after making postseason play 34 consecutive seasons. (A North American pro sports record.)

But that 34th year -- 2005 -- the Eskimos won the Grey Cup. The Ticats were 5-13 that year, on their way to 4-14 and back-to-back 3-15 seasons.

Can you imagine a fan, year after year after year, having no hope of a winning season more than a month before Labour Day ?

That's what makes tomorrow's game here so compelling.

The Eskimos are 3-2. The Tiger-Cats are 3-2.

If the Esks win, it will be the first time they've had a three-game winning streak since they won that last Grey Cup.

Big deal.

If the Tiger-Cats win it'll mean they have more wins on Aug. 8 than they had all of last year or the year before and as many wins as the year before that.

On Oct. 7, 2003, in the middle of a 1-17 season, Bob Young bought the team.

From 2003 through 2008 the Tiger-Cats have won 21 lost 74 and tied one. And Young, the impossible-not-to-like billionaire who grew up going to games on Balsam Avenue, has lost an estimated $10-12 million.

But all of a sudden something is happening here.

You notice a different feel to Steeltown as soon as you drive down main street and up King Street. Tiger Town banners and Tiger-Cats pride banners hang from the street poles and it strikes one that and inordinate number of folks are dressed in black and yellow.

It's long been the case that the Saskatchewan Roughriders have been called everybody's second-favorite team in the CFL.

But not this year. At least not this week.

It's like right now, from one end of the league to the other, everybody is cheering for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"Anybody willing to jump on the bandwagon right now is certainly welcome.

"It feels good," said Sandy Beveridge, the longest-serving Tiger-Cat who in his seventh year imprisoned in Ivor Wynn Stadium and now considers himself a lifer.

"I think there is more reason to cheer for us right now," said the safety.

"Everybody is pretty optimistic."

That 1-17 season was Beveridge's rookie season.

"I was just happy to be playing pro football," he said.

But it can wear on you.

"It's been frustrating at times," he said. "But I've always taken it year to year. If you combine it with previous years, it piles up on you more.

"More than anything you want to start winning for Bob Young, the city and the fans. When you consider the way its been with our starts and the way the rest of the seasons went from there, the fans have supported us extremely well and they still support us now," said Beveridge.

Not well enough to take the Tiger-Cats off the endangered species list.

Last year, Scott Mitchell, son of former CFL Commissioner and current Calgary Stampeders governor Doug Mitchell, was hired to fix the business side of the franchise.

"We're not there yet," he said of empty seats in the aging facility where the Tiger-Cats feel they can't possibly take another turn as a Grey Cup host.

"This week is far busier than usual but we've got a long way to go," he said.

Mitchell, however, says he can feel the rest of the country cheering for Hamilton and owner Bob Young.

"Bob is a phenomenal owner. I've been around a lot of owners in sport and I've never been around a better owner than Bob.

"I can feel a lot of good will toward the franchise right now around the league.

"CFL fans have always been very strong about the league as a whole. They understand you're only as healthy as your weaker franchises."

Oskie Wee Wee. Oskie Wah Wah.

Anybody want to give me an "Aaaaaaaaaaargo?"

No? Didn't think so.


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