Thursday, May 12, 2016

The doom and gloom of the Toronto sports fan

It may seem weird to be writing this after a glorious win in Raptor-land last night but we all know it's a temporary blip. Happiness never seems to last long.

Toronto fans weren't always like this. They were positively giddy in the 40s with all those great Leafs teams that usually had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup and the Argos being a Grey Cup juggernaut.

Then the 50s hit. (Yes, it has been that long, folks!) The Argos entered what is now known as Dark Ages. After 1952, they didn't win a Grey Cup again until 1988. After a sensational win in 1951, the Leafs descended to mediocrity and didn't win again for a decade. In true Toronto style, the decline began when the hero of the 1951 Stanley Cup mysteriously disappeared during a fishing trip that summer.

There was a period of hope again in the early 60s as the Leafs won 3 Cups in a row, a hope that I remember sustaining fans through the beginning of the Harold Ballard era. But the story is familiar, the Leafs haven't won since the league expanded from the original six in 1967. The 60s also saw the city lose the AAA Maple Leafs, who had been the only bright spot during the 50s. If you get a chance, check out that team's history - it's fascinating. The 1960 team is considered one of the top 100 MiLB teams in history. The last few years they were the Sux AAA affiliate, a sure sign of the end times.

The Jays World Series wins were punctuated by a decade before that of frustration, of too many teams good but not quite good enough. I remember the despair heading into the 1992 season - would they ever get over the hump? The euphoria of those years quickly dissipated in the wake of the 1994 players strike. There is ample evidence to suggest the two Canadian teams were the ones most adversely affected by it. One can make a great case that it killed the Expos but what gets forgotten is the huge hit that the Jays took in the decade afterwards as people like me walked away from the game that cared so little for us.

You probably know the rest. The Argos managed to win a few more cups but the last time they were relevant to the Toronto psyche was when Doug Flutie and Pinball Clemens took them to back to back Grey Cups in the mid 90s. The Raptors until now had never been able to get out of the first round of the playoffs and that was in the few times they made it there. FC didn't manage to get there at all. The Leafs have been epic in their failures. And until last year, the Jays seemed determined to wallow in mediocrity. (The exception is The Rock, who won 7 championships, but no one seems to care. To be fair, they haven't won since 2011 either.)

Thus the permanent black cloud that hangs over Toronto fans.This is the thing that all the ballyhooing about the Bat Flip failed to mention. That flip wasn't just for Jose, it was for all of us. It was saying a big Fuck You to the dark forces that had looked to once again take defeat from the jaws of victory. It was a clarion call saying that we are done being fate's patsies. We are done being losers. We are done waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's time for Toronto to rise again.

The Raptors, more than anyone, saw it. The FC were making their own statement by making the playoffs for the first time at the same time the Jays did. And hey, the Leafs did win that draft lottery (although I won't get into what bullshit it would have been if they didn't get what they had rightfully earned by making the difficult call to rebuild). A new day is dawning in Toronto sports.

Now comes the most difficult task. Reprogramming without becoming the assholes that Boston, San Francisco, and Kansas City fans became. In some ways I'm preaching to the choir since what drew a lot of us to Andrew's site was that it was a break from the unrelenting doom and gloom. A spot of dare we say hope? (Remember all the shit we took last year from other fans hating our "Pollyanna" ways?  Take that and suck it. We were right.) It's going to be a long battle. It's too easy to take each loss and jump right to "that's it, the season's over" because that was true for a long time.

Lucky for us, we have role models. I've already talked about Jose's big FU. But don't forget Stro's FU to those who said his season was over last year. Saunders is currently saying a big FU to those who thought he was done after his injury last year. Edwin's emergence is a big FU to those who would write him off as E5. Happ and Estrada have been giving big FUs to those who wrote them off as mediocre. Osuna said a big FU to those who said he was too young. Pillar said a big FU to those who wrote him off as a prospect. Donaldson just walks around in a permanent state of FU.

So when those dark clouds threaten to come back around, just say "Fuck You. We're Toronto. We're done with this shit. We shall overcome. It's time to win. "