Sports

Toronto Sports Teams Had a Great 2016

I've been blogging here for 14 years, and during that time there were some pretty low times in Toronto sports. Just four years ago I wrote this about the new bottom for Toronto sports teams. Things were very, very bad for the big five.

In 2016, things got a whole lot better. In fact, there's something great to report about every team in the big five not nicknamed the Argos. Although we didn't win a championship, we were close!

Toronto FC
Ten years after their birth, TFC hosted the MLS Cup final, losing a heartbreaker to Seattle. That second leg against Montreal in the semi-final was absolutely thrilling.

Toronto Blue Jays
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays played in the ALCS. Unlike the hype train of 2015, this didn't seem likely in September as we sputtered into the playoffs, but an Edwin walk-off against Baltimore in the wildcard game and a sweep of the Rangers in the ALDS helped recapture the joy of the previous year.

Toronto Raptors
For the first time in franchise history, the Raptors won a best-of-seven playoff series. And we did it twice! We even took two games against Cleveland in the conference finals, making this far and away the best Raptors season, ever.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season, the Leafs were bad. Very, very bad. This is a good thing, as it helped us land Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the draft. Now, with Matthews, Marner and Nylander, the future actually looks bright and the present is a lot of fun, too.

Toronto Argonauts
Let's not ruin this entry with an Argos update.

In addition to successful developments for the big four teams in this city, Toronto hosted the Grey Cup, World Cup of Hockey and World Juniors. 2016 was a very good year for Toronto sports. Let's hope for a championship in 2017.

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Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

After 108 years, the Cubs have finally won the World Series. What a game!

That's a long drought, and immediately I thought of my Leafs. I've never seen them play in a Stanley Cup final, as their last appearance was in 1967. But there are franchises with far longer droughts than my Leafs.

Here are teams franchises with longer championship droughts than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

  1. Arizona Cardinals since 1947
  2. Cleveland's MLB team since 1948
  3. Sacramento Kings since 1951
  4. Detroit Lions since 1957
  5. Atlanta Hawks since 1958
  6. Philadelphia Eagles since 1960
  7. Texas Rangers since 1961
  8. Tennessee Titans since 1961
  9. Houston Astros since 1962
  10. San Diego Chargers since 1963
  11. Buffalo Bills since 1965
  12. Atlanta Falcons since 1966

Yes, I've included franchises that have relocated or rebranded, because it makes me feel better. Someday, we'll go all the way, too.

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Toronto Popularity Contest: Argos vs. TFC

I'm writing this entry out of frustration. My pal Freddie P thinks I'm "a fool" because I told him TFC was more popular in Toronto than the Argos. In my humble opinion, TFC is more popular than the Argonauts in this city. Fred, obviously, strongly disagrees.

Fred bases 100% of his argument on the fact the Argos get higher national television ratings. He has no other metric to point to, and he's correct in that an Argos game will be credited with many more eyeballs than a TFC match across this fine nation. But those numbers are national in a ratings system that heavily favours an older demographic. Every other metric, anecdotal evidence and common sense tells you Fred is dreaming in technicolour.

Very quickly, in this moment of frustration, I tweeted the following:

There were many responses validating my opinion.

There were a couple of tweets referring to the aforementioned national television ratings, which is undeniable, but the overwhelming majority think Fred has lost his marbles.

In Toronto, the 416 Toronto with John Tory as mayor, which team has more fans: TFC or Argos?

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The Problem with Chief Wahoo

Cleveland swept the BoSox and will face our Jays in the ALCS. It all starts Friday night.

I've been intentionally referring to their team as "Cleveland" and not by the nickname "Indians" because I'm not comfortable with it. I know the story of Louis Sockalexis and understand it's meant as a tribute, I personally just choose not to use it.

The bigger issue is Chief Wahoo. I grew up with Cleveland in our AL East division and watching Major League, and Chief Wahoo always seemed wrong, but in my adult years he seems outright offensive. Chief Wahoo is a racial caricature.

Cleveland_Indians_logo.svg

Even if Cleveland doesn't change their nickname, the time to retire Chief Wahoo as their logo has long passed.

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My Oldest Two Kids Rank Toronto's Teams

In the world of professional sports, I'm focused on the Jays vs. Red Sox this afternoon. A win and we'll host the wild card game Tuesday. This is a big game.

I was just biking with my two older kids and we were chatting about the Jays. My 14-year old son is more excited about Auston Matthews' debut with the Leafs tonight. My daughter will "follow" the game on Instagram. This led to each of us ranking Toronto's big 6 teams in terms of personal preference.

My 14-Year Old Son's Rankings

  1. Leafs
  2. Raptors
  3. Jays
  4. Marlies
  5. TFC
  6. Argos

My 12-Year Old Daughter's Rankings

  1. Raptors
  2. Leafs
  3. Jays
  4. Marlies
  5. TFC
  6. Argos

Straight from the mouths of babes, as they say. Despite the fact I watch most Jays games and talk about the team often, the team is a distant third on each of their lists.

