The first time I wrote about Sidney Crosby was October 6, 2003. He was tearing it up with the Rimouski Oceanic as a 16-year old and I had just read a quote from Wayne Gretzky claiming he was the most talented prospect he'd seen since Mario Lemieux. That got my attention.
I closed that entry with "No pressure...." After all, he was only sixteen, and all hockey eyes were affixed upon The Next One. The Leafs had a 1.92% chance of drafting Crosby, but Pittsburgh won the lottery. I remember being relieved that it wasn't a team I disliked. In fact, thanks to Mario, I actually liked the Penguins.
Sidney Crosby is now 29 years old. Last night, I watched him win the Stanley Cup for the third time. He won the Conn Smythe trophy for the second year in a row. Along with his three cups, he's won two Olympic Gold medals, a World Cup and even a World Championship. The World Championship might not mean a whole lot, but it makes him the only person to captain a team to gold in the big three tournaments. All Sid does is win.
And by all accounts, Sid's work ethic is second-to-none. He trains and competes harder than anyone else on the ice, despite being the most talented player in the world. In my opinion, Wayne Gretzky was exactly right. Crosby is the best player since Lemieux.
And I still think he's underrated.
I've always loved sports. My first love was the Toronto Blue Jays when I discovered them during the summer of '83. Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth were my guides and I listened as often as possible.
I discovered the Toronto Maple Leafs shortly thereafter, mesmerized by Rick Vaive's scoring touch. My sports diet primarily consisted of baseball and hockey until I started diversifying in the late 80s. Then I was enamoured by Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and Jim Kelly's Buffalo Bills. Throw in some tennis, Indy cars, NCAA basketball and Argos and I've been a sports fan ever since.
As I age, I've realized the deeper the dive the less fun it all is for me. I love to watch the Leafs, enjoying our talented rookies, but I don't really care for the new analytics. I appreciate that possession stats are important, but I prefer to stay a step behind. Entertain me, and just win, baby.
With baseball, I enjoy the stats I grew up with. Batting average, HRs, stolen bases, walks, ERA, strikeouts, saves.... Data is important, but I can only absorb so much before it detracts from my enjoyment of the games. When sports stop being fun to follow, it's time to abandon ship. This is precisely what happened to me and football.
I don't know if this makes me less of a sports fan, but I definitely prefer my sports shallow. Today we have instant access to hyper analysis of every minutia. I'm glad it exists, but I'm going to pass.
Go Leafs go.
I watched yesterday's Super Bowl in its entirety and it eerily reflected the recent US presidential election. It appeared as if the good guys would win easy until a historical reversal awarded the crown to the other guys. At one point in the third quarter I considered bailing on the game because I didn't think there was a chance of New England coming back.
I'm glad I stuck with it, because it was the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever and the first time the game went to overtime. I still can't believe what I saw. What a game!
It got me thinking of how amazing championship games have been lately. With the exception of the Stanley Cup final, won by Pittsburgh in six games, it's been one epic game after another.
2016 MLS Cup
Admittedly, I was only watching because TFC was in the final, but it couldn't have been closer. Seattle won in penalty kicks.
2016 Grey Cup
It was the only CFL game I watched in 2016 and it was a dandy. Again, decided in overtime, with a thrilling comeback by Calgary who ended up losing to Ottawa.
2016 World Series
One for the ages, with the Cubs coming back from a 3-1 game deficit to win game seven in extra innings. I'm still blown away by this game seven.
2016 NBA Championship
Another one for the ages, with LeBron James carrying the Cavs to victory late in game seven. The Cavs were down 3 games to 1 to the Warriors before the magic happened. I'm still blown away by this game seven.
If you're keeping score, we have epic conclusions to the last Super Bowl, Grey Cup, World Series and NBA Championship. Even if you have no horses in these races, it's been a constant reminder of why sports fans love sports.
Have you ever watched old footage of an NHL hockey game and remarked that the boards are ad-less? They're quaint in their starkness. At some point ads were introduced and we just got used to it.
Watching TFC matches, it's impossible to ignore the BMO ad on the jerseys. If the same ads appeared on a Blue Jays, Maple Leafs or Raptors jersey, there'd be outrage I'm sure. After all, this isn't Europe.
Brace yourself, sports fans. Jersey ads are coming. First to take the plunge is the NBA who are allowing teams to sport a 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch ad on jerseys, beginning next season. The historic Boston Celtics just struck a deal with General Electric and they join the 76ers and Kings.
Without a doubt, the other North American leagues will follow suit. Leagues love "free money". And over time, as we all get used to the ads, they'll get larger and multiply. I guarantee it.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
teams franchises with longer championship droughts than the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Arizona Cardinals since 1947
- Cleveland's MLB team since 1948
- Sacramento Kings since 1951
- Detroit Lions since 1957
- Atlanta Hawks since 1958
- Philadelphia Eagles since 1960
- Texas Rangers since 1961
- Tennessee Titans since 1961
- Houston Astros since 1962
- San Diego Chargers since 1963
- Buffalo Bills since 1965
- 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.
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:
In Toronto, which team has the largest fan base? TFC or Argos? My friend is adamant the Argos do and I'm adamant he's lost his mind.— Toronto Mike (@torontomike) October 27, 2016
There were many responses validating my opinion.
@torontomike I respect the Argos history and wish they had more support but there is no comparison. TFC by miles.— James (@JamesD_TO) October 27, 2016
@torontomike i think your friend might be trolling you. And lost his mind.— Joe Manocchio (@joelapalooza) October 27, 2016
@torontomike He's lost his mind. Just look at fan attendance for one. Then ask abt season subscribers.— Francis Low (@frlowca) October 27, 2016
@torontomike if your friend thinks Borden is still Prime Minister then it will all add up to you.— Justin Clevett (@Clevareno) October 27, 2016
@torontomike TFC by far— Jason (@JHagholm1) October 27, 2016
@torontomike its for sure TFC— Tim (@tokum23) October 27, 2016
@torontomike Toronto FC. The Argos have lost their appeal in this city.— Andrew Sheehy (@andrewsheehy228) October 27, 2016
@torontomike He has lost his mind. The Argos and the CFL do not exist in Toronto. TSN CFL ratings are not coming from the GTA.— Mark Hill (@Inhocmark) October 27, 2016
@torontomike No contest - TFC— MattCundill (@MattCundill) October 27, 2016
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?
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.
Even if Cleveland doesn't change their nickname, the time to retire Chief Wahoo as their logo has long passed.
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
My 12-Year Old Daughter's Rankings
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...
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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