My city is a city of losers. At least when it comes to our primary professional sports teams. We suck.
Our Maple Leafs of the NHL are 27-28-13, which puts us 11th in the conference and well outside the playoffs.
Our Raptors of the NBA are 23-42, which puts us 14th in the conference and well outside the playoffs.
Our Blue Jays of MLB were 86-76, which put us 4th in the division and well outside the playoffs.
Our Argos of the CFL were 4-14, which put us 3rd in the division and well outside the playoffs.
Our Bills of the NFL were 7-9, which put us 4th in the division and well outside the playoffs.
There is little hope for any of the above. In fact, I'm willing to bet all miss the playoffs again next season.
Welcome to Loserville.
For no particularly good reason, I wanted to revisit the Toronto Raptors' inaugural season. Alvin Robertson scored the first basket in franchise history and we went on to beat the New Jersey Nets 94-78 at SkyDome that magical opening night. I remember tuning in and realizing I was going to witness the birth of a Toronto professional sports franchise, something I didn't get to do with the Leafs or Jays.
Here's that inaugural Raptors team that went 21–61 in 1995-96
3 Zan Tabak
4 Vicenzo Esposito
7 Alvin Robertson
9 Tony Massenburg
9 Sharone Wright
13 Doug Christie
20 Damon Stoudamire
22 John Salley
23 DeWayne Whitfield
24 Jimmy King
30 Oliver Miller
32 Herb Williams
33 Carlos Rogers
35 Tracy Murray
40 Willie Anderson
44 Martin Lewis
52 Victor Alexander
54 Ed Pinckney
55 Acie Earl
Named NBA's coach of the year a little over one season ago, Sam Mitchell has been fired as head coach of the Toronto Raptors. He's been replaced on an interim basis by Jay Triano, a Niagara Falls, Ontario native best known for coaching the Canadian men's team from 1998-2004.
I'm sorry to see Smitch go, but this team was in danger of being left for good in that wasteland between the contenders and horrible. On a positive note, Jay Triano is now the first Canadian-born head coach in NBA history.
As I watch the Leafs play New Jersey, I realize I missed the first Raptors game of the 2008/2009 season. I've been a big Raptors fan since day one, but during the winter they're the second best game in town. That's pretty unfair to the Raps, who have a nice team and might even win a playoff round this season, whilst the Leafers shouldn't get a sniff at the playoffs. But the Raps knew the score when they showed up 13 years ago.
As the Raptors season tips off, I just wanted to throw down a couple of Raptors notes. Firstly, I wanted to promote Doug Smith's Toronto Raptors Blog. Smith writes for the Toronto Star and has been covering Raptors basketball since our inaugural season, and I look to him for analysis and insight. His blog is interesting and informative, and I see he even live blogged tonight's game. If you like the Raps, subscribe to http://thestar.blogs.com/raptors/rss.xml.
Secondly, I thought I'd let you in on something cool Google does when you search for raptors. The first result is the box score from the most recent game, and the opponent and date of the next game. Soon I'll be Googling where I left my keys.
25 regular season Raptors games are going to be televised on TSN2. There's only one problem with that. If your cable provider is Rogers, as mine is, you can't get TSN2.
This is a great deal worse than throwing the games on RaptorsTV, because at least a Raptors fan can get RaptorsTV. The only way to get these 25 Raptor games is to change service providers to Bell or one of several regional companies, including Cogeco.
Rogers and TSN, let's make a deal.
The rumours are true. We're shipping off T. J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, our 17th pick in tonight's NBA draft and a player to be named later to Indiana for Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal.
O'Neal is a six time all-star who will greatly improve our frontcourt as he plays alongside Chris Bosh. Of course, he has to stay healthy, which is something he hasn't been able to do the past two seasons. We all know Ford had to go anyway, and although Nesterovic had a decent year last season, we need to get better at center and O'Neal should still have some gas in the tank.
The deal will be final as soon as O'Neal passes his physical. Although there are risks, it's a good move for the Raps.
I didn't see this one coming. Chuck Swirsky is leaving his role as play-by-play announcer for the Toronto Raptors for a similar role with the Chicago Bulls. For ten years he was the voice of Raptors basketball but he's leaving us for "family reasons".
Love him or hate him, you noticed him. Swirsky was full of enthusiasm, cut from that Dick Vitale mold with the catch phrases and signature calls. He showed up in 1999, but I can't really remember who called the games before he arrived. Was it Rod Black? Was it Paul Romanuk?
I don't know who will call television games for the Raps next season, but they'll likely give Paul Jones a long look. Personally, I don't think Jones is ready for prime time. I say give the gig to Bob Cole.
Here's a little salami and cheese, Swirsky style.
I listened to the first 10 minutes of the Raptor game while driving home from ball practice. We sounded awful. For the second game in this playoff series, the Magic were all over us early. I thought we were going to get blown out.
I tuned in later, just to see how it was going. We had battled back. The final minutes of this game were thrilling as we clung to a one point lead with just over a minute to go. There were three missed opportunities, all involving Chris Bosh.
- Chris Bosh's pass to the wrong team late in the 4th. This play broke my heart, because we had the offensive rebound and Bosh inexplicably threw it right into the hands of the opposition. At the time, we were up by a point.
- The non-call on Dwight Howard. Down by one with just under 30 seconds to play, Bosh went up to draw a foul. He was clearly fouled by Howard, but the refs didn't call it. You don't want to hear what I yelled at the tv after this play.
- With seconds left, Bosh put up the shot that would win it. It was an easier shot than the one Vince Carter took to win game 7 against the 76ers. If Bosh hits this, we come home with a split on the road and the momentum is ours.
Those three CB4 moments are still ringing in my head the next morning. The game was there for the taking, but we couldn't make it happen. I just don't think this team is ready yet.
The Toronto Raptors are going heavy with their Canada's Team spin, and I for one am glad. Their attempt to be Canada's team has them drenching everything in red and white without a hint of purple.
Why a team named after a dinosaur would choose purple as their official colour is beyond me. Comparisons to the famously annoying purple dinosaur Barney were encouraged. The whole purple thing, so key during the first decade of this franchise, simply had to go. I love you, you love me... I think I'm going to be sick.
At the game last week, I couldn't find any purple. A guy in an older ACC uniform selling snacks had a little purple in his shirt and fans in old school uniforms with Camby and Stoudamire on the back had purple, but otherwise it's all Canadian red and white now. Phew!
It's playoff time. Are you red-y?
Yesterday was a typically busy day that received a delightful curve ball late in the day. At about 4pm, I was offered a couple of primo Raptor tickets for last night's game against the Heat at the ACC.
When Raptor tickets fall in my lap, I'm not one to deny the privilege. I went, had a great time and enjoyed an easy Raptor victory that would clinch us 6th place in the East. That means we avoid the Pistons in the first round and get the far better match up against Orlando.
I didn't think we've have a prayer against the Pistons, so this give us some sweet hope that we could actually win our second series in franchise history. Things should get underway Sunday. As I prepare my red and white wardrobe without a hint of purple, here's the Raps into song that seems to work so well with lights down low and CB4 and the gang hitting the court.
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