After practice on Tuesday, Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon said that his team “need(ed) the fans to come out and support us and hopefully carry us to a win.” Turns out that’s just not true.
Only 20,242 fans came to see the Argos on opening night, the lowest Toronto home crowd since 2003. Those who did came were witness to a thrilling, and at times sloppy, 27-24 Argos win over the Calgary Stampeders. It was a disappointing crowd, especially after the big victory the Argos had last week.
Home openers are supposed to be the big ticket outing. The player introductions last a little longer, there’s a little more pomp and a lot more circumstance, and with no team out of the playoff picture this early in the season the wishful thinking of postseason glory is still alive and well.
So why not the Argos last night? Perhaps the stink of 2009 still resides around the Rogers Centre, keeping people wary of spending money to see the Double Blue. Maybe it’s the economic times. Maybe nobody wanted to miss ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’
But those who did come saw what the 2010 Argonauts are capable of. Sure, the offense can use some fine tuning (specifically at quarterback and wide receiver), but the defense looks damn entertaining. The team picked off Henry Burris four times, including twice by Kevin Eyeben. As well, the Argos forced the Stamps offense to concede three safeties, setting a new franchise record for non-conversion two-pointers. Although they let up 24 points, the defense made sure the game was never out of reach. Now the Argonauts are 2-1, incredibly impressive considering the team only won three games all of last year.
There are definite Argos fan in Toronto, and the accompanying picture shows that some of them are quite passionate. Perhaps in time, when the Argos prove they can stay competitive over the course of the season, the attendance numbers will rise. Because of the inevitable drop post-opening night, improvement in crowd numbers probably won’t occur in time for Toronto’s next home outing on July 23rd against B.C. But if the Argos can keep building on accomplishments and continue to play like they did in the opener, the crowds will follow.
They Said It:
Coach Jim Barker on the defense:
“The defensive staff had a great gameplan, and we went out and executed…they just did a phenomenal job.”
On his defensive line:
“If there’s a better front four I don’t know where they are.”
On the three safeties Calgary conceded:
“That’s kinda how we play the game. We get them backed up and don’t give them a first down…I thought our defense did great to create those situations and not let them out there.”
Linebacker Kevin Eiden on sticking to the plan:
“We told ourselves we had to stop the run and we did, and we had to keep Burris in the pocket and that’s what we did.”