By Eric Wilkins, Assistant Editor
A few weeks ago the BC Lions lost to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Team owner David Braley could likely have been found screaming into a pillow as he beat his head against the wall following the game. Though such actions of despair could be attributed to his wholehearted devotion to the team—since his other club, the ArgoNots, aren’t doing so well—the real cause was likely the thousands upon thousands of dollars in lost revenue. A few days prior to the game, team president and CEO Dennis Skulsky had guaranteed a win. The consequence of losing? A free ticket to a future home game for every fan in the stands.
Thirty-three thousand one hundred ninety six people were in the crowd on August 24. Even at the minimum ticket price of $33.57, that represents $1,114,389 in lost ticket sales. It’s unlikely that such an expense was budgeted for in the off-season. The flak the Lions and Skulsky have received in response is nothing short of remarkable. Everything from gleeful watermelon heads (the equivalent of Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans in Vancouver) rejoicing that insult has been added to injury, to proud orange supporters expressing their embarrassment that the club could put itself in such a situation.
But at the end of the day, Skulsky should be praised, not belittled, for his decision to make a bold public statement. Outspoken athletes are known to make guarantees or at least trash talk on the daily. Do they ever back up their statements with anything of value? No. If they come up short, as they often do, they brush it off with some clichéd and practiced line and quickly move on. Skulsky didn’t have to say fans would get free tickets. He could have just as easily guaranteed a win and promised nothing more than an embarrassed smile as collateral and no one would have said boo. Skulsky’s guarantee wasn’t unprompted, either. The Roughriders had purchased a billboard outside BC Place that read “Green is the new Orange.”
For their part, the organization with the wildest fans in the league wasn’t showing the Lions any special treatment with the billboard as they’ve put them up in several other CFL cities as well. Gregg Sauter, the Riders’ vice-president of marketing says that the advertisements are there “just to give a shout-out to our fans” and to “create some awareness,” but it hardly seems necessary to involve a shot at opposing clubs to boost the profile of your own if “creating some awareness” was really all Saskatchewan was aiming to do.
Even in hindsight, Skulsky should still have made the guarantee. Failing to do so would have shown a lack of faith in his own team, and that—as any true sports fan knows—is infinitely worse than any financial hiccup. Especially against the damned Riders.