Wow I’m tired.
Was at a corporate event yesterday that ended up in a box at the Rogers Centre, watching the Jays, now mathematically out of the pennant run, beat the hated-with-blue-star-intensity Yankees 3-2 (although to be honest, I was watching the game and talking to attendees a fair bit, so I found myself missing details here and there) and see Roy Halladay’s season end.
What a disappointing season for the Jays. Remember back in April and May when things were looking great, the offense was scaring the crap out of pitchers throughout the American League, masking the Jays’ horrendous shortcomings up the middle with so-so pitching and a lousy SS-2B combo? Injuries, the pitching staff largely getting pumped night after night due to far too many rookies on staff who didn’t know what they were doing (who thought putting Shawn Marcum in as a starter was a good idea?), the bats going into the tank, John Gibbons’ scorched-earth policy towards players who dared to challenge his dubious decision-making powers on and off-field All in all, a major disappointment. How’s that Five-Year Plan working out, J.P.? Good? Not really.
Even if the Jays manage to secure all the excellent players still worthy of a chance, and even if Rogers opens up the vault again this off-season to J.P. Ricciardi to sign on at least two new starters (ugh), three or four relievers (double ugh), a shortstop that can actually hit for average (not likely) and a catcher who can throw out base runners, this team is still at least two seasons away from really challenging the insanely hated and talented Yankees for the division title, let alone the World Series.
Is the fact all four major sports teams in Toronto stink (please Leafs Nation, spare us rational folks the idea of a Cinderella-like run this season under Paul Maurice – the crazy-slow Leafs can’t compete in a league which has become so fast-paced) merely an unfortunate cosmic alignment of bad timing and bad management, or some kind of karmic force that is punishing Toronto for being such a terrible sports town?
I’m willing to admit that Toronto is still very much a city that follows rather than defines; it’s somewhat contemptible that up until the recent past, Toronto followed a very distinct cultural pattern of consumption and interest in activities that other cities defined (*cough* New York City) as worthy of attention before Toronto. Toronto is very much a city of commerce and largely Philistine-like qualities in some circles (although that’s changing for the better, I think). When it became trendy to love the Blue Jays between 1983 to roughly 1993, it was good for the city. Yet as we’ve gotten bigger and been subject to the indulgences and attention of power-brokers down south (cue the NBA), we’ve grown complacent in terms of our investments in sports in Toronto. We mindlessly support the Leafs as if they actually deserve our support, ignore the Raptors and question why the team is a veritable Gong Show, only start to show interest in the Jays when they have a chance to compete in the ridiculously hard AL East, and ignore the Argos. Let’s face it. We ignore them.
I don’t think bringing the NFL to Toronto will be a remedy for the serious sports malaise that’s now casting itself over this city. But I do want to address one point that springs eternal hope for people who do like sports in Toronto.
While my friend Neate, whom really doesn’t like Toronto sports culture (well, actually, I have no idea what he thinks), points out that the “trendy” factor for sports in this city is huge (and there’s little doubt there’s a significant number of Torontonians who follow what’s hot before defining themselves and their own interests in sport), one could argue that great cities in their cultural infancy tend to follow this distinct pattern and then grow out of it over time. Take New York City in the early 20th century. If you look closely (the Complete New Yorker is a godsend in this area), you’ll see the city was not unlike Toronto today; bursting with commercial and intellectual energy, welcoming of immigrants from around the world and suffering from an incredible inferiority complex towards London, England. In our case, Toronto’s got the same problems, only this time, we’ve got that collective inferiority thing going on with New York City.
Does it apply to sports teams? Maybe. In an ever-growing metropolis like Toronto, forming a collective sense of sports identity rests on common ideas about culture, communities and people. Toronto’s not really at that stage yet. This city can barely agree on how to build a waterfront, let alone building community loyalty to franchises beyond simply mindless rooting for the home team. The Leafs and our region’s ridiculous attitude towards them is rested on a quaint nostalgia, a belief in the eventual restoration of Original Six glory due to hockey’s powerful relationship to Canada, to defining ourselves as a city and as fans.
This is why Ottawa isn’t a bad sports town, it’s just kind of strange to even define the terms of the debate on good or bad with Ottawa. Ottawa isn’t exactly a town that screams community or shared values, so why make the claim that they’d ever have a strong sports culture? (When you have three separate governments all staking a claim to the region as a primary employer and all-pervasive, all-unifying force to a group of people who largely come to the area for work or education, you’d probably not care about the Senators or Lynx either).
What I’m saying here is that in an era of globalization, the Internet and communities in flux, it’s amazing how important the notion of shared values, shared communities and shared cultural icons really play a part in sports culture. As we continue to urbanize and see greater and greater integration of larger cities, more multi-generational Canadians, more people in general, it’s important to think that while these are very dark days for Toronto sports, there’s always a chance for redemption.
MICROSOFT VISTA: I downloaded and installed as a partition on my computer a copy of the new OS from Microsoft, Vista Release Candidate 1. This is not by any means the finished product; it’s incredibly unstable to use with some programs. But wow, it’s real pretty.
A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: In light of the fact this blog needs some “value-added” components to it, I’ve decided that I will be offering up MP3 files for sampling and listening purposes only on a weekly basis – in effect, turning this blog into a partial MP3 Blog. Of course, with lots of comments about general ongoings in between. Please delete files after 48 hours.
So without further delay, here’s three tracks I just happen to like. I like what I like. I claim to have no real knowledge about the inner workings of these people. It is what it is.
My brother introduced me to Tiesto as he’s known by (formerly DJ) and I have to admit, I find my brother’s tastes in music interesting and original (if not a bit odd here and there) and this time, boy did he get it right. Don’t keep the sound up at the beginning, the entry’s a killer. It’s very beat-heavy.
Tiesto – Traffic
Ok, so this is incredibly retro and pales in comparison to Modern Love, but how can you not love this post-disco goodness? It’s Bowie, the guy’s still a genius (and the most technically advanced rocker in music).
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
That’s right. One of the original masters. He’s coming to Toronto soon. Seems only appropriate you get one of his best.
KRS-ONE – My Philosophy