You can lead a horse to water...

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Michael Jordan's Last 12 Minutes with the Bulls (with TV Ads)

I was mesmerized by this 40 minute video of the fourth quarter of game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz. It ended up being the last 12 minutes Jordan would ever play for the Bulls.

The original ads being in there make it even better as it feels like you're watching it again in real-time. That first Nike ad about the kid who wouldn't pass was pretty epic.

Then, there's the game itself. Jordan makes three plays in a row in crunch time that are remarkable. In fact, it's reminiscent of the plays LeBron James made in the final moments of the Cavs game 7 win against the Warriors last month.

It's also interesting how the lack of replay factored into this game. Harper makes a shot for the Bulls that wouldn't have counted today, and the Jazz made a 3 earlier in the game that would have counted today. That's a 5-point swing in a 1-point decisive game.

Enjoy Jordan's last title. It's as good as I remember it.

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6 Cities with Longer Championship Droughts than Toronto

Since I wrote last year about the cities with a longer championship drought than Toronto, the Warriors, Royals and Cavs won it all. With championships arriving in Oakland, Kansas City and Cleveland, that brings the list down to six.

Now before we proceed, this entry is about NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB championships. I realize Toronto has had great success in lacrosse and has won Grey Cups recently, but with all due respect, I'm not counting them as major championships. For Toronto, I'm only counting the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors.

That means Toronto hasn't won a major championship since 1993. That's a 23 year drought. As bad as that sounds, six cities have it worse.

San Diego

Let's start with San Diego. The Chargers haven't won since 1963, the Padres have never won a World Series, and even their former NBA teams (Rockets and Clippers) didn't win a thing.
53 year drought


Buffalo

Buffalo only has the two teams, but that's enough to count. The Sabres have never won a Stanley Cup and the Bills haven't won since 1965.
51 year drought


Milwaukee

The Bucks last won the NBA Championship in 1971 with Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson and the Brewers have never won a World Series. I considered disqualifying Milwaukee because the Packers used to play home games there, but that hasn't happened since 1994.
45 year drought


Cincinnati

The Bengals have been consistently brutal throughout the years, never winning a title. Meanwhile, the Reds haven't won a World Series since 1990.
26 year drought


Minneapolis-St. Paul

The Vikings have never won a Super Bowl, the North Stars and Wild have never won a Stanley Cup, the Timberwolves have never won and the Twins haven't won a World Series since 1991.
25 year drought


Washington

The Bullets / Wizards haven't won since 1978, the Capitals have never won, the Nationals have never won and their NFL franchise hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1992.
24 year drought

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Phil Kessel: Stanley Cup Champion

Phil Kessel: Champion

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In Defense of Homerism in Pro Sports

On May 16, I sat down with Marty York for a lengthy conversation. You can hear our entire chat in episode 174. He had some rather strong opinions about homerism in sports.

When it comes to our local sports media, I believe he has a valid concern. Just look at the current ownership landscape:

  • Blue Jays - owned by Rogers, which owns Sportsnet
  • Argonauts - owned by Bell which owns TSN
  • Maple Leafs - owned by Rogers and Bell
  • Raptors - owned by Rogers and Bell
  • TFC - owned by Rogers and Bell
  • Marlies - owned by Rogers and Bell

It would be prudent to be aware of these inherent biases when absorbing content from these sources. That's just sensible behaviour. We've been on high alert since Mike Wilner's suspension, and you can kick that up a notch following Bob McCown's admission Bob Elliott was banned from Prime Time Sports for something he wrote about the Blue Jays.

Where Marty York lost me was when he attacked the fans for homerism. He pities the suckers who collect at Jurassic Park to take in a Raptors playoff game, or the thousands sporting Jays caps and believing they can repeat as AL East champions.

Sports has one purpose, and that's to entertain. Although it sometimes doesn't feel like it, it's supposed to be fun. Rooting with your city for the home team is a huge part of the experience. I've always been a homer, passionately rooting for Toronto's teams and passing on that same love to my children. I'm a homer, but I'm a realist.

That means I'll tune out when the Leafs are just awful with no redeeming qualities, and tune back in at the beginning of the next season. If prices are too high, I stop buying tickets, and watch on television instead. My collection of paraphernalia is minimal. But make no mistake about it, I want the Jays, Leafs, Raptors, TFC, Argos and Marlies to win.

I think it's fantastic when fans collect to watch playoff games. I love the fact the Jays and Raptors were both two wins away from the finals. I can't wait to see Auston Matthews in a Maple Leafs uniform next year. I'm even excited to see the Argos play their opener at BMO Field later this month.

Call me a homer. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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The Final Expo Home Run

Baseball fans likely know by now that Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon went deep the other day. He's the oldest player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit his first career home run. He was exactly 42 years and 349 days old. That's older than me!

Here's a nice mash-up of Colon's homer and The Natural.

In 2002, Colon pitched for the Montreal Expos, which makes him the last active player to have suited up for the Expos. And now, it's quite likely we've seen the final Expo home run.

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