It seems like we were just talking about the Raptors gunning for fourth in the conference and a home court advantage for their first round in the playoffs. For those who don't follow the Raps, we finished ninth in the conference and that means we missed the playoffs for the second season in a row.
At least the Raptors played a playoff game three seasons ago. Our Leafs haven't played a playoff game since 2004. That's five seasons ago and six years. My daughter's about to turn six and she's not been alive for a single Leafs playoff game.
Of course, if we're talking playoff droughts in this city, the Blue Jays are the top dogs. The last Blue Jays playoff game ended with Joe Carter touching them all, and that was back in 1993. What's that, 17 seasons ago? Do we count the year they cancelled the World Series? Is it really 18 seasons ago?
At least it's tough to make the playoffs in baseball. Our Argonauts play in an 8 team league in which 6 teams make the playoffs, and they haven't qualified since 2007. It's not looking good for next season, either.
I could drag Toronto FC into this mess, but they're only in their fourth season. We'll excuse their three years of missing the playoffs. And the Marlies missed the playoffs, but they were there last year, if we're desperate for a silver lining.
Who am I kidding... there's no silver lining. The three teams with the largest fan-base, the Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays, have collectively been absent from the playoffs since the Raps lost to Orlando in the first round back in the spring of good 'ol 2008.
Toronto FC is getting natural grass. Toronto's BMO field, home to TFC, will replace its artificial turf with a grass playing surface by the time the club begins its 2010 season.
Toronto council approved the switch last week, but the project needed the approval of both the federal and Ontario governments, which have paid for part of the construction of the $74-million stadium in 2007.
Mayor David Miller announced Friday that both governments have now given the project the green light.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns Toronto FC and manages the city-owned field, is investing $3.5 million to replace the turf.
I like this because:
- Sports should be played on natural grass whenever possible
- We're not paying for this, MLSE is, and that's the way it should be
I attended the first TFC match in this 2009 Nutrilife Canadian Championship when we beat the Montreal Impact 1-0. Then, things went south and we came into last night's game needing a win by four or more goals to replace the Vancouver Whitecaps atop the final standings.
I don't follow soccer that closely, but I appreciate how difficult it is to win by four or more goals, especially when you consider TFC had never ever scored five goals or more goals in a single game. Throw in the fact that Montreal was up 1-0 last night, and you'd be forgiven for writing us off.
Queue the miracle. Toronto FC managed to score six straight goals to beat the Montreal Impact 6-1 to take the 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Dwayne De Rosario scored the first three, Amado Guevara had a couple and Chad Barrett scored the championship-winning goal in the 83rd minute.
The Voyageurs Cup is ours. Next up, the Stanley Cup.
I attended the TFC match last night at BMO Field against the Montreal Impact. Everything I wrote after my first TFC game remains true. There's really no other Toronto sporting event that's comparable to the ritualistic, fan-driven enthusiasm I've seen at BMO Field. It's 90 minutes of chanting, singing, cheering, flag waving and streamer throwing.
Fans spend a great deal of time creating and building these giant flags. One of my favourites last night was a mock-up of a Quebec license plate reading USL 4 EVR. You can see a shot from behind here. The USL is the league Montreal plays in, and there were mocking cheers all night long.
I was also impressed with the time it must have taken to create the largest banner I've ever seen at a sporting event. I still don't know what this banner said, because I was beneath it. The paint fumes were intense and the view lousy, but I was just happy to be a part of the process. here's my shot from beneath The Banner of the Century.
And finally, there were the guys behind Elvis and I in the Supporters Section who raised their banner only to be told by security to remove it or else. Apparently, "merda" means something profane in Italian...
Here's the rest of my photos from last night's 1-0 TFC victory. Thanks, Elvis!
I mentioned Elvis is taking me to the TFC match next week. This match is part of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, otherwise known as the Voyageur’s Cup. As an NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA, CFL guy, I'm used to there being a single trophy presented to the winner of the playoffs. Apparently soccer is quite different.
Elvis did me a favour and broke down this multiple trophy thing for me. He did a great job so I recommend all TFC newbies click through for the 411. He explains that there's the Supporter’s Shield, MLS Cup, Trillium Cup, Voyageur’s Cup, Superliga, Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup. Wow.
There sure are a lot of trophies in soccer. If at first you don't succeed, wait a couple of weeks and win another one.
Checking my RSS feed moments ago, I learnt I was going to the TFC's second Voyageurs Cup.
That's right people - Toronto Mike is going to the TFC's second Voyageurs Cup home game with yours truly on Wednesday, May 13th.
We'll be taking in the match against the defending champion Montreal Impact. He'll likely want to Twitter but he'll do so at his own peril as we'll be in Section 113, Row 17 - smack in the middle of the Supporter section in the south end.
I'm preparing notes for TMike so he'll know all the background on this important match - hopefully he can then sound somewhat smart on Twitter...if that's possible...
Elvis, the guy behind My Morning Expresso, took me to my first TFC game last summer and I loved it. Not only am I really not a soccer guy, but I've yet to play a single soccer match in my lifetime, something my son can't even claim. Even my four year old daughter will be playing soccer later this month. I just missed the soccer boat.
But I loved the crowd and TFC ambiance. I can't wait to go back next week. I'll just read up on this Voyageurs Cup thing and try and remember what to chant and when to chant it. If you're at the game, I'll be the guy in red.
The Marlies and Toronto FC play next door to each other on the Exhibition grounds. Today, the Toronto FC game started at 4pm and the Marlies started at 5pm. I like to tweet via Twitter during Marlies games, and apparently Toronto Mayor David Miller likes to tweet during TFC games, because that's how I got my TFC updates while watching the Marlies tangle with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Elvis, a good friend and frequent commenter here, is an avid TFC fan with season's tickets. He took me to my first game last summer, and he'll take me to my second this summer. He has one rule, however, a rule apparently shared by TFC supporters. If you tweet the game, you risk a beating.
