Friday, October 5, 2012

Being a Sports Fan In Toronto

Since youth, sports have always been the main activity for exercise.  Our parents wanted us to participate in them in school to be healthy, make friends and potentially make us fans of a sport so later in life we can grow up and take the sport serious.  Playing in amateur leagues with the possibility to perhaps play it professionally.  Not everyone was made to play sports but the few that loved the sport naturally became fans and most would select the city where they were born and raised in and root for the team representing their city.  There’s always the big market cities where some of the best players want to go to play and then there’s Toronto.  Teams that represent Toronto just can’t seem to get over the hump.

Toronto has three teams in a national sports league (CFL doesn’t count since it’s a Canadian league) and the Raptors were the last team to make the playoffs in five years.  The Maple Leafs have not been to the playoffs in 8 years, the Blue Jays haven’t been in the playoffs in 19 years and Toronto FC has yet to make the playoffs since fruition in 2007.  Now I don’t want to put a dim light on Toronto’s lack of success in the playoffs compared to other cities.  Atlanta has won one championship in their sports teams history, the Braves in 1995 but those old TBS Superstation commercials reminds me of their 14 straight division titles in the 90’s.  There's Cleveland, don't really need to go in depth on Cleveland's failures.  They have names for their failuresThe Kansas City Royals have an even worse drought of 28 years and are constantly at the bottom of their division, there’s potential for them to do well leading up to the season and usually end up last.  Just like the Jays.

The Maple Leafs are the most decorated with championships at 12, that last one happening back in 1967 when shows like The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies were the most watched television shows.  It wasn’t until the 80’s when the early exits began and made three conference finals none more heartbreaking than the no-call on Gilmour in the 1993 final.  Raps either don’t make the playoffs or get kicked out in the first round and get a new coach every three years.  Blue Jays can do whatever they can to win but you’re not winning in a division with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and the now emerging Orioles in it.

Look into our teams today, they have the pieces and the players to do something but just like the Charlie Brown getting ready to kick the football, Lucy is there to take the ball away and Charlie goes flying.  Toronto teams always seem to start off strong and fail after an all-star break or get better as the season closes just trying to get that last spot in the playoffs.  Whether it is management or the players there always seems to be something that halts the momentum or makes them go into a slump where they lose for multiple games in a row. 

Then there are the players.  The few star players that are on these teams either get traded or get traded.  Bosh was the only one that actually made it to free agency.  Halladay, Wells, Carter, De Rosario, all traded when they were the faces of the franchise (yes Carter packed it in in his last two years here and Wells is overpaid and sucks as an Angel).  We cheer on the bums from other teams that we acquire who become overnight stars (Mike James) and we miss the heck of them when they leave (Jerome “JYD” Williams) even though they become obscure on their new team.  As pretty as lists love to make Toronto seem to be one of the best places to live or visit, American athletes don't want to come here.  Have a tour of the Rogers Centre, take them to the Eaton Centre, show them clips of the Electric Circus, they don't want to be here.  Canada is already the butt of jokes to most Americans, they think our money is funny, we're too nice and it's too cold here.  Off the top of my head there's at least five places that have just as bad winters as we do: Portland, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Boston and New York.  But they win (beside Minnesota) or have been in a championship opportunity.  Players play for in hope of a championship or money.  Mostly money after they realize there's no championship in the near future.

The star players get booed when they leave after they’ve busted their hump for x amount of years and go to a better team.  You just can’t win when you’re a fan especially when your team is losing. (Note: I never say “our” or “my” team, unless I own them like Packers fans)  Either we can’t accept change when it happens or we badger for change and it finally happens when it’s past due whether it’s the players or management.  Ron Wilson should’ve been fired about three years before they finally let him go, Jays could’ve put something better together for a Halladay trade and trading him about a year earlier might have helped.  Raptors can't trade, at all.

Well what now?  Another season passes with Blue Jays missing the playoffs and second to last in their division, the NBA season are right around the corner (pending NHL season because of the lockout) and odds are already against the Raps having them at 200-1 odds of winning the ‘ship.  I truly believe there will never be a championship in the Raptors future until there’s a legit shooting guard on the team (yeah keep those fingers cross for Demar Derozen), that’s the one position the Raptors haven’t had a good enough SG since Vince.  Top draft pick Terrence Ross could be the guard they need but I don’t know till the season starts.  You can look in Raptors draft history and see a bunch of guys that are either on another team or did nothing notable during their tenure.  Raptors can't draft.  At all.  Look at the players they traded away.  It's baffling, it truly is.  And no I didn’t want Steve Nash in a Raptors jersey, they’d just be Phoenix North.  I’d rather see one of the greatest PGs of all time on a contending team than a team that’s still rebuilding.  Plus he went to LA for his kids and after that whole “his kid might come out black” thing, I want Steve happy.

I believe the Leafs can make a run for the playoffs if they can stick to one goalie they don’t force feed a nickname on.  Goaltending is the number one thing you need when you're not surrounded by superstars.  Realistically speaking in hockey there’s not as many superstars as in other sports.  Nazem Kadri.  Either you believe in him or you don't.  Oh you're not sure?  Well make him play!  I don't now if it's only a Toronto thing but I haven't heard so much news about an AHL player since he got drafted.  Brian Burke has been on thin ice for years, like I don't even know anymore.  Stop calling players the real deal and just back your players or spend coin to get players.  How Florida of all places can make the playoffs before the Leafs is damn disgraceful.  There's people in Florida that don't even know they have a hockey team.  TFC will only come in my radar when it’s a season opener after that they are quickly forgotten like the guy that started the KONY campaign.

Raptors fans are pretty awful, there’s many cases of bandwagonism (yeah I invented that word just now) of players that get a hot streaks from other teams.  Happens all the time.  Let’s all remember the two week phenom, Jeremy Lin.  Lin comes to Toronto, seats bought out in the upper decker seats by Taiwanese people spelling out his name with Bristol board.  Tie game, 20 seconds left, Lin has the ball.  All Calderon has to do is play defense for once and get in Lin’s way without fouling.  Time ticks down to 3 seconds...

Lin wins the game.  For the Knicks.  Crowd goes wild!  The TORONTO fans go wild for the NEW YORK KNICKS TEAM THAT JUST BEAT THEM.  Jesus you’re terrible.  The same thing happens whenever Kobe and company comes to town.  Oh, and his new Canadian teammate is coming with him.  When Nash comes to Air Canada Centre, there’s going to be two possibilities that will happen with the crowd: either they cheer because he’s Canadian and in Lakers yellow or boo because he didn’t want to come to this mediocre team in the summer.  Ask any basketball fan, they know at least three people who are Lakers fans.

You just can't win when you're a Toronto fan.  It always feels like they're in a rebuilding phase at the end of the season, star players get traded away for less than their worth and the wins just amount to anything but draft position.  All you can do is cheer and hope for a good place for they use their picks wisely.  Superstars don't grow on trees but Toronto has had some apples that grew and got plucked before they were fully grown.  This exact writing could be done for even more unsuccessful franchises, just switch the names.  But as long as there's a season and a team to root for there's going to be fans.  And hey, at least we're not Cleveland.


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