Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are going to make the playoffs.
The Ticats need just one win over their last three games or a loss by Toronto and Montreal at any point between now and the end of the season to get there. Given the Argonauts are a dumpster fire playing in Calgary on Friday and the Alouettes are starting a rookie at quarterback this week, that seems a pretty safe bet: the website sportsclubtats.com puts the Ticats’ post-season chances at 99.3 per cent.
But Hamilton needs a win for reasons that go beyond their crawl up the putrid East standings. This is a team that seems, both on the field and off, to be on shaky ground at the absolute worst time of the year. Forget about division titles and bye weeks, this is a team that desperately needs a reason to feel good about itself again.
“I’m all about perspective. Our record says we suck but we still have a good chance to get in the playoffs, sill have a good chance for a bye,” said Ticat linebacker Simoni Lawrence, never one to be shy about the truth. “But I feel we just to get a W and everything else will fall into place.”
This week certainly hasn’t helped. Brandon Banks’ two-game suspension for a recreational stimulant – the guy took a funky version of ecstasy, OK? – was yet another needless controversy in a season that’s rapidly coming to be defined by them. Not only does it rob the team of one of their most dynamic contributors but it’s led to yet another round of questions that have little to do with the activities on the field.
And there was yet another injury because of course there was. This time it was recently-signed linebacker Keon Raymond, who looked solid in his Ticat debut last week, then got hurt in practice on a play so innocuous the casual observer likely missed it. This team isn’t snake-bitten, it’s getting a tongue-bath from an evil-minded Medusa.
Hamilton will have a new starting right tackle, too. Rookie Brandon Revenberg, who has been one of the season’s few bright spots, will get the start in place of the injured Terrence Campbell who begat the injured Jeremy Lewis. The kid has been all right so far but this is his biggest test yet.
The Ticats also need some success against the Redblacks. The Ottawa squad has now won four straight against Hamilton, a series of setbacks that includes the soul destroying loss in last year’s East Final. Rivalries only exist if there’s a certain degree of parity between the adversaries and right now this match up is all Redblacks – especially when it matters.
And here’s a [rhetorical) question: when’s the last time something good happened to this team? Between the losses (three straight), the injuries (quarterback Zach Collaros, receiver Luke Tasker, Raymond and a zillion others) and the controversies (Banks’ positive drug test, Kent Austin’s suspension, last week’s replay debacle) it seems like forever since Hamilton found their happy place.
The law of averages says the Ticat are due for something to go their way. And while head coach Kent Austin is loathe to place any stock in luck or fate – “that’s what losers do,” he says – even he’ll admit, under duress, that it even a smirk from the Football Gods wouldn’t hurt.
“Yes, It would be nice [if a break went our way,]” he finally admitted. “But if we play our best football game, make the fewest amount of mistakes and make the plays when they’re there, we’ll live with the results.”
So set aside the playoffs for a moment and the controversies, too. What the Ticats need a nice, simple win, one without drama, injury or an asterisk. Just a little something to remind them that in even in this season of discontent, there remains the possibility – slight as it may be – of something resembling success.