As I sit here typing this I am debating whether I should pour myself a rum and coke. It's 9:39 a.m. Since I live in Toronto you would be forgiven for thinking that the city's sports teams have driven me to this.
"I remember back in '92," he slurred. "ROBBIE! JOE! DOUGIE! now they were players. Player's players, you know. They played with heart, with pride. They were ours, ours I tells ya. And we were kings!"
But, no. I'm not compelled to drink out of some dark place that sees Matt Stajans where there once were Dave Andreychuks and where Devon Whites have been replaced by Marco Scutaros. I'm not itching to get drunk and forget, but rather to get my drink on and celebrate. You see today is the final home game--unless they pull the miracle and qualify for the playoffs--of Toronto FC for 2008. And that's a great reason to drink rum at 9:39 a.m.
Many sports fans make the mistake of thinking that you watch sports to see your team win. That's nice, but it isn't why the true sports fan spends exorbitant amounts of time and money obsessing over whether Jose Calderon can handle an increased workload, or if Danny Brannagan will be able to step it up deep in the playoffs. No, it's something a little bigger than the scoreboard.
To understand you have to put aside your preconceptions and your understanding of what's really important. You have to look deep within the soul of the the mostly men, but increasingly more women, that do care. And care so very much.
If you do that you will see that sports--and it doesn't matter what team you are talking about, or what city you are in--is far more than the sum of its parts. In the true fan it has embedded itself within the narrative of their life. It has connected them to people, and, although they understand that there are many things in life that are important--their kids, their family, their health--that makes the games they watch important.
The day my paternal grandfather died, my maternal grandfather took me to a hockey game. He didn't need to say why. Many years later, the last conversation I had with him was about the Detroit Red Wings. Somehow, when I got the phone call, that comforted me.
I once drove from Waterloo to Windsor, with the man who would one day hand me my wife's wedding ring, to watch my Golden Hawks beat the Lancers by nearly 60 points. That day, I had to hold his 1979 Dodge Diplomat's rear view mirror up every time we had to pass. Years later we both stood freezing and delirious as we watched Brian Devlin kick a 32-yard, Vanier Cup winning field goal in Hamilton. It wouldn't have been the same if he wasn't beside me, or if we hadn't made that drive to Windsor years before.
Which brings me back to today. I'm hankering for that rum and coke not because it would make it easier to watch a Marco Velez-led backline, but rather because I'm impatient. I want to start a celebration of friendship and solidarity, united by, but not entirely defined by, a soccer team. From Sunday to Friday we are cynics--we see the faults in out teams and in ourselves. But on Saturday that's all forgotten. Saturdays aren't about what's wrong with the world. Saturdays are only about the 90 minutes and the people we spend them with.
The sport changes, as do the faces, but the lesson is the same everywhere, for everyone. Sports matters. It matters because we make it matter and because we matter.
So, enjoy the game, whatever it might be. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go pour myself a rum and coke.