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.

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!

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.

Sportsmanlike Conduct

Matthew is happiest at the ballpark

 

My son is a huge sports fan. I’m talking about living, breathing, touching, feeling and every other sense and emotion out there. Matthew starts his day checking the scores from the previous evening, spends much of his free time shooting hoops or throwing a baseball in our backyard and likes to watch his favourite teams play well into the night, every night.

I guess you can say that my dream came true. I have loved playing, following and watching sports since I was a child. I grew up on a quiet street and played ball hockey and baseball with the boys, I collected and traded baseball cards and I religiously listened to Tom and Jerry on CJCL AM 1430 radio (today the Jays can be heard on Sportsnet the Fan 590) as I did my homework every night.

I had my aha moment in grade 11 chemistry (yes the same class though not the same day that I created Kinetic Man) when I suddenly realized that I wasn’t bright or ambitious enough to go to medical school but instead wanted to be a journalist. Oh and not just a journalist but a sports journalist. Everyone, and I mean everyone, laughed at me.

It took me a few years to get back on track, but I took the first step in graduate school when I interned at ABC Sports Radio, in my final semester of journalism school at New York University. With a small production staff I had a quick learning curve, and it all culminated in the fall of 2000 when New York City hosted the famous Subway World Series – Yankees vs Mets. ABC handed me the ball one night and I handled the reporting duties, on the field at Shea stadium!

When I returned to Toronto the following year some great people took a chance on me and hired me to be a producer at the short-lived Team Sports Radio Network. Then I got an opportunity to join the Assignment Desk at Rogers Sportsnet, working with some of the greatest names in sports media. Many of those talented journalists are still at Sportsnet today or have moved on to other careers in sports media in Canada, and I want to thank all of them for teaching me so much about sports and sportsmanlike conduct.

So it thrills me that my son loves sports. Matthew loves baseball and basketball most and can’t bear to miss a game. Hockey is close behind. He lives for the Blue Jays, Raptors and Leafs (I’m a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes but that story is for another day) and he will support really any team if it’s home base is in Canada. Sometimes he takes the term “fan” to the level of “fanatic,” like when he insists that he watch the last quarter of the Raptor game in the car on my phone or he must watch the Jays game in full at 10:00 pm when they are on the west coast.

A child looking at the baseball diamond in awe
Matthew looks on in awe at the ballpark
Mom and son selfies at the Jays game
Selfie at the Jays game last year

Matthew loves sports so much that if none of his preferred sports are on TV he will choose almost anything, just to get his sports fix in. Maybe some of you love it, but I can’t bear to watch darts, poker or bowling. I draw the line at entertainment that involves throwing sharp objects at a board with people cheering them on.

Sporting the number 17 jersey playing basketball
Note his jersey number – that’s right, 17!
Defending on the basketball court
He takes pride in his basketball defensive skills on his school team

My husband doesn’t care much for sports, so it brings me a smile every day that I found my sports partner in life in my son. Matthew loves my encyclopedic knowledge of baseball and its many rules, and we literally can sit together for hours discussing the many nuances of the game.

showing off his baseball bat
Matthew has joined his school’s softball team
getting ready to swing the bat
Matthew’s first at bat of the season with his school’s baseball team

Matthew asked for one thing for his birthday this year – a trip with me, his mother, to Chicago this summer, to watch his beloved Blue Jays play the Cubs. Our flight has been booked, the hotel is reserved and we have a pair of tickets to the Jays at Cubs game on Friday afternoon, August 18. As a bonus, Toronto’s MLS soccer club is in Chicago that same weekend and we have scored a pair of tickets to the Toronto FC at Chicago Fire game on Saturday night, August 19. Now that’s a perfect mother and son weekend.