When I think about the past decade in regards to sports, I have to think about things in two separate categories.
The good and the bad.
Toronto and non-Toronto.
An example of how hooked I was: It’s the day of the semi-finals game against Belarus and I’m stuck in school. However, the game is taking place during gym class. Is there hope of watching? Yes, but not until my Judo test is complete. Meanwhile our normal gym teacher is going back and forth between class and the staff lounge updating us on the score (quietly, so to show he’s still doing his job:)
This was the one time you could say I wanted to head downtown and celebrate the victory on the streets. The only other time will be if a Toronto team wins a championship. With 2010 around the corner, it’s more likely Canada flags will be paraded down Yonge Street before any Toronto logos do in celebration.
Another team I have to cite is the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in 2004-05. This was the year of the NHL lockout and Toronto hockey fans needed to fill a void hockey wise. Enter the Knights finished with an astounding record of 59-7-2, while going undefeated for an OHL record of 31 games (29-0-2) to start the year. The only reason they finally lost a game was because they lent some of their best players to the Team Canada Junior team for the World Championships. The team boasted stars such as Corey Perry, Dylan Hunter, Robbie Schremp, Dave Bolland, Dan Fritsche and Danny Syvret. Not only were they OHL champions but they also won the coveted Memorial Cup, which is given to the top junior team in the country after a tournament of champions (OHL, Quebec Junior League, Western Hockey League and worth host – which happened to be London, who was chosen to host as well, so the team they played in the OHL finals pretty much got a bye into the tournament. This team was so good that people were saying they should get the Stanley Cup since no NHL team was going to win it that year.
Good & Toronto:
Toronto Maple Leafs pre-lockout (2000-2005): These were fun times to be a Leafs fan. When playoff time came around, we’d be wearing our kid-sized 90’s Leafs jerseys at school, I’d die my hair blue and wear literally every piece of clothing with Maple Leaf on it. The Leafs made the playoffs every year during this era, peaking in 2002 by reaching the conference finals losing to Carolina. That year was fun. Gary Roberts and Alyn McCauley owned the offence that year. Curtis Joseph was the man. And Ottawa couldn’t beat us. While New Jersey gave us trouble in 2000 and 2001, it was Philadelphia in 2003 and 2004 that made my blood boil. Ed Belfour was solid in net, but we never had a good enough defence and had to rely on miraculous goaltending. And Ottawa still couldn’t beat us.
Toronto Raptors 2000-01 & 2006-07 seasons: Vince Carter was the man at the start, literally carrying the team during that 2001 postseason. Every fan will remember that winning playoff series against New York as the most successful point of the franchise’s history. And in 2007 we were surprised to see a great team win the Atlantic Division. Anthony Parker is awesome. And that’s before he was Raptor (as you Maccabi Tel Aviv fans all know). Who knows what would’ve happened if Vince hit that three against Philly and Jorge Garbajosa never injured his knee.
I was actually living in Israel that year the Raptors lost to Maccabi (I watched that in the square of the Old City of Jerusalem) and later attended the Israeli Basketball League finals featuring Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem. That Maccabi team included Parker and future-Raptors Maceo Baston and Will Solomon. Now that was an exciting atmosphere.
2004 Toronto Argonauts – I’m not ashamed to say I’m a fan. At least in 2004 I could say that without being laughed at. While the team is a joke now, that 2004 was great. I couldn’t watch the Grey Cup game because I was on a bus to Toronto from Chicago nor the semifinals because I was Ottawa because of my grandmother’s funeral. Nonetheless, t’was a good time to be a Argo fan.
Leafs, Raptors, Argos: during the rest of the decade.
And the Blue Jays: throughout the decade.
They stunk. Enough said.
Brazil World Cup Soccer 2002, Italy in 2006: It’s not often the two teams you cheer for end up winning. Brazil was an obvious choice after losing to France in 1998. I had a soft spot for Italy because of my old barber who I used to watch games with while getting my haircut. I watched the final at a cottage in Haliburton, ON and called it when Zinedine Zidane did the head butt. A great bandwagon tournament, especially with flags on cars throughout Toronto.
My Superbowl picks- 2005-present: I don’t like the New England Patriots. This has been a good thing the last few years as they haven’t been able to spoil my joy as Pittsburgh, Indianapolis (!), the New York Giants and Pittsburgh again have won the last four big games. And I picked them all.
Canadian Hockey: Whether it’s Juniors, World Championships, World Cups, Womens’…. Canada was the top hockey nation in all categories throughout the decade (excluding 2006 Olympics.)
2004 Boston Red Sox: Now that was a fun team to watch. That comeback against the Yankees will live in history as the greatest playoff series comeback in history (my apologies to the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, but everyone counted out the Sox.)
Mike Weir, 2003 Masters Champ: A lot people forget about him because it was a while back and Tiger Woods seems to get all the coverage regardless (that crazy putt at the Masters and that comeback on one leg is quite memorable nonetheless). But when Mike Weir won the Masters, it literally turned the country on to golf. I had started playing about a year and a half before Weir won and definitely wanted to play more after the win. Interestingly enough, my sister got his autograph on a towel the day after he won the Masters at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. It was a scheduled appearance and my sister happened to be there so she got it (!)
Boise State Fiesta Bowl Win, 2007– IUS College Football is nothing special in Canada but this comeback was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. Just watch as they just school Oklahoma.
Lance Armstrong- What more can you say about a guy who wins seven consecutive Tour de France titles after beating testicular cancer?
There’s probably so much more I just can’t think of them. My own personal sports moments include
– Winning a youth city hockey championship in 2002
– Listening (and watching one later in the year) to the first Leaf game after the lockout in an internet cafe in Jerusalem at about 3 am in the morning (just after Rosh Hashanna, heading into a fast)
– Watching game 1 of the 2001 playoff series between the Leafs & Islanders from the standing room level at the ACC.
– Watching the Steelers win the Super Bowl in Israel on a fairly nice TV at a youth hostel at an un-G-dly hour (no pun intended).
– Seeing Antonio Davis walk out of the community center beside my synagogue and saying hi to him.
– Skating in Israel at the Canada Centre in Metulla, Israel. The best was when I skated at full speed to do a snow stop on the rabbi at my school, but instead I crashed and burned into the boards.