My Team MUST Win

team must win

I want my team to win. I always want my team to win. Why is it MY team? Am I part owner? No. Do I work for my team? No. Did my spouse, father, brother, cousin, friend or next door neighbour ever play for my team? Definitely not. But as I watch my team play, I sit on the edge of my seat and have that feeling deep within that my team must win.

It’s an interesting phenomenon. The love a person has for a sports franchise. Usually (not always) it’s because a person is a homer, meaning the person is a fan of the local sports club. What is a fan? Well, the word originates from the term fanatic. I did a search using my good friend Google and chuckled when I read the definition of the word fanatic. It is a “person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause” or a “person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity.”

For many people sports is a religion. For some people their passion for a sport crosses political boundaries. Their love of not only a particular game but of their team is true fanaticism.

Go to any live sporting event between two teams, and the fans for each team are quite clear. Some people wear a cap or jersey, while other people paint their bodies and dress head to toe in the team’s colours. Popular or legendary sports franchises like the New York Yankees, Toronto Maple Leafs, Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys or LA Lakers probably make more money off the sale of merchandise than they do from ticket sales.

I will admit that for the most part I am a homer. Carolina Hurricanes aside (yes they are clearly my team), I am a fan of the hometown team. I love my Blue Jays and Raptors. I have a Toronto FC shirt and you can bet I’m cheering on the Argonauts during this year’s playoff run. Okay, I even tolerate the Maple Leafs. Maybe it’s pride for my city or a warm feeling I have that I am part of a community when I cheer on the local sports franchise.

I cheer on my team whether it’s the best team in the league or one of the basement dwellers. I stick with my team through thick and thin. Each game, if my team is down by 7 runs or 23 points, in my head I say to myself, my team must win.

A true sports fan isn’t always straight in the head. As long as there are only two outs in the inning or a few seconds left in the period, the dream stays alive that my team can win.

And sometimes it happens. If you are a Blue Jays fan, you will remember Sunday, July 30th, 2017. The Jays were down 10-4 going into the bottom of the 9th. They quickly scored a few runs then Steve Pearce came to the plate with the bases loaded and his team down 10-7. And he hit a grand slam. The Jays beat the Angels 11-10, and that win became the biggest 9th inning comeback in the team’s history. For a fan like me, who watched it all unfold, the words running through my head, my team must win, came true.

My son, Matthew, was the inspiration for today’s post while he squealed with delight after his beloved Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins this past weekend in overtime. JVR scored the tying goal with one minute left in the third period. Then Marleau scored the winning goal for the Leafs in overtime. Matthew focused all his energy on ensuring his team would win. And they did.

A sports fan will never change. If you love your team, you love that team with all your heart. I think that’s great. Sports fans, please never change.

Down in the Dugout at Safeco Field

Safeco Field

My son Matthew loves baseball. I would consider myself to be a baseball fan, but Matthew has taken it to a new level. He doesn’t just love the Toronto Blue Jays, he loves baseball in general. He talks about the sport all the time, air pitches all over our house and watches live games or highlights every chance he gets. His dream is to visit every Major League ballpark, all 30 of them, during his childhood. This week he checked one off his list with a tour of Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners.

Safeco Field
The excitement builds before we enter the stadium

Have you ever visited a Major League Baseball park during the off season? It’s a very different experience. First of all, it’s really clean. And it’s quiet. So quiet that it’s almost eerie. It almost feels like you are a celebrity or you are in a movie where you are that main character who appears on screen in the empty ballpark. And it’s really cool!

Our guide greeted us in the Safeco Field Mariners’ store (of course, that way we could make souvenir purchases, like our new hats, before the tour even began!). He was dressed head to toe in team gear and knew everything about the local baseball club and the building in which they played.

Safeco Field
Matthew chats with our tour guide

As we traveled through the various levels of the stadium, from the concourse on the 100 level to the cheap seats on the 300 level, our guide shared with us his tremendous knowledge of everything Safeco Field. It’s fan friendly and its roof really is a “retractable umbrella.” The incredible rolling mechanism, which is actually in three parts, is quite the engineering feat and I believe weighs, in total, over 20 million pounds. But it’s not a roof, as it’s above the lights and allows fresh air to flow through the stadium. Amazing.

