Reflections of a Bandwagon Jumper

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a blog entry. I’m sure no one, including myself, thought my return to blogging would be to talk about baseball but after last night I felt compelled to write a short entry.

I’ve never been into team sports. I hate playing them; I was the kid the other kids would blame for losses and I certainly never got credit for contributing to wins! I don’t generally follow professional sports either.  Except hockey. I didn’t grow up with religion. The closest thing to religion in my house was hockey. It wasn’t that we necessarily were religious about watching the games though I have lots of memories of the sound of my dad’s feet pounding on the floor (my ceiling) which meant Montreal scored or there was some great defensive play. The Habs were my family’s religion. Just like kids grow up knowing they’re Catholic or Protestant, I grew up knowing we were Habs fans.

I moved to Toronto in 1974. Professional baseball existed, of course, but not in Canada. (Correction – the Expos started playing in Montreal the year I was born. Let’s say baseball wasn’t that big in Canada then.) Then in 1977 Toronto got the Blue Jays. I remember my first game distinctly, but not because of the baseball. I was sick and threw up in the car on the way to Exhibition Stadium. I was sick in the washroom when we got to the game. So I don’t remember the score or anything but I do remember who “we” were playing – it was the Kansas City Royals.

I have been to a few Blue Jays games over the years. My best friend in high school Janice and another friend Carolyn were religious Jays fans. They went to games with their dads, bought the programs and scored the games. I remember going to one game with them and buying the program and trying to score the game because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do!!  Then Janice and Carolyn became Jays ushers at Exhibition Stadium and then the Sky Dome when it opened.  I’ve been to games in the bleachers and games in the corporate boxes but I was never a true fan.

I knew the Jays were doing well this season. The city was excited and games started reaching capacity.  I didn’t go to any games (but now I wish I did).  It was literally in the last few games of the regular season when I started to really pay attention to how they were doing.

So how did I get to be on the bandwagon? Well honestly it was because I wanted to wear jeans to work! The first playoff series was right before Thanksgiving and I suggested to my boss that we allow everyone to wear jeans and Jays gear (or blue and white) on the Friday before the weekend which was Game 2 of the American League Division Series with Texas. On the Thursday night on the way home I stopped in to a pop up store to buy a Jays shirt to wear to work the next day. I actually paid $20 for a shirt marked $10! The guy told me he hadn’t updated the prices yet and I didn’t care that had I bought the shirt in the middle of the season I probably could’ve got it for $10. I understand the economics of supply and demand and capitalism!!

My shoes on Jays Day at work

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The thing is it turned out I had jumped on the bandwagon hard.  I found myself watching the games. I found myself “watching” the games on MLB.com until I could get in front of a TV!  I actually really like following the games like that…reading the description of the play. This is my favourite one….”Coaching visit to mound”.

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I learned all the players names. I could recognize them when they came up to bat. I yelled things at my TV like “that was a &^%&#@ sweet play” and “let’s go Martin”.  I even hung out by the Dome (Rogers Centre…whatever) during the do-or-die Game 5 of the ALDS.  I was just walking away when Bautista hit “the” home run of the game – the one where he flipped the bat.

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I heard a roar from the crowd all the way to Spadina Street and knew something amazing had happened. To this day I wish I had hung around to feel the excitement – I left because there was a significant police presence including a Court Services van nearby and I thought win or lose that place was going to be crazy when the game let out!

I took this photo just as I walked away. Bautista hit his home run about a minute later!

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The biggest reason I was on the bandwagon was because there was an infectious spirit in the city. This brings me back to hockey. The Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967. This city hasn’t really had a winner since the Jays won the back-to-back World Series in the early 90s.  That’s a long time to go. This city needed a winner. It needed the 2015 Jays.

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So last night, exhausted after weeks of not sleeping well, I could have gone to bed but I stayed up and watched the do-or-die Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. I stayed up through the rain delay and at the edge of my seat when play resumed.  I felt Ben Revere’s pain when that pitch was called a strike. I totally understood why he took his bat to that garbage can. I felt the stress on Josh Donaldson when he stepped up to bat. 4-3, two on base, two outs. My neck was full of tension.  And my heart sunk when KC made the play to get the last out.

Even though I’ve only been on the bandwagon two weeks, I cried a few tears. I cried them for the players who wanted this so badly but I cried them mostly for the city which needed it so badly. The one thing I know about this city is that fans are diehard.  Every year Leafs fans are convinced this will be their year.  I’m looking forward to next season. I’m going to go to a few games and experience the excitement from inside the Dome. I’m going root, root, root for the home team and hope we make the playoffs again. Yes “we”….I jumped so hard on the bandwagon I don’t want to get off.

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