Do you remember where you were when you first saw your favourite team win a championship? Now that the Raptors have finally won the NBA championship, I can actually say yes, I do remember, because before that, I had never seen one of my team's win it all.
The Toronto Blue Jays won it all in 1993, but I was seven years old and unfortunately don't remember a thing. The St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999, but I became a Rams fan immediately after that win, so it doesn't count. Instead, my past 25 years of sports memories consist of me remembering where I was when my team's let me down in spectacular fashion.
It's no secret I take sports losses seriously, and glorify my loveable loser ways. I pretend like I'm the only one that's ever been sad when their team fails to win a championship, and act like I'm the only one that cheered for four losing teams my entire life. But that's not the case.
What I realized in this Raptors' playoff run, especialy the last two series when the rest of Canada caught on, is that most Canadian sports fans are in the same boat. None of us have seen our favourite Canadian hockey team win in at least 26 years, and we haven't seen the Jays win it all in what feels like a lifetime. Maybe you were a Cavaliers or Warriors fan the past couple years, but something tells me you didn't cheer for the Warriors 15 years ago, and their first championship win might not have carried the same emotional weight.
I suppose if you're a New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks fan, you've experienced this kind of joy, but something about the Raptors being a Canadian team does feel different. What I'm tryng to say is I realized it's not just me who was stuck cheering for terrible teams my whole life. And, now that we've seen the Toronto Raptors win, I'm not sure any of us would change the past.
It doesn't mean enduring the letdowns was easy. I'll never forget how upset I was when the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead to the Boston Bruins with only 10 minutes left in Game 7, or when the Brooklyn Nets beat the Raptors in Game 7. The Toronto Raptors, especially, felt like a hopeless case. They have been a really good team for six seasons now, but none of us really thought they would win a championship this year, or any of the previous years.
I have to admit, early on, I didn't know if I had what it took to stick with the Raptors. Right before Vince Carter was traded, and it seemed like Antonio Davis was the best player, it was pretty rough. I stopped watching for a couple of years, and fully became a Detroit Pistons fan, culminating in a moment where I wore a Chauncey Billups jersey to Disney World and somebody told me he was the best point guard in the league. That person was wrong, but it made me feel good, that now I was finally associated in some small way with a winner, even if it was forced.
I used to only remember the disappointments, the failures, and the losses. But now I'll remember where I was when the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to win the first NBA championship in franchise history.
I'll remember how nervous I was before each game, and I'll remember all the times in the playoffs I didn't think they would actually win. I'll remember how much fun it was to watch them win in Fort St. John of all places, in a room full of loud, rowdy basketball fans. I'll remember rejoicing with and hugging people I didn't know even a week prior. I'll even remember feeling strange for wearing a long sleeve shirt with shorts — my t-shirts were in the wash and I spent way too much time questioning my outfit. I still don't know if it's OK to wear a long sleeve shirt with shorts.
I don't know what's to come for me as a fan, who will win and who will lose. But I do know that I'll always remember where I was when the Toronto Raptors finally lifted the Larry O'Brien Trophy. I hope you remember too.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.