Safeco Field
Selfie from the cheap seats

Once we had a taste of the stands, our guide took us indoors to the restricted zones of the building. First we visited the private suites, then we headed up to the press box. It’s a place I knew well from my early days in sports media. Well, I spent time in the press box at the Rogers Centre, so it was my first time in the press box at Safeco Field. Wow, it’s a big one, with a perfect line ahead to home plate and the pitcher’s mound. The protective netting behind plate at this ballpark is also quite low, so a journalist who is not paying attention could get a line drive in the head if he or she is not careful. Oh the walls could talk there!

Safeco Field
Matthew imagines himself calling the game from the comfort of the press box
Safeco Field
He could get comfortable here
Safeco Field
Example of wall damage from a foul ball

We then traveled down to the bowels of Safeco Field, to the most restricted part of the stadium. We saw the exclusive Diamond Club for people (or corporations) who pay big bucks for the fancy seats first then headed down the hall to the visitor’s clubhouse. Matthew loved this part of the tour.

Safeco Field
Happy 40th birthday Seattle Mariners

Since it’s the off season the locker room of course was not in use. So the Mariners’ tour team had the space set up with its team jerseys to give us an idea of what the locker room would look like if some uniforms were set up. The 5,000 square foot space includes a kitchen and dining area, showers, toilets and the main lounge and locker area for the players. We didn’t see the Mariners’ 15,000 square foot clubhouse, which I am sure is quite the space.

Safeco Field
Matthew looks in awe as he enters the clubhouse

The final stop on our tour was the dugout. It was so exciting for our little group as we walked along the same tunnel that all our favourite players pass through on their way to the field. One guy started to do his own play-by-play, imagining it was game 7 of the World Series, and he was the star player, about to enter the stadium to cheering fans.

There’s something magical about walking into the 47,000 seat stadium via the dugout. You can almost taste the game that is played in this sacred place. Matthew and I together imagined the exact spot where the manager sits and the chatter among the players along the bench. We loved it.

Safeco Field

Matthew and I have visited three ballparks together so far – Rogers Centre in Toronto, Wrigley Field in Chicago and now Safeco Field in Seattle. I look forward to more games and more tours. I will help make sure my son’s childhood dream comes true.

Left Handed People have a Faster Track to Major League Sports

left handed

Yesterday’s blog on my pride about being left handed energized me, so I had to do a second post on the topic. But it’s Sports Wednesday today, so how could I connect the two? I turned on the Cubs-Dodgers playoff baseball game last night, and as I watched the Cubs first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, make a play, it occurred to me. If you want a faster track to the most elite level of many professional sports, you just need to be left handed.

You see, Anthony Rizzo is left handed. So is the Blue Jays first baseman, Justin Smoak. In fact, one-third of first basemen in Major League Baseball are left handed. Remember, we only represent 10 percent of the population.

And the real gems in all of baseball are the southpaws, or left handed pitchers. I am not going to go into the technical details of facing a left or right handed batter and the various pitches that a lefty or righty may specialize in. I am just going to do some basic math.

As I have discussed already, only 10% of the population is left handed, but every baseball team desires a few lefties, on their pitching staff, often at first base and other positions on the team. So a left handed person simply has less competition amongst the general population to make such team. My son, Matthew, often comments on this, and he is dumb-founded that his two left handed parents couldn’t have made him a lefty.  My baseball-loving son tells me he is determined to make the major leagues one day, and he feels it will be harder because he is right handed.

Oh, for fun, here is a list of just some of the greatest baseball players of all time, who all just happen to be left handed:

Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Reggie Jackson, Sandy Koufax, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn,  and Ty Cobb, 

I came across a fabulous British website, called Anything Left Handed, that was a gold mine of details about the advantages of being left handed in sports, in particular fencing, tennis, boxing and cricket (remember this is a UK-based website!). Here is one paragraph that particularly intrigued me:

The “leftie advantage” seems to emerge in sports demanding rapid reactions and good spatial judgement. In fencing for example 7 of the 16 top world fencers are left-handed, and so are 5 of the top 25 international tennis players and 4 of Europe’s ten best table tennis payers. In boxing, squash and cricket left-handers also enjoy more than average success. Among the scientists who have studied left-handedness in sport one in particular, a French neuroscientist named Guy Azemar, investigated the proportion of left-handers in world-class championships over several years. He reported that about a third of elite fencers are left-handed. One fencing great was the Italian Edoardo Mangiarotti who won a total of 13 fencing medals. Mangiarotti was naturally right-handed but was forced by his father to fence with his left hand as it was thought to be an advantage.” 

