Leafs fans wear paper bags over their heads as they watch the team lose to the Flyers last March. (REUTERS)
TORONTO - If the game of life were a schoolyard pick-up and global cities the competing players, Toronto would be the last one picked.
Every. Single. Time.
We just can’t match it with London, New York, Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, Los Angeles or Munich when it comes to hosting glamour teams winning at the very highest level.
Forget having a casino. For all of Toronto’s aspirations to attain true global city status, the conspicuous lack of a champion side is not so much embarrassing as downright un-Canadian.
When it comes to sporting accolades, Toronto has been passed over more times than a pork chop at a bar mitzvah.
Why? Because we suck — in imperial and metric measures.
It doesn’t matter what sport you follow, Toronto seems to always be there to make up the numbers and round out the competition.
Let’s be honest. What sport is there where we don’t exhibit advanced signs of chronic ineptitude?
The major leagues of sports like soccer, basketball, CFL, hockey (remember hockey?) and baseball — year in and year out seem to be beyond the effort of our teams.
Torontonians, we should all be ashamed. Deeply, irrevocably ashamed by this underwhelming litany of poor performances, long promises, dashed dreams and hopeless longing for glory.
Where are our sporting team bandwagons? Even just one rolling down Yonge St. with a marching band out front and 10,000 cheering fans behind — that would do. Really it would.
The lack of any victorious team or franchise, the total absence of winners at the very highest level, is confounding.
It poses the inevitable academic question: Just what is it about Toronto that sucks the competitive lifeblood out of a major sporting team?
Look at the evidence. Alternatively, look away if you are of delicate disposition or you’ve just eaten a heavy meal.
We all know the last time the Leafs won Stanley Cup was back in ... well (do I have to write it?) 1967.
The last time the Blue Jays did anything other than dash the hopes of its fans? 1993.
Then there’s soccer. Soccer anyone? Helloooo? Where’s everyone going?
Toronto FC has never won anything. On current form they’d be hard pressed to win the North American top flight if they raffled it.
Ditto basketball. The Raptors (there’s a name to conjure with) seem to excel in the pre-season and go quickly down hill from there. Or somewhere.
Truth to tell they embrace the moniker of the worst sporting franchise in North America. Unloved, unwanted, abandoned at the doorstep of the orphanage of sporting success.
One team stands out as our most recent champions. Step forward Toronto Argonauts (but not too close). Yes, they claimed the Grey Cup at their last four appearances in 1991, 1996, 1997 and 2004.
The Argos are also the single oldest sporting team in North America, having been founded back in 1873 and still holding the same name to this day.
Their honour board is impressive, yet written in the past. They have the most Grey Cup wins with 15 in the league and the third most Grey Cup appearances with 21, behind Edmonton (22) and Winnipeg (23).
But 2004 was their last trip to the fountain of sporting joy, to drink deeply from its lustrous waters and bask in the reflected glow of victory.
That’s eight years ago, a while between victory drinks in anyone’s language.
So we should blame something. Can we blame the weather? Maybe not. Goodness knows, all of Canada puts up with a lot of snow in winter and crippling heat in summer, so that won’t work.
Is it the water? Hardly.
Maybe it’s the food and the good life.
Toronto has so many first class restaurants and clubs and distractions that first class athletes lose their will to win in an atmosphere of unrestrained hedonism.
Yeah, as if. Tell that to a soccer player in Barcelona, Paris or Madrid, a baseball player in Los Angeles or American footballer in Boston.
That’s not a reason so much as an excuse.
Maybe we lack the single driving force that has pushed great sporting teams to the fore in the past.
A really rich guy — or woman — with deep pockets, totally committed to a team and determined to succeed. Someone who will put their heart into a side and say, ‘Damn the early losses, it’s my way or the highway.’