I told Elvis @mayormiller was tweeting the game and if @mayormiller can tweet during a TFC game, so could @torontomike. Apparently, @mayormiller can't tweet during TFC games and him doing so has alienated him from true TFC supporters. I won't repeat what Elvis called him, but it's worse than the label Freddie P once put on our fearless leader.
By the way, TFC tied their match 1-1 and the Marlies tied their game 1-1 with a Bates Battaglia goal with 11.1 seconds remaining in the 3rd period. @mayormiller tweeted one game, @torontomike tweeted the other. Only one of us risked getting his ass kicked as a result.
Attending the Toronto FC match on Saturday was a bit like observing a foreign culture in their natural habitat. I found myself observing their rituals and customs as I quickly adapted. What I saw and experienced has me questioning everything I know when it comes to sporting events.
The professional team I've seen most often live in this city is the Toronto Blue Jays, first at Exhibition Stadium and now at SkyDome. I can only think of one fan-driven ritual, and that's the wave. The wave was fantastic from 1983 through the two World Series wins, but the wave has lost a great deal of steam since the mid-90s and it's all there was. Sure, every so often a group would jump on a chant to belittle an opposing player, and there are always random calls and cheers when the home team makes a great play, but for the most part you sit there and watch.
Don't get me started on Maple Leaf games. There are no fan-driven rituals, you simply do what the scoreboard tells you to do. For the most part you sit down and watch, reacting to the play. The older fanbase, primarily made up of corporate seat-holders, would probably sic an usher on you if you dared try to start a sing-along or chant. And unless we've just scored or there's a fight, don't you dare stand. That would be considered rude.
Raptors games, although full of a great deal more enthusiasm with younger, passionate fans, don't capture that same ambiance I witnessed at BMO Field on Saturday. You sit down and react to the plays on the court. Every so often the public address announcer and scoreboard will order you to sing a certain song or clap in rhythm, but it's totally contrived.
Why can't we take what we have learnt from TFC fanatics and apply it to other sporting events in this city? Is it too late to teach an old dog new tricks and shed our reputation as fans who sit on their hands?
I don't know where to start and how to copy and paste what I experienced, but there must be a way. If it can be done at BMO Field, it can be done at the ACC and SkyDome.
Wow. In my life I've been to dozens of Blue Jays games, dozens of Maple Leafs games and dozens of Raptors games. I've been to Marlies games, Argo games and WWF cards. I've been to all of these live events in this city, but I've never experienced what I experienced this afternoon at BMO Field.
For over 90 minutes of play, everyone was on their feet singing, chanting, dancing, stomping and cheering. It was as if everybody was reading from the same handbook. When the players are introduced, the public address announcer just says the Toronto FC player's first name and we all yell their last name. At the 23-minute mark, we all sang a song for Danny Dichio, because he scored the franchise's first ever goal at the 23-minute mark. There were lots of customs and practices to obey.
The songs were awesome. There were songs for certain players, such as the spin on "Hey Jude" for Maurice Edu or the call and response between sections for Marco Velez. There were anti-Galaxy songs, such as the super catchy "F*ck Galaxy" and love songs for Toronto. There was a song to start things off, a chant to remind the opposition "this is our home", anti-Beckham songs and even "Seven Nation Army". My favourite songs were the anti-ref songs which we sang whenever a call went against us. There was even this French question we'd ask the section across the field and then they'd answer and we'd both do this dance. That one is tough to explain... but super fun.
In addition to the singing, chanting and dancing, there was also a soccer game. I was worried it would be a boring 0-0 game, but I actually got to see two Toronto FC goals and at least six other solid scoring chances. I was stunned by how dominant we were and how much offence there was. It could easily have been 5-0 for the good guys.
Thanks for the ticket, Elvis. I'm seriously starting to think I was wrong about this franchise. I didn't think a professional soccer team would make it in this city, but today I witnessed 20 thousand young, enthusiastic fans treat the event with all the ritualistic fervent of a religious gathering. This was their church, and there was no sign of impending apathy.
Here are dozens of photos I took this afternoon during my very first Toronto FC game as we beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0.
I'm still fairly new to Blackberry Nation. I primarily use my Blackberry to jump on the web and as a phone. I've never really used it to send text messages, but today it vibrated and when I picked it up thinking I had a phone call, I had such a message. "Dude - want to go to the TFC game today?"
It was from a number I didn't recognize, so I replied with three simple words. "Who is this?" It turns out it was my buddy Elvis and he had an extra ticket to this afternoon's game against the Los Angeles Galaxy at BMO Field. I've never been to a Toronto FC game at BMO Field, so I took him up on the offer.
It turns out there were a few rules. Firstly, he wanted me to know we'll be sitting with the rowdiest of the rowdy and there will be plenty of boorish behaviour and swears galore. No problem! Heck, I wouldn't want to watch my first soccer game in any other environment. Elvis also told me to wear red. This was going to be a problem.
I thought about every piece of clothing I own and absolutely none of it is red. I'm more of a black, blue and grey kind of guy. After going through everything, I finally found a shirt that will help me fit in. It's the 2007 Oasis Zoo Run shirt I got when I ran their 10k race last fall. It's red and it'll do.
I'm taking my camera and I'll be taking notes. Everyone I know who's been to a Toronto FC game raves about the atmosphere and experience. I'm starting to think it won't matter that I'm not a soccer guy.
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