Somehow, I don’t know how, I became a Raptors basketball fan.
I say that with surprise, because it sort of caught me by surprise a few years back. Growing up, I never watched basketball because my family didn’t watch basketball. We were all die-hard hockey fans.
I vaguely remember the hoopla when the NBA decided to set up a team in Toronto – but frankly, I didn’t really care at the time. (Although I did go to one game, in 1995 or 1996, back when the Raptors were still playing in the SkyDome.)
But then, sometime about six years ago, I started to pay attention. It was just a little attention at first – noticing that the Raps were in the playoffs or watching a game here and there. And then I started to get excited about it and Ryan and I started going to games. The day I realized I was a true, die-hard fan, was the day when four years ago, Ryan, a few friends, and I drove to Detroit for Game 5. It was a Thursday night, 8:30 p.m. start – we left work around 1:30 p.m., drove to Detroit, watched the Raptors lose (and get knocked out of the playoffs) by 3 or 4 points and then drove back to Toronto in time to catch a couple of hours of sleep and head to work again in the morning. (That’s the simple version of the story, the more complicated version is the fact that Ryan was working in Niagara at the time, so I drove one car with the friends from Toronto to London, where we met Ryan and left his car in a McDonald’s parking lot to continue on our way. On the way back, we dropped Ryan off at his car so he could go back to Niagara and the rest of us could go back to Toronto.)
For three years after that game, Ryan and I shared season seats with our friends Rob and Vone (and sometimes others as well). And for three years, we watched the Raptors lose, we watched Vince Carter whine and ask to be traded to a ‘better team’ until he was finally traded, and watched them lose some more.
Then, this year they started to win – and of course, us new parents gave up our season seats in favour of watching the games on TV while the babes slept. This year, I managed to catch 2 games from the ACC – compared with the 20 or so in each of the years before.
Nevertheless, I’m excited to say that on Saturday afternoon the four of us will be at the first Raptors playoff game. And on Tuesday evening, we’ll be at the second. When they secured a playoff spot, there was no hesitation – we’re getting playoff tickets, and we’re getting a babysitter!
Of course, last night the team they’ll be facing was finally determined, and it’s Vince Carter’s new team, the Nets. That puts a little extra something on the whole affair. If they win the series, it’ll be that much greater knowing that Carter’s ‘better team’ got knocked down by his old team. If they lose, it’ll make me that much angrier at the loss.
But what can you do – except not wear my old Vince Carter Raptors jersey to the game on Saturday. Unless of course I ‘revise it’ with a Sharpie.