The left handed advantage is not just some crack pot theory of mine – there is scientific evidence backing me up!

I found some thoughts about left handedness and basketball on THIS website, where it states, “In basketball, left-handedness has a meaningful effect on the game itself, but it also mostly manifests itself aesthetically. Something about a left-handed jump shot seems beautiful, perhaps just because we don’t see it as often.”

Some of the most memorable lefties in basketball include Bill Russell, Toni Kukoc, Lamar Odom, Isaiah Thomas, CJ Miles, Nick Van Exel, among others.

In hockey, a left handed slap shot really is a beautiful thing. Some left handed hockey greats include Cam Neely, Phil Esposito, Roman Turek, Terry Sawchuk and Tom Barrasso. But I have also now learned, from an interesting New York Times article, that as many as 60% of Canadian hockey players shoot left handed, no matter which is that person’s dominant hand. Maybe they just know that left is best.

Maybe after two straight days of reading my musings you all now know that left IS best.

My Wish for my Daughters: Embrace Sport

sport

My daughter is a little firecracker with enough energy to light up a city. People turn their heads when she enters a room, with this energy she has and her charisma. She is a smart, sociable and friendly little girl. And she has a green belt in karate. My daughter may be only 7 years-old, 3 ½ feet tall and 40 pounds, but I wouldn’t mess with her. She will take you down. And I am proud of her and the way she has embraced a sport she loves and at which she has excelled.

It is a well-known fact that females do not participate in various aspects of sport as much as males. More, but not all, girls participate more widely in activities like dance or gymnastics. While every active pursuit has its merits, I think girls are often underrepresented in traditional sports like baseball, hockey or karate.

I am not going to dive deep into research and quote any statistics about the importance of sport for everyone – children and adults or males and females. Whether you participate in a team or individual sport, I think it is both physically and emotionally healthy to do so.

I am not a, shall we say, natural athlete. I was drawn to the idea of sport when I was a child and was lucky to live on a quiet street where all the kids hung out outside and rotated between various sports each day like baseball and ball hockey. I couldn’t catch a ball (I still can’t), but I could hit the ball down the street with one swing of the bat. I was fearless with my hockey stick and shot the puck past all the big boys in goal.

As I grew up, in the 1980’s, I had a few female friends who played competitive hockey or maybe soccer or lacrosse. But for the most part, our parents signed us up for dance, piano, gymnastics, figure skating and maybe swim lessons. It wasn’t on their radar to put their daughters on a local baseball team or power skating class. And it didn’t occur to most of us girls to do anything different.

But for me, in 2017, as I raise two daughters, I want them to embrace sport. It doesn’t really matter to me what sport they choose, but I want them to know this is a choice they have. We signed up our kids for karate when they were quite young, and my daughter in particular has shined. She is a natural at this sport, and as she trains and becomes quite skilled, she loves it more. Karate has taught her about self-discipline and respect for others. She has learned self-defense and has tremendous muscle strength. She may be small, but wow she is mighty.

The baby can’t even walk yet (but she could beat me hands down in a bum-walking race across the kitchen!), but as she grows up I hope she wishes to pursue a sport of her choice. I want my girls to know that they can do anything they set their minds to. I want them to dream big. If my 7-year-old wants to get her black belt in karate or if the baby wants to be the star pitcher on a baseball team, great.

In my house, the pursuit of sport is open to my son and my daughters, and I hope that is the case in every household. Girls thrive when they are involved in sport, so let’s all stand with our girls to be active, competitive and successful.

One Season Ends and Another Begins

season

In October, the seasons are supposed to be changing, from hot days to cooler, from flowers in bloom on trees to the leaves turning bright colours and falling to the ground. I know that any day now Fall will truly arrive. But that’s not the focus of today’s blog post. When I refer to the word season I am talking about sports. In my house, the baseball season, or at least the Blue Jays’ season, has come to a close. But hockey and basketball are just beginning.

My son Matthew is a huge sports fan. In fact, he is the inspiration behind Sports Wednesday. He just can’t get enough of sports. While I have been a sports fan all my life, Matthew takes it to a new level. For him sports is his life, and life is all about sports. So, the changing seasons are all about what sport is ending and what sport is beginning. For Matthew, it’s all about the life cycle of sports.

