Photo by Kurtis Billard on Flickr.
Hey, Toronto sports fans, it’s time to wake up. The Leafs did not make the playoffs, now take off the black armbands and get over it already. The Blue Jays are dealing with a number of injuries, but even if they weren’t, the season’s just begun and there are still approximately 800 games left to be played this year. Sadly, Toronto’s brand new soccer franchise has been outscored 9–0 in it’s first three matches, and they’ve shown little to get excited about so far. Meanwhile, the Raptors are in the playoffs, locked in a blood feud with the New Jersey Nets, and almost no one seems to care.
Going into tonight’s game, the series is tied up 1–1 and Raptormania should be raging through the city, but so far, Torontoist has seen very little evidence of it. Tuesday night’s Blue Jays game not only had a bigger draw than the Raptors game it was up against, the Jays’ audience was larger for that game than the Raptors’ audience was for their first playoff game in five years last Saturday afternoon.
Some of the blame for the Raptors’ low numbers can be attributed to the way they are constantly bouncing around the dial, from TSN to The Score. During the regular season, Raps games also air on Rogers Sportsnet and RaptorsTV, and all of that can make it a little difficult to find the game. There are also those who claim that the way viewership is calculated needs to be changed to better reflect the hipness and youth of the Raptors audience (an argument known as the Veronica Mars defence.) And, of course, some of the blame falls on the Raptors themselves, who put a poor product on the floor for years before finally turning the corner this year.
If you’ve been disillusioned by this team in the past, or you just need a little boost to help you get into the spirit of the NBA playoffs, Torontoist presents here five feel-good story lines that should help you catch Raptormania.
1. Chris Bosh. The 23-year-old Texan is an emerging NBA superstar who also happens to be known for his humility and his work ethic. He’s everything that Vince Carter was not, including a challenge for marketers. It’s hard to sell a shoe that promises to turn you into a decent human being.
2. Anthony Parker. This 31-year-old washed-out of the NBA back in 2000 before going on to become a superstar in Euroleague basketball. His comeback this season has established him as one of the NBA’s best perimeter players.
3. Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa. Both members of the Spanish National Team who won the FIBA World Championship last summer, these two guys have been the heart and soul of the Raptors all year. They show more guts and have a higher basketball IQ than 95% of the players in the league. Ever since Garbajosa went down with a severe ankle injury a few weeks ago, Calderon has been wearing his #15 armband during each game.
4. Sam Mitchell. A year ago, Mitchell was named as the worst coach in the league according to a Sport’s Illustrated poll of NBA players. This year he coached without a guaranteed contract for next season, he took on nine new players, he kept the team winning through injuries to Chris Bosh, TJ Ford, Jorge Garbajosa and Andrea Bargnani, he helped turn Joey Graham and Chris Humphries from bench-riders into legitimate NBA rotation guys, and we was just named the NBA Coach of the Year. When his life is made into a movie, he’ll be played by Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson is the only guy in Hollywood well-dressed enough to pull the role off.
5. Byran Colangelo. The Raptors’ GM is the biggest story of the year. Everything good that’s happened to this team has happened because of him. He made the Raptors legitimate and he will no-doubt be named NBA Executive of the Year next week. He’s a bona fide basketball genius and a guy who is not afraid to make high-risk moves. He traded one of the best young big players in the league, Charlie Villanueva, for a quick, but injury prone TJ Ford. He drafted a virtually untested 7-footer from Italy with the first pick overall. He brought in the Euro stars Garbajosa and Parker to round out the Raptors roster, two guys who were on no one else’s radar. Everything he touches turns to gold. And he’s the reason Raptors fans can have confidence that this year’s squad is not a flash in the pan, but just the beginning of a team with a great future.
The Raptors play the Nets tonight at 7 p.m. in New Jersey. The game is on The Score.
Chris Bosh photo by Tequila Mike on Flickr.