I've been following Toronto sports closely for almost 40 years. Ok, 37 years to be specific, but I prefer round numbers.
Now that I've had a couple of sleeps since witnessing The Shot, I find myself literally stuck in that moment. That shot was a true moment. It was a high arching buzzer-beater with some lengthy rim bounces that made it feel like time stood still for a few seconds. Kawhi took the shot and we all watched and waited to see if it would fall. It did, and the Raps advanced to the conference finals.
True, we're only halfway there, but that was the first buzzer-beater to end a game seven in NBA history. That's literally never happened before, and I can't personally remember a buzzer-beater in any game with that much bounce and suspense. I still can't believe it fell, but it did. Right?
I just checked the replay for the 529th time to confirm it did indeed fall. I haven't felt this jazzed about a moment in Toronto sports since Joey Bats flipped his bat in that crazy seventh inning. That wasn't that long ago, so now I'm thinking of where Kawhi's shot ranks in terms of Toronto sports moments.
Here's my top ten. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments, just know this is a personal list of moments that have happened since I started following Toronto sports. I watched every one of these moments live and remember the feeling. Every time I question why I give a shit about sports, I remember these feelings...
- Joe touchin' them all
- Kawhi's shot
- Timlin to Carter
- Joey Bats' bat flip
- Edwin's wildcard walkoff
- Gilmour's wraparound
- Alomar's HR off Eckersley
- Ed Spague's World Series HR
- George Bell catching '85 AL East clincher
Yesterday was a very good Friday for Toronto sports fans. We won 'em all!
In a crucial game five in Boston, the Leafs held on for a 2-1 win and a 3-2 series lead. This was a biggie.
Meanwhile, in Orlando, the Raptors beat the Magic 98-93 to take a 2-1 series lead. Pascal Siakam led the way with 30 points and 11 rebounds.
At BMO Field, TFC staged a comeback when Jordan Hamilton scored two goals at the 77th and 79th minute to defeat Minnesota United FC 4-3. Alejandro Pozuelo scored TFC's first two goals.
In AHL action, the Toronto Marlies kicked off the North Division semifinals on the right foot with a convincing 4-1 win over the Rochester Americans to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Blake Wallace and Gareth O'Brien scored three tries apiece as the Toronto Wolfpack rallied from a 12-0 deficit Friday to beat Barrow Raiders 52-26 in Betfred Championship rugby league play.
And the perfect day was capped when the Jays beat the A's 5-1 in Oakland. This has never happened before, in fact, this is the first time the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Toronto FC have all won on the same day.
Yesterday, we were perfect.
Bob Cole is my favourite hockey pxp announcer of all-time. I've hardly been shy about this fact. I wrote about it nine years ago, eight years ago and six years ago. When the stakes are high, nothing beats Bob Cole's poetic flavour and irreplaceable timbre.
As I type this, Bob Cole is calling his final game for Hockey Night in Canada. As discussed on episode 385 of Toronto Mike'd, Bob Cole is being retired. He doesn't want to retire, but his employers aren't giving him a choice. This is the end of the line, whether he likes it or not. And he's made it very clear he's not.
That doesn't sit right with me. I still love his call of a game, and knowing he'd still like to call game, I wish he'd be allowed to continue. I'd like to hear him in the playoffs. I'd like to hear him next season. I'd like to hear him until he's ready to retire.
It was a tremendous run, I just don't know why it has to end.
In this 421st episode, Mike chats with Mark Hebscher, Brian Gerstein and Milon Talsania about the current state of sports media in Canada. This episode is exactly 2:29:40.
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Jaromir Jagr has cleared waivers and has been lent by the Calgary Flames to the HC Kladno in the Czech league. With Jagr's NHL career seemingly over, something has become true for the first time in my life...
I am now older than every player in the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB. Heck, you can throw MLS and the CFL in for good measure. I've never been able to make this claim before, and going forward it will forever be true.
No matter how old I felt, I could always point to Jagr and say "he's older than me, and he's still playing in the NHL". It's the end of an era.
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.
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