Sound and fury returns to ACC

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 PM ET

TORONTO - For a moment or so, it looked like a playoff game, sounded like a playoff game. If we, in fact, remember what a playoff game in this city actually looks and feels like.

It has been that long, for basketball, for hockey, for baseball, for football, for anything we truly care about in this sporting city of the perennially dismal.

There was sound and almost fury at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night. There was noise. There was buzz. There was excitement. There was emotion. And then the game began.

It almost felt relevant for a franchise that too often isn’t.

The press room had extra tables. There was more security, more media, more tickets sold: The Raptors gave signature scarves to every fan in the building. DeMar DeRozan took to the microphone and said something, although we’re not sure what.

This usually happens at playoff time, but who knows when we’ll see playoff games next.

Everything about Wednesday night had a big-event feel, if a mid-week NBA game between a 40-15 team and a 15-40 team can be considered big.

But what a strange sporting city we have become. We get more excited about seeing Chris Bosh return than we did about him ever playing for the Raptors.

He was here seven years. We never got this emotional about him when he was here. The game Wednesday night against the stacked Miami Heat began with a sense of purpose, before the division between rosters became overly apparent.

And let’s be honest: Bosh’s a fine basketball player, just not someone that gets you all gaga. He’s not much of a hero and has never been any kind of real villain. He never was in his time here. He’s a good player, all right. Just not the kind who grabs you by the waist and carries you along for the ride.

He wasn’t over-the-top adored when he played here.

He isn’t over-the-top despised now.

He is what he is: a nice guy of sorts who came to the realization that he couldn’t frontline a contender and had to play a complimentary role to get where he wants to be in the sport.

That, more than anything else, is his alleged crime. He left for more money, a better opportunity, warmer weather. Who wouldn’t make the same decision?

He was the front-line Raptor who took the team nowhere most years. Now that he’s gone, people thought they would act like a spouse who walked out and set fire to the apartment before leaving. But most of the time, Bosh was a good mate: And now he is miscast in a role of villain he seems to find just a little amusing.

The sell-out crowd at the ACC tried really hard to hate him, but couldn’t. There were some boos. There were some cheers. There was a lot of in between.

Hard as they may have tried, the crowd couldn’t turn it into a Vince Carter boo-fest. But It didn’t have that kind of ring or that kind of emotional commitment. It was loud in the first quarter, quieter in the second, in the third, in the ...

This was to be the mark-on- your-calendar game, the one ticket you had to have, and it was supposed to feel that way. But the feeling that was there before the game, outside the ACC, the noise of the first few minutes, disappeared with time.

And then it became just another game the Raps couldn’t win, against another team they can’t play against.

“The city looks the same,” said Bosh, before the game, when asked about Toronto. “Everybody looks the same.”

The crowd tried hard to be different. The Raptors, who never stop trying, made an attempt to be different. This is what they do. They make you think this could be the night. They have you believe for a few moments. They bring you in, and then reality hits.

This was no playoff game. This was just another NBA night, against a team going somewhere.

Like Chris Bosh said: “One night doesn’t change seven years,” he said. Nothing, it seemed, could.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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