Toronto a passion pit for sports
STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle looks on behind the bench in the first period of his team's last NHL hockey home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Toronto April 5, 2012. (Reuters/FRED THORNHILL)
TORONTO - When is it our turn?
I started thinking about that, driving home from Sunday’s Argo game, after watching a team too beaten up trying to compete with a Montreal team that used to be special.
How long will it be before a Toronto team — any one of the four that matter, or five if you count Toronto FC — contends for something meaningful?
The Leafs aren’t playing, which means the Leafs aren’t losing. The Raptors haven’t started their season yet, which means they haven’t started with the talk of cap flexibility yet. The Argos weren’t much with Ricky Ray at quarterback and are far less than that without him. The Blue Jays just finished the season from hell and too much has been said about that. And there are 19 teams in Major League Soccer and, if you didn’t know this already, we’re No. 19.
Even in Kansas City, where the Chiefs and Royals are annually awful, where it last won a World Series in 1985 (which should have been ours) and won a football title in Super Bowl 1V (1970), where they don’t even have NHL or NBA teams, there is a first-place soccer team. There is something.
Here, a smorgasbord of the trampled on, a symphony of the defeated. Oh, I know the emails will follow. They always do, reminding me of the numerous titles the Rock of lacrosse fame have managed or the fact the Marlies played for the AHL championship last spring or that Jack Dominico’s baseballl Leafs are normally competitive. You can file all that under “who cares?” This is minor league stuff played in a major league city. No big league town goes ga-ga over a National Lacrosse crown.
It’s not much fun in Cleveland these days, either, where the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers are all bottom feeders, but LeBron James wasn’t that long ago, they did play for an NBA title, and the Indians have been to the post-season seven times since the Jays won their second World Series, twice losing in the Series themselves.
At least they’ve had something: And the Cavs, with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, look to be heading in the right direction.
Where else is it this grim?
Maybe in Minnesota, where the Vikings have been terrible, the Twins had the worst record in the American League, the Timberwolves won 26 games and the Wild have yet to experience what hockey is like with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. But at least the Twin Cities has a whole lot of names to watch: Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin; Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (still); Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio; Parise, Suter and the goalie, Niklas Backstrom.
But the hard part about being a Toronto sports fan is, what can you believe in? Where is something looking like it’s close, like it’s heading in the right direction, like next year is our year?
New York won the last Super Bowl. Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup and the MLS Cup. Miami took home the NBA crown and St. Louis won the last World Series.
The year before that, Green Bay won the Super Bowl, Boston the Stanley Cup, Dallas took home the NBA title, San Francisco won the World Series, and Colorado won the MLS Cup (played right here at BMO Field).
Not that long ago the Chicago Blackhawks won and the Philadelphia Phillies won and the San Antonio Spurs won and the Los Angeles Lakers won and the Boston Red Sox won and the Pittsburgh Penguins won and the Detroit Red Wings won and this well could be the year of the Tigers in baseball.
The truth is, in every city that matters on the North American map, there has been a championship season of late. And if there hasn’t been that, there has been teams playing for titles, competing in playoffs, something to rally around.
The Argos won the Grey Cup in the last lockout season of the NHL. They haven’t been back since. Maybe the Raptors make the playoffs this year because they play some defence but the odds are against them. The Leafs, under current construction, would be hard-pressed to find a playoff spot in the East if they were playing.
And all we’re talking about here is sneaking in. Not contending. Not challenging for a championship. That seems light years away.
The Blue Jays, we thought, we’re closest and maybe they still are. But when you watch the quality of the playoff teams, you realize how much is missing here.
I wish I had an answer. I wish I had a solution. I wish there was something we could grab onto and squeeze tight. This is a passionate sports town — but what is there to be passionate about?