Toronto in desperate need of a playoff winA playoff win for this city is long overdue
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
|If Argonauts wide receiver Chad Owens can lead Toronto to a win on Sunday, it will be the city’s first major playoff win in nearly 1,700 days. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters file photo)
TORONTO - One thousand, six hundred and sixty six days ago, the now-retired T.J. Ford had a monster first half, scoring 19 points and leading the Toronto Raptors to a playoff victory over the Orlando Magic.
Who knew on April 24, 2008 — more than four and a half years ago, when the Raptors won their only game of a rather forgettable playoff round — that Toronto’s big-ticket teams, the Leafs, Argos, Raptors and Blue Jays, would wait this long between playoff wins in this city?
And so Sunday comes in this city of sporting dismay, a rare home playoff game, a legitimate chance for victory, and I wonder: Why not, in this time of lockout and Blue Jays’ confusion, embrace the Argos?
If only for one afternoon of opportunity.
Why not pack the place, fill up the Rogers Centre, and grasp on to something, rather than nothing? Why not make it fun for one football afternoon, the way it used to be fun? Why not, even if you’re not an Argos fan, if you wouldn’t know Ricky Ray from Rob Ray, look at something potentially good happening on the Toronto sports scene and realize “it’s about time.”
It isn’t about time. It’s overtime for those of us who have been kicked and dragged and frustrated by the way the Toronto teams have played and how little success we have known.
It has been four-and-a-half years between home playoff wins in this city. And that happened to be a game that ended up not mattering, not factoring, which has kind of been the Raptors history: This is Season 18 for them in the NBA. Their next best-of-seven playoff series win will be their first. Ever.
It is 1,666 days since the T.J. Ford night of nights — sadly Hedo Turkuglo offered up 26 points for Orlando that game — but that’s nothing when compared to the last home playoff win for either the Leafs or the Blue Jays.
The date to remember for the Leafs is April 30, 2004. This is Hockey Hall of Fame weekend in Toronto and Mats Sundin is among the the inductees. The Leafs win over Philadelphia at the Air Canada Centre — a 3-1 victory — was Sundin’s last playoff win in Toronto. He scored two goals that night, Darcy Tucker had the other and Ed Belfour was strong in goal.
Eight-and-a-half years ago the Leafs tied the Flyers at two games apiece in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They haven’t won a playoff game since that evening. And this is how long ago it was in terms of careers: Only four players from that team -—Tomas Kaberle, Nik Antropov, Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky — remain active playing the game. Sundin is going on to the Hall of Fame. Four of his teammates Joe Nieuwednyk, Brian Leetch, Ron Francis and Belfour were inducted in earlier years.
That playoff win came 3,110 days ago — ancient history really.
The Argos, in fairness, need a hand this weekend. It’s easy to sell Grey Cup tickets when you have a year in advance and a 100th anniversary to push. It’s not so easy to sell playoff tickets at home when you have little advance warning and don’t know your opponent until the last minute.
The Argos would have preferred, economically, to play Hamilton because the Tiger-Cats bring audience with them. They wouldn’t have minded, for business reasons, playing Saskatchewan, because there are Roughriders fans everywhere. Now they get the worst possible matchup for ticket sales: There may be subplots like the firing of Eric Tillman and Ray playing quarterback in Toronto, but that doesn’t put people in the stands.
I know this must sound funny, coming from me, career CFL critic, hoping for better in this market. But I feel we’ve all been trampled on long enough. You can only lose so long before it eats away at your love of sports. And live events, even in these days of HD televisions, are still live events.
So why not enjoy a playoff game at home? It has been 6,584 days since the Joe Carter home run, 18 years and 14 days and not a baseball playoff game of any kind at the place they used to call SkyDome. For the Argos, their last home playoff win came when Michael Bishop emerged off the bench, relieving Damon Allen at quarterback, and they came from behind to beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 31-27. That was almost six years ago to the day.
Some cities count championships. It has come to this in Toronto. I’m counting individual post-season wins in the city. There is a game Sunday here. This is a chance. That adds up to one.
So why not take part? Why not take up the challenge, Toronto? Why not decide to pack the place on Sunday?