October 11, 2019

O’Leary: It’s make or break for Lions, Eskimos


As the BC Lions ready to make the trip to Edmonton to play a game that could arguably make or break both teams’ seasons, one question hovers over everything.

It’s not about lineup changes, win streaks, losing streaks or the future of either franchises going forward. It’s much simpler and at the same time infinitely more complicated than that.

The question: Could this have played out any other way?

Eighteen weeks into the season, through the Lions’ 1-10 start and through the Esks’ 3-1 record that has slipped to 7-8, here we are, with Mike Reilly returning to Edmonton and his new team in need of a win against his former one to keep their thin-as-wet-paper playoff hopes alive. That the Esks are reeling offensively without Trevor Harris but are still a win away from locking up the league’s final playoff spot makes this almost too perfect of a scenario.

Of course it does.

» Leos looking to put damper on Esks’ playoff plans
» CFL Simulation: Here come the Lions
» Strength of Schedule: Leos have tough task ahead to make playoffs
» Morris: Timing is everything for upstart Lions

Mike Reilly and the Lions will look to keep their playoff hopes alive this weekend against the Eskimos (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

While all praise is due to renowned schedule maker Trevor Hardy for coming up with a score of games that almost always seem to hit their crescendo in October, there’s something in this that we can all relate to.

This game, these stakes, coming at this time in the season. This is all of us, really.

It’s when you say goodbye to a friend, go your separate ways and run into each other three minutes later and have to have another, more clumsy goodbye.

It’s when after listening to your friends rag on someone, you finally open your mouth to contribute, lay out a vicious critique of that person and have it met by silence because of course, the target of your rage walked in behind you and heard it all.

It’s building up the nerve to go for dinner by yourself and being seated within perfect earshot of your ex, who’s on what appears to be the best date of their lives.

We talk about the sports gods a lot (whatever sport you watch, the gods are supposedly there), but that’s a myopic view. The gods aren’t sports fans. They’re suckers for drama and have figured out that the most awkward or uncomfortable situation possible usually fast tracks them to their destination.

In this instance, they’ll be waiting in Edmonton on Saturday night.

There’s also a helping human hand stirring the pot in this game. Hidden behind the warm glow of their phone, the Esks’ social media person might inspire an emoji of a person pouring gas on a fire with this kind of work:

Not to be missed in this: BC Lions Unappreciation Night.

The tweet didn’t go unnoticed in the lower mainland.

“I’m hyped to play them this weekend,” Lions receiver Shaq Johnson told TSN.

“We lost to them twice. They’re talking all this stuff on the ‘Gram and on Twitter. It’s whatever. We’re going to stay quiet and go out there and play. We’re ready to play these guys.”

An Edmonton tie or win gets them into the playoffs. A BC win adds some intrigue to their playoff push and in dramatic fashion, would cast a longer shadow over an Edmonton team that’s trying to find its way in an adverse situation at the worst time of the year to go through it.