We all know that the Blue Jays did not live up to the potential that we had all hoped when the 2017 season began. They were out of playoff contention by April 30th. I won’t go into all the things that went wrong this season. The season is over for the Blue Jays, and we can all look ahead to next year. And hey, the baseball season is not over. October is all about the playoffs, and if you are a true fan of the game, not just one team, then this month is exciting.

If you are a sports fan in general, or at least a sports fan who lives in North America, October is an exciting month. It’s playoffs time for baseball, the football season is in high gear (Canadian and American), the playoffs will soon begin for Major League Soccer and a new hockey and basketball season are both about to begin.

Matthew can’t decide if he is more excited for the new hockey or basketball season. He loves to play basketball (he has set up a mini net in our living room!) and doesn’t like to miss a minute of any Raptors game. Matthew knows who almost every player is in the NBA and can quote stats like a walking encyclopedia. But then there’s hockey. He is a good Canadian boy and knows the importance of hockey in our society. While he doesn’t play hockey, he has grown to love the game.

I will admit that I failed to convince my son to be a Carolina Hurricanes fan. With the excitement in Toronto last year from the new young Maple Leafs’ team, Matthew was hooked. Yes, my son has joined Leaf Nation (it makes me cringe to type that). Tonight is the dawn of yet another NHL season. I am sure that hundreds of thousands of Torontonians believe that THIS season could be the one when their beloved team hoists the Stanley Cup. We’ll see.

So, as we say farewell to one season, we welcome the new one with open arms. Go Hurricanes go!

Life is Good when Playoffs Fever is in the Air

playoffs

It’s Sports Wednesday today, and I have been thinking about the playoffs. More specifically, I have been thinking about baseball playoffs, and it makes me kind of depressed this year. Depending on the sport you love, the specific weeks each year leading up to the playoffs are exciting and special, especially if your team is in the hunt.

If you are a hockey fan, late March and early April can be stressful. Same thing if you follow the NBA. For football fans in the United States, December is a key month. If you are a fan of the Canadian Football League (CFL) that feeling of playoffs fever starts to rev up in October.

I love sports, and as I have written before, I am a huge baseball fan. Over the winter, I count down the days until spring training begins. I like to watch as many games during the regular season as I can. For me, each game is exciting.

But as every day passes during the long baseball season, which runs, from April 2 to October 1 in 2017, my excitement grows. I remember listening and watching the Blue Jays’ first game of the season, back on April 3 in Baltimore. The play-by-play team was already talking about the playoffs. It’s on our minds from the moment the first pitch is thrown.

If your team wins the first few games of the season and sits in first place, you start to dream about the playoffs. Could my team make it all the way, you ask yourself. Will my favourite player win the batting title? My favourite pitcher got a shut-out in his first game, so could he be up for the Cy Young Award this year?

As the season rolls on, from spring into summer, we all start to discuss the prospects of our favourite team making the playoffs. If you are a super-fan or an encyclopedia of statistics, you start to calculate the various scenarios that will either put your team or keep your team in the playoff hunt.

When we hit September, there is a special feeling in the air for baseball fans. Playoffs fever is in the air. A single pitch or at-bat can change everything. One loss or one win can be the difference between playing golf in October or going to the World Series.

That is, if your team has playoffs prospects. I was lucky the last couple of seasons, in 2015 and 2016, when my Blue Jays were deep in the playoff hunt. Our family didn’t miss a game. When I watched each day my heart beat so fast that I couldn’t sit still. I was torn because I didn’t want to miss a moment of the game, but if the Blue Jays were on the brink of losing a game I just couldn’t watch.

It was stressful, but oh was it exhilarating.

playoffs
Matthew and Nessa dressed up and cheered on the Blue Jays in 2016 during their playoff run
playoffs
Nessa became a huge baseball fan!

But not this year. The Blue Jays have had a rough season. This September they are focused on finishing off strong and looking ahead to next year. I will still watch they play and cheer them on, but that playoffs fever is just not there.

I am looking around at the other baseball teams in contention, and my mind quickly switches to the National League. Go Cubs Go!

Extra Innings: Love Them or Hate Them

extra innings

Are you ready for Sports Wednesday? Are you exhausted, like I am, this morning? As a big baseball fan, I try my best to watch or listen to as many Blue Jay games as I can each season. Quick, efficient games are fun sometimes, but as I love the sport so much, the longer, more drawn out games are great too. And then there’s the games that go into extra innings. Like last night’s game.

