Why We Fan

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It’s a feeling unlike any other.

As a diehard sports fan who hasn’t had much to cheer about throughout my life, I have had a lot of fun teams to root for. My childhood sports experience was dominated by the Vancouver Canucks, Pavel Bure, the “West Coast Express” line and the never ever to be duplicated Sedin twins. I’ll go to my grave with the belief that there has never been and there will never be a happier first baseman in the world than Carlos Delgado. The Blue Jays have fluked their way into year after year of home run mashing teams ever since Jose Bautista arrived on the scene. Chris Bosh was one of the best almost-superstars.

The point is, in spite of my lack of major professional sports championships experience (it’s zero, by the way), there has been a lot of joy along the way. I’m not jaded. At least, not yet.

The Toronto Raptors are doing their best to keep it that way for me. After a stunning victory in game 4 over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors are legitimately still in the thick of what was supposed to be a 3 team playoff race.

While I’ve watched more than my fair share of sports over the years, it’s hard for me to explain why this Raptors run is nothing like anything I have ever experienced as a Canadian sports fan.

The Toronto Blue Jays went on an incredible, magical run last year. It was amazing. However, it never felt this way.

The Vancouver Canucks went to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. It was also amazing. However, outside of Alex Burrows’ game winning goal in round 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, it never felt this good.

The only explanation I can come up with for why the past few days have been so different is the nature of the victories. The season was almost over. Twice. This series was definitely supposed to be over by now. That was a foregone conclusion. After game 2, I had an intense text discussion with a friend about whether the Raptors should let Demar DeRozan walk this offseason.

Here we are though, 2-2. This is why you play the games.

Since Saturday’s unexpected victory over Cleveland, I have been downright giddy. Consuming every bit of Raptors news and analysis that I possibly can. I thought the season would be over by now. We all did. I wonder how many people feel the way I do.

This is the reason that I don’t care about bandwagon jumpers. Come on aboard. The bandwagon fans don’t bother me because I know they can never feel this good. At the risk of sounding cliché, it is only the ones of who have been through the lows who get to experience the highs.  The diehards.

The ones who watched far too many Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay clanked jumpers, Rafael Arajuo attempt to play NBA basketball, Hedo Turkoglu believe he needed more “ball” and Jay Triano try to coach a team to play league average defence.

I’m still young. A part of me believes that the chase is more fun than actually winning. This, of course, coming from a fan who has never experienced actual winning. It may be a defence mechanism or I simply might not be jaded enough yet.

Nevertheless, it’s the past few days that instill in me this possibly ridiculous belief that I would rather cheer for my hapless group of teams than be, say, a San Francisco Giants fan. If I had grown up a Boston sports fan, what would I have to cheer for? I have no idea if I am in the minority on this but I wouldn’t trade what I have for anything…I think.

Yes, as Herm Edwards so famously said, you play to win the game. At the same time, the journey matters just as much, if not more for sports fans. Winning is not the be all and end all. It can still be a heck of a lot of fun even when your chances of winning a championship are slim to none.

And isn’t that the point of all this?

Sports have been around for centuries for our entertainment. We watch because it is fun.

We have fun watching Bismack Biyombo wag his finger like he’s the second coming of Dikembe Mutombo. We enjoy, or at least some of us enjoy, witnessing the national media skewer LeBron for flopping around like he isn’t 6”8, 260 pounds.  Most of all, we love the fact that we were all wrong about the Toronto Raptors’ chances in this series. Regular season Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan are alive.

I recognize that it’s absurd to be this excited about a series that will probably end in 6 games. This isn’t even the NBA Finals. But I had to document this moment. I want to remember what it felt like when the Raptors pushed the Cavaliers and King James to their limits. . I want to remember why I do this to myself. Why all of us sports fans do this to ourselves.

It’s this weird, lasting feeling of mild euphoria that is impossible to explain and even harder for most people to understand. You have to be one of us to truly get it. It’s a small club. I’m just happy I get to be a part of it.

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About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to cross_can15@hotmail.com. Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

4 Responses to Why We Fan

  1. The Toronto Raptors are making the Cleveland Cavaliers fight hard for the privilege of making it to the NBA Finals even if the results aren’t reflective of what has been taking place at the moment. I have been impressed with the play of both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry of the Raptors with their ‘never say die attitude’ !

  2. buddad1957 says:

    Great writing Chris! The paragraph on bandwagoners is absolute brilliance. As a Seattle Sonic fan with one championship, and a Seahawk fan with a 1-3 record in the Super Bowl, I can empathize with the how it was to be a fan for a long time without any championships. Throw in the Storm and there are four. The Mariners are doing well and I hope to see them play in the World Series in my lifetime.

    Having experienced the wins, and the losses, I found it almost refreshing to watch a Suberbowl with two teams I had no real fan investment in. It was a bit of a relief… The journey is great! Getting there is wonderful; winning it feels so good, and it turned out losing was not the end of the world.

    Good luck to the Raptors… enjoy the ride while it lasts!

    • Chris Ross says:

      Thanks Bud, appreciate it. Having grown up in Vancouver, I get a sense of what it’s like for the Seattle fans. It has not been easy. This Raptors ride was definitely fun. Glad I got to experience it.

  3. SportsChump says:

    I feel you, sorta, CR.

    Fortunately, I’ve been part of Gator championships (both football and basketball) and Red Sox World Series (grew up a Sox fan although now living in Tampa for 8 years have transferred my allegiances to the Rays – figured they could use the help).

    Winning is a euphoria like no other; as sports fans, as you mention, we’re vested.

    As a Lightning fan though, I feel your pain. We’ve come so close the last few years only to fall short.

    I don’t know what to tell you about the Raptors. Just like Jordan ruling the East all those years, I feel, short of signing someone like Durant (which won’t happen), the Raptors aren’t going to be able to knock off Bron Bron, which means a lot more what could have been for the dinosaurs.

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