Commentary: I am a Toronto Sports fan! – By Geoff Burrowes

 By: Geoff Burrowes

     This is a warning – if you’re not a sports fan don’t waste your valuable time reading this! You probably won’t understand what I’m talking about anyway!

This story, starts for me, not on the immaculate pitch at Boarda or at Exhibition Stadium, the Dome or BMO Field, but on a hot sticky afternoon, at Kennington Oval, across the Thames from Parliament Buildings in London, when I was privileged to be part of a delirious West Indies crowd watching Frank Worrell’s exciting Calypso cricketers demolish the England bowling attack. I remember Sir Gary Sobers, Joe Soloman, Basil Butcher and Rohan Kanhai shining, hitting fours and sixes with abandon that afternoon, after a disastrous start. Here were our men (our heroes), carving up the vaunted England bowling attack. Now what does this have to do with being a Toronto sports fan?         

The lusty joy I felt was different from anything I had ever felt before ! I guess I became a sports fan on that faraway afternoon! And  now Toronto is my home and it’s sports teams are naturally mine.

Now becoming a sports fan in an alien environment requires a complete change of view. You have to exchange a wicket for a home plate. A boundary for an outfield. Sharp flashing skates for spikes. And on and on! Never was able to get curling though! One negative result of this sea change is that I missed the glory years of West Indies cricket. I never got to see the firm hand and clear thinking of Clive Lloyd as West Indies captain. I didn’t get to enjoy the flashing bat of Viv Richards! Cricket news in Toronto was hard to get and when it did come it was generally  based in Mumbai or Islamabad!

Norma , my wife has a cousin who had lived in Canada for many years.His name is Raj Ramphal and he was our terrific family Dr. He was serious about integrating us as painlessly as possible into Canadian life and knowing my love for Rugby he invited me to an Argo pre-season game at the, now defunct, Exhibition Stadium. (I think BMO Field is now on the location that Exhibition Stadium occupied.)

The game was exceptional. The Argos built up an early lead, through field goals and at half time were comfortably ahead. After the break the Ottawa coach put two rookie quarterbacks into the game. Conredge Holloway and Tom Clements. Didn’t mean anything to me at the time but they were to about to breathe new life into a game that had stagnated a bit. They started throwing the pointed ball accurately to every corner of the field and quite literally lit up the game. They won the game handsomely and although the Argos were my team I had fallen in love with CFL football. I’ve never lost that love although the Argos have often broken my heart but they’ve also won some Grey Cups, the oldest sports Trophy in North America, long before the Super Bowl was even a speck in the NFL Commissioners eye!

It  is now September of 2021 and our sports teams are in varying states of evolution. I’m not invested in the Labour Day Classic as the Hamilton Tiger Cats (Ticats) have already wiped the floor with our hometown Toronto Argonaughts (Argos) as they have done for the last nine years. The Toronto Blue Jays, on the other hand, have just taken the first three games of a four game series from the much vaunted Yankees to try making the playoffs. It’s entirely possible since we have a dynamite starting rotation including Rae, Ryu, Matz, Berrios and Manoah; the bull pen is healthy and the attack which management have built includes George Springer, Vladdy Guerrero Jnr., Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez and Loudes Gourriel Jnr. Even the utility players, Dickerson, Espinal and Valera and catchers Danny Jansen, Reese McCuire, and Alejandro Kirk are all hitting! Heady days indeed and we are now only a game and a half behind the Yanks in the Wild Card Race!

The glamour team in this city though remains the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the first time since the late owner Harold Ballard years the team appears to be fast, quick, gritty, highly skilled, young with a number of older players with winning pedigrees, such as Wayne Simmons and Jason Spezza. We won’t have Nick Folino and Zach Begosian or Joe Thornton, but the recent signings have made the team more gritty ,which was the great weakness last year and we’re looking forward to an exciting season.

I don’t know that much about our Major League Soccer (MLS) team The Toronto FC but the management seems to have done a good job of improving the skill level and the coaching of the team over the last few years and have championship trophies to prove it.

However the Canadian soccer team are showing great promise in World Cup qualifying!

On balance not a bad time to be Toronto sports fans and beneficiaries of the Rogers company who have undoubtedly done a great job of improving the standard of sport in Toronto as owners of the MLSE sports franchise. I wish that the same vision could be applied to the way in which Rogers treat loyal customers. It would go a long way toward providing great and affordable  telecommunication services in this great country of ours!

In the meantime though “Go Toronto go!”

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