I remember Matthew mentioned to me last night, somewhere just after 9:00 pm, that the Blue Jays game versus the Boston Red Sox was moving along rather quickly. It was already the 7th inning, I believe. Well that was the kiss of death. The Jays were up 2-0, and I knew that meant they would lose their lead and head into extra innings that night.

I was right.

I won’t get into the actual mess of the bottom of the 9th, where the Blue Jays lost yet another lead at the end of the game. A score of 2-2 at the end of nine innings means extra innings. It could be one more inning, or in the case of last night’s game, ten more innings!

You see, my problem is that I don’t have a strategy in place to watch extra innings in baseball. They are unpredictable by their very nature. Most sports use a set amount of time when the game is tied at the end of regulation. They play five minutes of sudden death in hockey, followed by the dreaded shoot-out. Basketball plays for five minutes, and if they are still tied, they do another five minutes. And so on. It’s rare that they are tied for too many of these five-minute periods.

But baseball? Well, they play on and on, with no time constraint. If the visiting team scores in the top half of the inning then the home team still has a chance. If the home team ties things up, well, they go to the next inning. But if no one scores, they keep playing.

That’s what happened last night. With everyone asleep in my house I made myself comfortable on the couch, ready for a few extra innings of baseball. Then it was 11:00 pm, and it was still going. And I was tired. I still had to make school lunches. Okay, I figured, I would do those then maybe the game would be over.

Nope. I puttered around the house a bit more and by 11:30 pm decided to head to bed and “listen” to the game on the TV in my bedroom. The Blue Jays had so many opportunities to score, and they never did. By midnight I was falling in and out of sleep, trying so hard to follow the game during shorter and shorter periods of wakefulness.

I remember hearing Buck Martinez say, “we are headed to the 16th inning” and couldn’t believe it was still going. Then I fell asleep. I don’t remember the 17th or 18th innings, but I do kind of recall that the Red Sox got a double in the 19th inning, after 1:00 am. I just knew, I just felt it, that this was it. Hanley Ramirez walked up to the plate and hit a single, which scored the game-winning run.  He did it six hours after the game began.

The Blue Jays lost 3-2, early this morning, in 19 innings. I don’t know whether I love or hate extra innings. There is something exciting about them, that keeps you on the edge of your seat, or at least it does for the first few innings. The stress on fans can be rough. Will their team win? Will they lose again? Or will the game go on so long that all we worry about is how exhausted we will be the next day. I was at that point by the 16th inning, when sleep started to take over.

So today I’m tired, and my team lost. I don’t know if I like extra innings.

A Visit to the Stadium of the Competition

competition

After a weekend of sports with my son in Chicago I’m excited for this week’s Sports Wednesday post. While in Chicago, Matthew and I knew that we supported the “other” team. We are used to supporting the home team, like the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre or Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. For Matthew, it was a new experience to be in the minority, wearing a jersey with the logo from the competition.

I have been fortunate to visit a number of ballparks in various North American cities over the years, but for Mathew this was a new experience. No doubt there is something exciting about walking into your own team’s stadium, surrounded by like-minded people. But I will always remember Matthew’s face when he entered Wrigley Field, the stadium of the competition, dressed in his Blue Jays jersey and cap.

The Cubs fans were welcoming and friendly. Matthew was warmly greeted at every turn, and an usher even handed him a Chicago Cubs sticker. People smiled at us as we walked to our seats and graciously stood up to let us into our row when we found our section.

I love to hear Oh Canada at sports events. Matthew and I sang along, as did the thousands of other Blue Jays fans in the stands. Everyone cheered as the anthem came to a crescendo and kept on cheering as the Star Spangled Banner began.

 

Blue Jays fans cheered loudly for our team, the competition, and Cubs fans of course cheered louder for their team. But everyone was in good spirits around us, Blue Jays and Cubs fans alike.  I don’t think this is the case in all ballparks, but wow the fans at Wrigley are something special.

competition
At the Jays versus Cubs game
competition
Matthew dressed in his clothing of the competition at Wrigley

Matthew and I also made the long trek to Toyota Park where the Major League Soccer (MLS) club, the Chicago Fire, play. By coincidence, our home team, the Toronto FC, were also in town, and we had to go to this game too.

