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.

Indecision Does Not Compare to The Decision

Dwight Howard is not Lebron James. Not even close.

Has everyone already forgotten the magnitude of the decision? Dwight Howard’s cat and mouse game has baffled us all but it doesn’t come close to reaching the 9.0 on the Richter scale that Lebron’s decision did. Lebron James shook the entire world and changed the entire landscape of the NBA. Dwight Howard is mildly disrupting it.

What is almost as mind-boggling as Dwight Howard’s Mitt Romney-like flip-flopping, is the amount of analysts who are equating this indecision, and even putting it above, “The Decision.” Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated says D-12 will be “every bit the villain Lebron James was in Cleveland” if he stays with Orlando for remainder of the season and signs elsewhere as a free agent.

Absolute nonsense.

Lebron James gave a sexy tease to one of the hardest luck sports cities in North America, only to embarrass them on national TV to create a super team in Miami. Cleveland’s hopes and dreams for some sort of meaningful professional sports championship rested solely in the gigantic hands of Lebron James and he spurned them in the worst way imaginable. Cleveland may have taken it a bit hard but that was to be expected considering the manner in which Lebron handed down his remorseless verdict.

Lebron is still a villain. He can’t shake the label because he is not likeable. He never was. For some reason, it took “The Decision” for people to see it. Nevertheless, Lebron is now loved by fans about as much as a 1st grader loves Brussels sprouts. That won’t change anytime soon.

Dwight is a fan favourite. He is Superman. You can’t stay mad at Superman forever. Seriously though, Dwight is beloved. Lebron was a fan favourite but it was never the same as Dwight. Howard’s antics right now are rubbing people the wrong way but one of those patented Stan Van Gundy impressions will turn the fans back around. If not, his Hollywood smile will. The King sneers while Superman smiles.

Even though Dwight Howard seems to be getting damage control lessons from the Lebron James entourage school of public relations these days, he hasn’t done enough to soil his reputation the way LBJ did. Heck, Superman could hold his own TV special and he wouldn’t be half the villain Lebron is.

Orlando residents don’t long for a championship the way the Cleveland fans did and still do. The front office and fans might be doing just as much as Cleveland did (maybe more?) to keep Howard in a Magic uniform but the animosity towards him following their inevitable split could never be the same.

Dwight Howard will be booed when he comes back to Orlando in a *insert team name here*jersey but he won’t be booed around the league.

This doesn’t “rival Lebron James’ exodus from Cleveland” as Sam Amick tries to tell us. It would be foolish to think that Dwight Howard could ever be thought of in the same light as Lebron James. Dwight Howard has yet to give up on his team despite the trade demands. His quietness stopped playing in game 5 of the Eastern Finals when hopes for a championship and his return to the city of Cleveland were still sky-high.

“The Decision” was the O.J. trial for the sports world.

Dwight’s indecision hardly tops the ‘Melo drama we were witness to last year.

Superman should have known better than to anger the masses in a way more befitting Batman. I cannot tell you the reason why he was unable to learn from Lebron and Carmelo. Dwight Howard has screwed up big time. I get it.

Just don’t go around likening it to “The Decision.”

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Lebron’s Championship Asterisk

Lebron isn’t being defined by what he has done or rather hasn’t done in the 4th quarter. He wasn’t given a blank sheet to start a new legacy when he uttered the now most overused phrase in sports. When Lebron James took his talents to South Beach his legacy became partially defined no matter how many championships he won.

The Chosen One has already given up his opportunity to be considered one of the best champions in NBA history. He gave it up when he decided that he needed help to be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can’t elevate him to that status. They’re the reason he can’t reach it.

If Lebron James ever does win a championship they should put an asterisk beside his name in the record books.

He doesn’t deserve to be given the full credit like other superstars have been given. He could win a few championships. He could win 10 championships but unless the other superstar and perennial all-star on his team vanish, then Lebron’s place among the true greats is cemented at least a notch lower.

Championships aren’t the measure of a man.

Related: NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Lebron James doesn’t understand a lot of things. He didn’t understand how many people he had hurt leaving the only team he ever knew the way that he did. Lebron cannot comprehend that winning some championships won’t right all his wrongs. He didn’t understand that joining forces was the worst possible decision he could make.

It’s not just his now humpty dumpty public image that made the decision so poor. He has yet to realize that, given his talent level, taking the responsibility to win championships on his own back is the most important quality a superstar can have.

Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen says Lebron James is better than Michael Jordan. Scottie Pippen has trouble seeing, you know, with his green eyes and all.

Scottie Pippen didn’t get as much press, maybe less than he deserved, but there’s a reason for that. He was a bonafide second fiddle, Michael Jordan’s second fiddle. Lebron James can also be a second fiddle in his own right, depending on the night.

A guy can’t be a second fiddle on a semi-regular basis and still be considered one of the all-time greats. It doesn’t work that way. He can be one of the great talents of all-time but not one of the all-time greats.

Lebron’s championship mentality was questioned when he first became “His Quitness” against the Boston Celtics in game 5 last season. James’ lack of a championship mentality became clear after the decision. It’s crystal clear now.

Where would Lebron James be without Chris Bosh averaging over 23 points a game against the Chicago Bulls or Dwyane Wade pouring in 28.4 a game in this year’s finals?

Related: Miami is Wade Country

The passiveness Lebron has been content to play with in these NBA Finals is consistent with his mentality. His passiveness told him to wave the white flag and decide that he wanted to take the easy way out. If Lebron James cared at all about his legacy, he should never have bothered to start singing “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Lebron thinks he can prove the critics wrong by winning championships. However, each year that Lebron plays will be one more year that he didn’t win a championship, a real championship.

If Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire want to team up it won’t be the same. They aren’t going to be judged like Lebron James. They don’t have the Jordan comparisons flying at them from every angle. I don’t remember any of them proclaiming themselves to be the king or get “CHOSEN1” tattooed across their back. A championship for those guys wouldn’t have an asterisk. It would be legit.

I always thought that a King was a person who leads, not a person who follows. You would think that a chosen one wouldn’t give in so easily when the road gets a little bumpy.

Giving up his number wasn’t a gesture out of respect for Michael Jordan. It was Lebron trying to stop the comparisons but it ended up being a metaphor for his legacy. By going to Miami he gave up any chance he still had left at reaching his ultimate goal and his number went along with it. He tried to be Michael Jordan but fell short. So he gave it up.

No one will ever know what Lebron James was capable of. Who knows if he had 6 championships in him all by himself. Maybe he would have been the greatest of all-time. We can always speculate but it won’t give us the answer.

It’s why any and every championship that Lebron James ever wins should have an asterisk beside it. Like Barry Bonds, Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa, we will never know what could have been.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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