Groundswell: A Sport Movement is Happening in Toronto and the Feeling is Good

Last night I was driving back from the Niagara Region, having spent a couple of days out of town for celebratory reasons, and as per usual I was listening to sports on AM radio. I’m not sure how many folks across Canada, let alone in Toronto, would rather listen to sports on the radio then watch live, but I’ve found it less anxiety provoking. Moreover, the commentators are AWESOME!

At the beginning of the NBA playoffs, the few times I watched the Raptors-Pacers series I felt nauseous at what I was witnessing: terrible shooting, sloppy plays, bad decision-making, etc. The Raptors were getting their jinx/demons out but as a fan it made me ambivalent about being so committed to the franchise. However, after listening to their second half dismantling of the Miami Heat in Game 7 of Round 2, my ambivalence has subsided and I feel good about whatever happens here on in. This team has broken a number of major franchise records, and they are making the rest of the NBA (and the broadcasting landscape of the USA) pay attention and take them seriously.

There is a bigger sport movement going on in Toronto right now that is pushing all teams to be better, expect better, win Championships and rally their fans. When I was listening to the Raptors-Heat game last night, I took a few moments here and there to switch over the Toronto Blue Jays-Texas Rangers game, which was ridiculous (full coverage is here and a great Sportsnet analysis here). At the heart of what happened was Texas crying over spilled milk from last years Blue Jays playoff win. They didn’t, and still don’t like how the Jays play with pride, guts, big bats and no apologies. Well, too bad … that’s the kind of competitive edge you need at the professional level.

As the owner of the majority of professional sport franchises in the city (the Blue Jays are owned by Rogers), Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment has done a good job of investing in better leadership, coaching and talent over the last few years, and this is part of the reason why Toronto’s expectations and the appetite for sport has become insatiable. As Toronto FC continues to gel and improve, as the Toronto Argos settle into their new home at BMO Field, and as the Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild with one of the best coaches in the NHL, Toronto will be experiencing more thrilling games and successes, not to mention a Championship or two or three. I’m excited … how about you?

PS: Tomorrow, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – honour, educate and celebrate accordingly!

PPS: Round 3 of the NBA playoffs begins tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. where the Raptors take on the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Woohoo!



It’s that Time of Year: Playoffs

Last night I was hoping for some spunk, passion and urgency from the Toronto Raptors. Out of 48 minutes, there were 10-12 minutes of good basketball, the rest made me cringe. Something dramatic needs to be done to fix what’s wrong with the Raptors and sports in Toronto in general.

Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment (MLSE) is at the helm of three major sports franchises in the city, which is by far the leading hub of professional sports in the country. They are responsible for our teams lack of success. They need to provide genuine and good leadership from the top that is matched with long-term vision – this is the only way to find post-season success.

Listening to Dwayne Casey’s comments during the post-Game 2 press conference, I yearned for more honesty. We, the fans, are owed more than diplomacy, we want blunt observations and then action. Basketball fans know that the Raptors are not the best in the league, that we have problems, but what’s got us to this place as a franchise is passion and solid offense. Last night, I just didn’t see it – I saw a defeatism that says that our players don’t believe in themselves, that they’re lost.

Game 3 could be a turning point, but only if the things that work start working and stay that way from beginning to end. Washington is a good team, but we make them look better when we undermine ourselves.

Best Of and A Few Things to Look Forward To

At this time of year, there are all sorts of “Best Of” lists and “Persons of the Year”, and I love these lists because they highlight milestones and achievements; here are some notable mentions:

Toronto Star: “Star’s People to Watch in 2014 Delivered on their Promise”
I was delighted to see that the Star included Sura Yekka, who hails from Mississauga and has been playing soccer since she was 6, on their list. At the age of 17 she has already competed in two World Cups: the FIFA U17 and the FIFA U20. She is on the Canada WNT roster for the upcoming 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and is expected to play in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

espnW: Impact 25
The list featured athletes and influencers of 2014, and is not, by any means comprehensive (where was Eugenie Bouchard?!) yet it does feature a number of incredible people: Mo’ne Davis, Little League Baseball pitcher extraordinaire, Becky Hammond, the Assistant Coach to the San Antonio Spurs, and Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of the NBA Players Association.

Next year will be an incredible year for sport with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Pan Am Games, and Para Pan Am Games all happening successively and in Canada. There will also be more Toronto Raptors basketball, more Canadian Women’s Hockey League action, and the beginning of the WBNA and NWSL 2015 seasons.

Back in February, when I started Lace Up Your Cleats, it was on a bit of whim, and was inspired by my experiences in competitive and recreational sport, and my witness to the incredible athleticism of women, transgender and genderqueer athletes. Thank you for your continued interest and support for LUYC. I’m looking forward to 2015 and to the continued growth of this endeavour.

Posting will resume in the new year. Until then, happy holidays!