I will admit that until Saturday I had never been to even one MLS game. While I know quite a bit about soccer in general, my knowledge of the MLS was limited. One thing I learned quickly is that soccer fans are dedicated and very serious. Their loyalty to their team is strong, and they are not as easygoing and welcoming as baseball fans.

The ushers at Toyota Park again were as nice as can be, but I have to say that with our bright red Toronto FC shirts on, the Chicago Fire fans were less than friendly. They barely glanced at us and clearly were not interested in cavorting with the “enemy.” You see, Toronto FC is in first place, in the Eastern Conference, and the Chicago Fire are in third. There is a clear rivalry between these two teams, and no one wanted to cozy up with us, who represented the competition.

Matthew and I excitedly cheered on our team when they scored the first goal of the game and went ahead 3-1 in the dying minutes. But we were clearly in the minority. The stadium exploded with cheers when the Fire scored the team’s only goal, but clearly fans were not pleased that at the end of the day their team was beaten yet again by our team.

competition
A view of the FC versus Fire game from our amazing seats

When the weekend was over and we waited at the gate for our flight home, Matthew’s excitement peaked again when he realized the entire Toronto FC team was seated beside us. He could barely contain his enthusiasm when he pointed out his favourite player, #17, Jozy Altidor. The shameless mother that I am, I asked for a photo with this great athlete and my son. Mr. Altidor kindly obliged.

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Matthew was so excited to meet Jozy Altidor
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Matthew was just too excited to be near the whole Toronto FC team

Our weekend of sports is over, and now Matthew and I are scheming about where our sports destination will be next year.  Our goal, over the coming years, is to visit every ballpark in North America together. He wants to go to Fenway park in Boston to see the Red Sox. I’m considering that, as well as a ballpark or two closer to home such as Detroit or Cleveland. Where do you think we should go next? Post a comment here, share with me on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Chicago with my Boy

Chicago

My son Matthew loves sports. He is crazy for baseball and is a huge fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. He also likes the Chicago Cubs and followed their thrilling playoff run in 2016 when they won the World Series. After the big World Series win Matthew told me that his dream (note he was 9 years old!) was to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He joked that it would be just so cool to see the Blue Jays face the Cubs at Wrigley.

Then the 2017 Major League Baseball schedule came out and lo and behold, his beloved Blue Jays were scheduled to play the Cubs, at Wrigley, in Chicago. He had to go. I had to go with him. We booked our flight, our hotel, then secured a pair of tickets to the August 18 game.  Matthew’s dream was about to come true.

Fast forward to Friday, August 18, 2017 – today. I already sent David off to the family’s country home in St. Donat with our daughters (more on that in a blog post next week). Matthew and I woke up at 4:30 am to a dark and quiet house and crawled into our awaiting Uber taxi. With only carry-on luggage and Nexus cards in hand, we were at our gate 10 minutes after our arrival at the airport.

Our very full flight was on time and felt like a party. Most of the passengers were just like us, headed to Chicago to cheer on the Jays. There was laughter and chatter and even the flight attendant yelled “Go Jays Go” over the loudspeaker. It was the most festive atmosphere I have ever experienced on a plane.

We landed early this morning in Chicago, at 7:25 am, and made our way to our hotel downtown. We dropped off our luggage, enjoyed a filling breakfast at a local café then set out to explore the Magnificent Mile and surrounding area.

Chicago
Breakfast

Matthew fell in love with Chicago immediately. The tall buildings, the friendly people and great shopping (for him that meant sports stuff and candy).  He secured a Cubs hat and even a t-shirt with Kris Bryant on it – only because he is #17 and that’s what matters, of course.  Then we made our way to Wrigley.

Chicago
Selfie with some skyscrapers
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Skyscrapers on the river
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Matthew loved the wall of jerseys at the Blackhawks store
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Matthew was excited about the gear he bought

On the packed train to Wrigley Ville Matthew was jittery and excited. He looked at me at one point and remarked with a big smile, “I have never been so excited in my life.” As the train approached Addison station and Wrigley field appeared through the window, he was in awe. He was so excited that he could not even speak.

The stadium and the game proved to be everything we had hoped. There is something magical about this ballpark, the Cubs and Cubs fans. The thousands of Jays fans in the stands were as loud as the Cubs fans, and we had so much fun sitting with locals and tourists alike. I have been to a few MLB ballparks, but never have I sat with more friendly and wonderful people than the Cubs and Jays fans we sat with today. They are what made the game so great. We cheered together for both teams, clapping loudly when Pillar made an incredible catch at the centre field wall or when Javier Baez blasted a massive home run late in the game.

