Toronto’s patriotic problems with sports

I’m a resident of Toronto, the metropolis of Canada and a city that, perhaps, because of its rapid growth–Toronto grew from a provincial city of a few hundred thousand to a world city more populous than Berlin–is addicted to comparing itself against other cities. New York City, occupying an analogous position in the United States (but in other ways so completely different) is common; Chicago, another city of the North American Midwest, ditto; Melbourne and London, somewhat refreshingly, have most recently been raised. Toronto wants so badly to be a mature world city, a world-beating city.

Sports play a huge role in Torontonian local patriotism, as they do in every other community of any size. It’s all the more pity that our sports teams don’t do well. The Toronto Blue Jays, as my colleague noted in his previous post, are lumbering. Toronto’s CFL football team, the Argonauts, is decent enough, but recent suggestions that Toronto might acquire a NFL team–whether an expansion team or a purchase of the Buffalo Bills–are unlikely to be fulfilled. Perhaps the nicest thing that can be said about Toronto FC is that it hasn’t broken our hearts yet. The Toronto Raptors are coming up on their longest-ever losing streak. And then, there are the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the great sport of Canadian sport of hockey, the Maple Leafs not having won a Stanley Cup since 1967 and the game of hockey dying because hockey’s just not a presence for an increasingly diverse Canadian population.

Torontonian patriotism is frequently vested in sports teams despite their poor record. It’s also invested–sadly, I think–in the hope that the teams will get better, that they will one day improve and make records again (good ones). I don’t share this, really, having family connections to the Boston Bruins and coming from a province that once hosted an Ottawa Senators farm team (the Prince Edward Island Senators) and having rooted, like every other young Canadian back in the 1980s for Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers back in the day. I really have to wonder: Is there a point when you have to stop caring for your community’s team, if only because the team isn’t fulfilling your expectations?

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3 Responses to Toronto’s patriotic problems with sports

  1. Or is required by upper management to not fulfill them? (This practice could be AKA “Ballard’s Disease”.)

  2. Apologies for the unoriginal nature of the joke, by the by. Also for its reflexiveness.

  3. Forming your local nationalism is not unknown. In a world where nobody knows their state or city flags, why not? In American sports, city mayors often make friendly wagers when their teams face off in playoffs, adding to the communal feeling. And there are benefits to this: look how much the 2011 World Series helped heal NYC.

    You certainly have hope for your teams. Suggesting that you stop rooting for them when they’re not winning is what self-described “real” falls call bandwagoners. Just like patriotism or nationalism does not necessarily, in a democratic system, necessarily mean you support the government (or, if you’re a Tea-partier, consider the government itself patriotic enough), fans are expected to continue to root for their teams. Of course, a non-winning team brings fewer butts in the seats because nobody wants to pay to watch a losing team.

    Have no fear, though. Toronto’s MLB team would probably be playoff contenders if they were in, say, the NL West. The AL East is just beastly. The new Blue Jays GM is also really, really smart and already pulled off a couple incredible moves. The problem isn’t the team, it’s the division.

    At least you’re not a Cubs fan, right? Then where would this post go?

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