It turns out fans aren’t the only ones who suffer from Labour Day hangovers.
Over the past three decades or so, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have lost the vast majority of their games immediately following the Classic — even in their best seasons — and their record is especially bad when they’re up against the same team back to back.
The proof is in the numbers.
Not counting this year’s win over Toronto or the two years (2013 and 1995) in which they didn’t play on Labour Day, the Tiger-Cats are 19-10-1 in their past 30 Classic appearances. The next week, they’re 6-24.
“I’m not even stressing about it,” said cornerback Delvin Breaux, who had a season-high five tackles against the Argonauts on Monday. “That’s in the past. It’s a whole new week, a whole new team, and we just have to come out with the same intensity we did this past game.”
There’s no one reason why the pattern exists. Instead, several factors collide to conspire against the club in the aftermath of Labour Day.
The Tiger-Cats almost always host the Classic, for instance, and almost always play their next game on the road, where they typically fare worse. On top of that, they’re usually coming off a short week and often facing the same opponent — as is the case with Toronto this year.
Since 1986, Hamilton has been up against the same team the week of and the week after Labour Day 10 times. On nine occasions, it’s been the Argonauts.
Just once — in 2015 — have the Tiger-Cats won both matchups.
“I’ve been saying for years now, it’s hard to win back to back in this league,” centre Mike Filer said.
Courtney Stephen, who is coming off his fifth straight Classic appearance, agreed.
“It’s pro football,” said the safety. “You’ve got to give credit to different teams and the staffs for being able to adjust and fix the holes in the game plan from week to week.”
For Toronto, that means finding a way to rein in Jeremiah Masoli and his core of runners and receivers, who punished the Argonauts with 543 yards of offence on Monday. It also means getting its own ground game going — despite having the worst numbers in the league against the rush, the Hamilton defence held Toronto to 55 yards on 15 carries.
The Argonauts host the Tiger-Cats in the rematch Saturday.
Even though history isn’t on their side in the wake of Labour Day, there is nonetheless a deep-seated belief in the Hamilton locker room that this year is different and trends — no matter how convincing — don’t mean much.
“We can’t look at that,” Filer said, echoing Breaux. “We need to focus on making corrections to mistakes we made in the game. Every year is a new year, every week is a new week and every game is a new game.”