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The sea of Cubs and Jays fans as we entered the stadium
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Selfie before game began

Matthew tested out his new Cubs hat and shirt and mixed these with his Blue Jay paraphernalia. He high-fived the pair of Jays fans in the row ahead of us. He shared stats and stories about all the Jays players with everyone around us. I learned the life story of the guy in the row behind us who is retired and now has season tickets to the Cubs. We were like one big happy family.

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All decked out in Cubs great
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The back of his Cubs shirt

The Jays lost the game, and they were clearly outplayed. But it didn’t matter. We had a wonderful time at Wrigley. We stayed a while after the game to explore the neighbourhood and celebrate the afternoon with thousands of other fans. Matthew even cheered on the Blue Jays players and coaches as they boarded their bus.

Chicago
That’s Matthew in the front in the red shirt watching the Jays get on the bus

Tonight, we are exhausted but exhilarated. We feasted on some of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza for dinner, and we are ready to collapse. Tomorrow is another day in the Windy City. We start our day on the river for an architectural tour of Chicago on the First Lady and will finish off at a Major League Soccer (MLS) game, as the Toronto FC take on the Chicago Fire.

It’s sports and Chicago with my boy. What could be better?

What’s in a Name? Best Names in Sports

names in sports

Sports Wednesday is back! My apologies that I didn’t get my act together last week and write a post for you. This week I was thinking about memorable, interesting, funny and unpronounceable names in sports. The idea got into my head recently when I wrote an email to Matthew at camp and wanted to tell him about a new player on the Jays roster who had a great night. I couldn’t remember the player’s name because I couldn’t pronounce it! The player is Rob Refsnyder.  I  typed it I realize now it’s not that difficult a name to say or spell.

So, I am going to dive deep and look at some other players, current or past, with names I just have to write about. Let’s start with baseball. Every time I hear about Coco Crisp I want to go to my pantry and eat a bowl of cereal. I believe his actual full name is Covelli, but I prefer to call him Coco. He played baseball for 13 seasons and retired at the end of last season. Milton Bradley is a baseball player but also the founder of the board game company that bears his name. No, they are not the same person.

Then there is John Olerud,. He was one of my favourite players on the Blue Jays during their 1992-93 World Series run. I feel like his name was accidentally spelled backwards and should really be John Durelo. Don’t you agree?

Then there are the baseball players whose names need no explanation, like Dick Pole, Johnny Dickshot, Boof Bonser and Rusty Kuntz (less disturbing when you learn the last name is pronounced Koontz).

Looking at more names in sports, let’s move on to hockey. The National Hockey League has mainly attracted players from across North America and Europe, and sometimes the names make more sense in their original language. Or sometimes the name comes from a country where the local language is pronounced or spelled very differently than English. Sometimes the name is just strange.

Take Radek Bonk for instance. He is Czech, but it seems to me that the word “bonk” has a clear meaning in any language. Bill Quackenbush played in the NHL in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This is a Dutch name that means “swamp wilderness.” Håkan Loob is a Swedish name, and he played for the Calgary Flames in the 1980’s. Does “Loob” mean something less silly-sounding in Swedish?

The NBA attracts players from around the world, including of course North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. There is quite a variety of names in this league. My local team, the Toronto Raptors, has a number of players with great names. Serge Ibaka is a good one, and of course I just love Jonas Valancuinas. Not only does he have a cool name but he wears a jersey with #17 on the back. Anything with #17 is great, of course.

Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, from Cameroon, enjoyed a short NBA career, and at 7.0 feet tall and 260 pounds no one ever made fun of his name! Other notable names are Detlef Schrempf, Luc Richard M’bah-a-Moute and Al-Farouq Aminu, just because they sound great.

I could probably go on forever, but for now I will just add a few more of the best names in sports in general. Dean Windass played soccer in the English Premier League, Yourhighness Morgan (no joke), a former football player, another football player named Fair Hooker and Kim Yoo-Suk, a Korean Olympic pole vaulter (unfortunate only in English).

What do you think are some of the best names in sports? Do you have a favourite or one that is unique or memorable? Leave a comment here, or post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.