One last tribute to summer before we resign ourselves to cold sports
- Toronto Blue Jays Resurgence
The Jays haven’t been this relevant since before I was born. Even the yearly pontificating about the Leafs chances has been shoved to the backburner in favour of the bat wielding birds of T.O. What is most telling is the fact that the Jays went on a shopping spree (in trading for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki), which was the exact opposite of the repeated yard sales they have held in previous years. This is a team that has realized its potential. The inevitable crash and burn conclusion of this season has been held at bay for longer than most would have predicted.
There is an ominous premonition that every Canadian baseball season is destined for the trash heap of September games where everyday ballplayers must be tempted to sustain mysterious nagging injuries. Games where trotting out the mascot as the starting pitcher would be the only form of tangible entertainment available to those at the Roger’s Centre.
There are still issues with this team. Their road record is barely passable and the squad still has that faint smell of demise, but at least there is hope for the playoffs. The Jays have made moves, both on the field and in the front office that mean that the team is not sacrificing the future in return for a short playoff run. This is not the Jays selling their soul to Pete Rose (baseball’s supposed version of the devil, at least according to Bud Selig, judging by the commissioner’s actions). This is a team that is watchable and – for once – it is a result of the right reasons.
- Pan-Am and Para Pan-Am Games
One of the biggest multisport competitions in history took Toronto by storm over the summer. Canada won 217 medals in the Pan-Am Games and added 168 in the Para-Pan edition. I may be biased (sorry, playing both the sports in question betrays me) but the Canadian wheelchair basketball and rugby teams making it to Rio was big news for the Canadian sports scene. The fact that the Paralympic movement received a boost from the sheer amount of coverage that disabled sports received. CBC live streamed a number of sports, which was in stark contrast to previous years, where a small (in comparison) review was what we got.
- Canadian Basketball Renaissance
The Canadian women’s basketball team has already qualified for the 2016 Olympics and, with a touch of luck, the men can follow suit. The amount of talent on the men’s side would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. Cory Joseph, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Andrew Nicholson, and Kelly Olynyk are all legitimate NBA players, and Lakers centre Robert Sacre isn’t far behind with the amount of playing time he has been gifted in the “City of Angels.” Team Canada is no longer the Steve Nash Show. Jamal Magloire and Joel Anthony aren’t the mainstays of the Canadian defense any more.
This team would be even more dangerous if Tristan Thompson hadn’t declined the opportunity to play. Instead, he focused on his contract negotiations with the Cleveland Lebrons (whoops, I mean Cavaliers). The women’s program has been quietly ascending and they have a legitimate chance of competing at the Olympics. There is even a Saskatchewan connection, with U of S Huskies coach Lisa Thomaidis firmly entrenched on the first seat of the bench.
- CFL Season
This season has been a lesson in balance. Aside from the Stamps and Ti-Cats, there are no runaway leaders. The fact that the Riders could still make the playoffs at 1-9 is a sad truth, but without the steady beating each team has been handing the others, it would not be possible. Had the west division continued its absolute dominance, as it has in previous years, the Riders only chance at a postseason berth would be as guest commentators on TSN.
We are oddly hopeful in this province, and the ways in which each team has lost their starting signal callers has made this hopeful delusion even more (hypothetically) possible, which will make it all the more painful when the season goes down the toilet. More specifically, down the chute of one of the port-a-potties at the new Mosaic Stadium.
- Canadian Offseason
Summer = free agency = unnecessary hype followed by unreasonable expectations and the countdown to the disappointment. You don’t need me to recap each and every signing, but just know this: none of them were earthshattering. The Raptors made a few quiet moves, bringing in Canuck and NBA champion Cory Joseph in the process, but GM Masai Ujiri has made a career out of tiny moves leading to sweeping shifts, just look at the Raps trade of Rudy Gay a couple of seasons ago. The hockey teams didn’t make enough noise to be worthy of a spot on this list. Sorry to be the hockey pessimist, but the storylines are tired now. In short, anytime a player switches jerseys, it is big news, but it doesn’t matter how shiny the deal looks in July if the player is languishing at the end of the bench come December.