I’m from Toronto.
Was born and raised there.
I witnessed the growth of basketball in Canada, and in particular the Toronto Raptors. Hockey was king in Toronto until the NHL lockout in 05. Fans needed to get their sports fix from somewhere so they turned to the Raptors. I was one of those fans that needed their fix. The Raptors failed on the court in 05 but succeeded by captivating our hearts. There were some things about basketball that hockey simply couldn’t match. For one it’s easier to play, you don’t need to to buy elbow pads, knee pads, shin pads, neck pads and skates just to play. Which was obviously appealing to parents.
But aside from the actual differences between the two sports. The NHL lacked drama whereas the NBA did not. Which appealed to me, because I always enjoy a good old soap opera (still do). Being able to see the players facial expressions, added a more personal touch than I was accustomed to, and with fewer players on an NBA roster you got to know players a bit better. I was no longer watching anonymous players skating around the rink chasing after a tiny puck on T.V (kind of disrespectful I know). I was now watching athletes compete, in a much more personable way.
The reason why the 27-55, 05/06 Raptors captivated the hearts of Toronto fans is that…
Well, first let me tell you Toronto’s little secret.
Toronto fans like losing.
It took me a while to realize this but I finally did and it’s sooo true! They love it when their teams fail, they love listening to sports radio shows like Tim and Sid or the fan 590. They love the negative energy that those shows create when their teams come up short. They love to ask questions like “what are we going to do!” say things like “let’s blow it up and start from scratch” but, most of all they love to blame Players, Owners and GMs the most. Boy, do they ever rip on them!
I often wonder how does Kyle Lowry still put up with Toronto? I mean does he ever read YouTube comments? Tweets? Or Reddit posts? The guy gets ripped on daily, they call him every name in the book, but yet he keeps repping the city of Toronto like the hate doesn’t exist. Some players can’t take it, This sports town has gotten the better of athletes like Dion Phaneuf, Demarre Carroll, James Reimer, Rudy Gay, Rafael Araujo, Phil Kessel and many more. Right now, Raptor fans have been targeting Jeremy Lin lately, Lin has not played well since joining the Raptors in February. But what I find funny is Jeremy is not even in the rotation anymore, he only plays in garbage time. Game one is a perfect example of the negative environment that exists. The Raptors were easily beating the Sixers late in the fourth and hence Nick Nurse inserted his third stringers. The third stringers in particularly Lin played poorly, but nevertheless, the game was already decided and the Raptors got the win. However, all anyone could talk about afterwards was how bad Lin played. Now Imagine being a two seed, easily beating your opponent in the second round of the playoffs, and then complaining about your third-stringer who only played in garbage time.
Do you think Orlando fans would do that? Or Charlotte fans? What about Pelican fans? You see I was there when we were bad when we actually had things to complain about. We always used to say “why can’t we just make the playoffs, like other teams do?”
New York fans are similar to us, they also like to complain. I guess that’s why Toronto is sometimes referred to as little New York.
So if I ever got the chance to own the Raptors or Knicks, I would tell a select few of my staff that it’s not about winning it’s about being interesting. I would tell them we just have to create stories, get people talking about us because it’s too hard to win a championship, only 1 team out of 30 gets to hold the trophy every year.
I would tell my staff if our roster is mediocre or worse we’ll just turn it into the WWE. I’d get into fights with fans, start leaking rumours about our players, draft clumsy tall white Europeans, that I know the fans will hate, but secretly love. I’d be drafting in the top five every year, but I’d only pick players that have interesting personalities. Once every five years or so I’d get my act together for a year or two and start doing my job because everyone loves a good redemption story right? I’d let us win for a bit, earn the fans trust again, only to smack them down again and blame it on someone else. Why? because that’s what they would want. They love the build-up they love the recovery. They might say they like winning, but they really don’t, there’s always something wrong even when you’re winning. These civilized fans put on the appearance of good, but deep down their rotten inside, when the chips are down they’ll eat each other. I wouldn’t be evil for giving them what their heart secretly desires.
So that brings us to here Toronto fans. Once again we find ourselves in the second round with home court advantage facing an uphill battle trailing the Sixers 2-1. Our role players have all but disappeared in this series, Siakam has struggled with Embiid guarding him, Lowry is coming off of a 7 point outing and the reliable Danny Green has been a disappointment. The NBA is a superstars league and right now the star power is not in the Raptors favour. Kahwi Leonard has been the best player in this series by far, but if Siakam isn’t able to finish at the rim over Embiid where else is the offence going to come from? The Raps best hope, in my opinion, is Marc Gasol I still think he has another gear that he can reach offensively, but he will need to look to score rather than pass when he gets the ball. Marc is capable of putting pressure on Embiid and could possibly get Embiid in foul trouble.
If the Raptors do go on to lose this series it will be interesting to see how their offseason unfolds. Assuming Kawhi leaves, Danny Green will probably leave too. So next season The Raptors will still be on the books for Kyle Lowry(1 year 33 million), Marc Gasol (1 year 25 million), and Serge Ibaka (1 year 23 million).
That’s definitely not a contending team, but not a lottery bound team either. The smart thing to do in this situation is to encourage losing. Don’t try to replace Kawhi Leonard by signing Kris Midleton or someone like him. Embrace losing own it (you know what I would do) You can afford to tank since you’ve been good for so long. Sports fans become complacent when their team stays at the top for so long, after a while, it’s just not as special when your team makes the playoffs. Everything fades overtime Golden state’s arena is not as loud as it used to be, Jurassic Park is not as crowded as it once was, and the walking dead is not interesting anymore.
What People truly love is the fall from grace, the tear down the build up the suspense and then finally the recovery. They don’t want to be stuck in the same scene forever and ever it’s boring they’ll lose interest. They want different variations, different scenarios, lottery picks, coaches getting fired, trades, rumours, fights.
Basically, they want to lose than win than lose than win.
Because it makes the winning that much better.