Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Autumn of our Discontent

So far my posts have all been of a serious nature; abortion was discussed yesterday, anti-Catholicism the day before, and the pains of planning a marriage on Monday. I'd like today to talk about something even more serious: the plight of the Toronto Sports Franchise.

For the fifth biggest city in North America, one would think it natural to be home to several, or at least one, successful sports franchise. But let me qualify first: by successful, I do not mean in the financial sense - I am talking about real sporting success, glory and prestige. There was a time, the early 1990s, when 2 of the then 3 major sports teams in Toronto were successful. The CFL's Argonauts had just won a Grey Cup and held a monopoly on talent. The Blue Jays ended up claiming two Pennants in a row, unheard for a 'provincial' team in major league baseball. Even the Leafs re-emerged as a force in the NHL after years in the wilderness. Things were looking up.

But things, they fell apart. The owners of the Argos moved on and so too did all the talent. Baseball was shattered by a player's strike, effectively killing off the Montreal Expos, bankrupting the Blue Jays, and forever ruining that sport's once illustrious image as 'America's pastime'. Our only hope was the now serious Toronto Maple Leafs, a team finally ready to live up to its history and potential. Sadly, as every Canadian knows, no such renewal happened. After a few almost-there years for the Leafs, things began to take a turn for the worse. It's been over ten years since Pat Burns left Toronto, a departure which marked the end of those halycon days of reckless optimism. Things marginally improved under Pat Quinn, who is by all accounts a serious hockey coach, but his tenure was always overshadowed by unpopular signings and tactics. When he was replaced by Paul Maurice this past spring, there were few who shed any tears, let alone paused for a bit of nostalgic reflection.

Maybe things are looking up. 'Pinball' Clemens seems an amicable fellow whose passion for Canadian grid-iron is infectuous. Ted Rogers appears willing to match payrolls with the gluttonous Yankees and Red Sox. Paul Maurice appears to have realistic goals, making it clear that this season will be one of youth and tactical experimentation, rather than veterans and 'dump n' chase'. Maybe in a year I could be blushing at the overwhelming success of the Toronto Sports Franchise.

Or maybe not.

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