By Chad Ingram
Iremember when the Toronto Raptors franchise was established. It was1993. I was 11 years old. The Blue Jays were World Series championsand there was a huge buzz about Toronto getting its own NBA team.
Whilethe Raptors would not play their first game until 1995 teammerchandise was available long before then and I remember being soexcited when my mom bought me a Raptors T-shirt and hat. I was not asbig a fan of basketball as I was of dinosaurs. Like any nerdy kidI’d been obsessed with them since I was about five years old. Plusit was the ‘90s. The first Jurassic Park movie had just beenreleased that Dinosaurs sitcom was on TV. Dinosaurs were trendingdinosaurs were hip which is almost certainly why the franchise gotthe name it did.
Myparents’ neighbour had a corporate job which meant when theRaptors did start playing he would often have tickets for games andhe’d take my sister and me. Some will recall that during theirfirst few years the Raptors played in what was then the SkyDome astadium that was of course designed for baseball. The seats were notalways necessarily the greatest and the Raptors often didn’t do sowell but it was exciting to watch live games in those early years.
Inour family it is my sister who is the athlete and the big sportsfan. During high school her bedroom was covered in posters ofRaptors star Vince Carter. My bedroom was covered in posters of TheBeatles and Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. As I got older sports becameincreasingly less important music increasing more so.
Thatcontinues to be the case today. I’m by no means an ardent sportsfan. I go to the occasional Jays game. I’ll watch the Leafs on aSaturday night. And it turns out I’ll watch the Raptors if theymake the NBA playoffs.
Likeso many bandwagon-jumpers I’ve found myself excitedly affixed tomy television these past few weeks watching sometimes inastonishment the Raptors claw their way to victory in some extremelyclose games. I even stayed up past my bedtime to watch them win thechampionship last week.
TheToronto Raptors are of course more than just Toronto’s NBA’steam more than just Ontario’s NBA team. They are Canada’s onlyNBA team and that’s what’s made the whole thing so exciting. Aswelling of patriotic pride in a country that is not really one forflag-waving. Everyone loves an underdog story and if that underdoghappens to be our only NBA team defeating a number of American onesthen so be it.
It’sestimated that some two million people filed into downtown Torontofor a victory parade on Monday many flying in from different partsof the country. It was a full-blown civic and national celebrationone that will be remembered for a long time. What happened last weekwas more than just a sporting event.