Is it just me or does that title sound like a new dance?
I try to post an entry to this blog once a week and, in keeping with being topical, it’s pretty hard to avoid talking about the amazing Toronto Raptors. Their win on Thursday night in Oakland against the Warriors - themselves the proud holders of three rings and five straight trips to the NBA Finals - granted them the right to boast this year’s big win.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri had made a pretty interesting gamble last July with a trade for Kawhi Leonard, and it clearly paid off.
But apart from the joy of the Raptors’ win was the elation experienced by the entire country. I’ve never seen Canada come together like my fellow countrymen and women have done here, with Jurassic Parks forming in locales from sea to sea to sea. Even urban enclaves like Montreal and Vancouver, known for their dislike (jealousy?) of Toronto, were quick to put aside their animus and relish in this fine Canadian moment. That, in itself, made me very proud.
It seems everyone is talking about the NBA series. At the two off-leash parks I take my pups to several times a week, normally the focus of conversation is canine-related. Not so this week: it’s all B-Ball, all the time! And, of course, the national pride statements cannot overlook the fact that this most American of pastimes is actually the invention of a Canadian man (back in 1891 when phys ed teacher James Naismith attached a couple of peach baskets to the walls in order to provide his rowdy class of players with an “athletic distraction”, using a soft soccer ball as the first projectile of choice in the gymnasium. In a radio interview in January 1939, Naismith gave more details of the first game and the initial rules that were used: “I showed them two peach baskets I'd nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team's peach basket. I blew a whistle, and the first game of basketball began. ... The boys began tackling, kicking, and punching in the clinches. They ended up in a free-for-all in the middle of the gym floor. The injury toll: several black eyes, one separated shoulder, and one player knocked unconscious.” Glad to see he brought in some rules after that denouement!)
Have to acknowledge here the efforts of my son Charlie to get me back into the game. Along with many Canadians, I took up interest in basketball back in 1995 (can it really be almost 30 years we’ve waited for this victory? And I thought it was only Leafs fans that stood by, full of hope!). As a kid, I’d attended a private boys school moulded on British traditions and our sports activities focused on cricket and soccer (and of course hockey and football). I don’t even recall the mention of basketball, let alone fielding a team to compete somewhere. But I put aside this lack of enthusiasm and tried to embrace the game. Whether because the Raptors didn’t shine or due to other exigencies in my workaday life, the ardor for the game didn’t last, and I soon banished B-Ball from my interests.
“Dad, are you watching this game!?” Charlie texted me one evening, mid-season this year. “The Rappies are playing a really exciting game!” he expressed. In a somewhat lacklustre manner, I decided to close off whatever political program I was watching and give an eye to the game Charlie was texting about. And sure enough, he was right: the boys in red we’re fired up, playing an awesome game with intricate teamwork. I got hooked, and just in time to see Toronto’s pride ride the rocket into playoff time and end their illustrious season with the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Well done Raptors! And thanks for providing me and the vast public with a respite from the political drudgery of our times.