By this time, I hope Raptors fans have fully recovered. A 4-0 sweep in the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs is well… slightly embarrassing. I will admit, it was a David vs. Goliath scenario: Toronto all-stars Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry scrambling to keep up with ‘the King’ and his House of Lords. Besides the impenetrable LeBron James, let’s be honest, Kyrie Irving could lead his own team to the NBA finals; still, he plays second fiddle to the King. All-star Kevin Love makes it rain like it’s going out of style – have I mentioned the Cavs 6th, 7th and 8th men yet? A bench so mature and deep, the coach doesn’t even flinch from injury. I’ll give it to Toronto – our team is young, spry, and feisty, but how do you really compete with ALL of that?
Despite the odds being against us, I made the last-minute decision to go to the ‘The Land’ and watch Game 1 of this playoff series. Tickets were half the price of Toronto bleeds, and when you count gas and a single night stay with friends, the total is slightly over what you’d pay for a game in Toronto. If you love basketball, I suggest you save up and wreak some havoc in Cleveland next year!
Besides the incredible basketball (unfortunately, not from our end as the Raptors), I noticed something about Raptor fans that resonated with my faith. In a sea of yellow, die-hard, never won anything significant in Ohio history other than the NBA title in 2016, fan-fare, our underdog Raptors fans stuck out in three distinct ways.
- Every time the Raptors scored, you would see pockets of people pop up amidst the sea of yellow. I love the group of Raptors fans to our left in the nose bleed section of the stadium who stood almost the entire game! Ooooo Cleveland fans must’ve loved that. Red flags, hats, and jerseys were in full display! Proud and passionate, there was no care that we were in enemy territory.
- If you watched round 1 of the playoffs, you’ll know Toronto almost dropped the ball. A 6th seeded Milwaukee Bucks team looked sharper, decisive and more finessed than our 3rd seeded superstars. Few figured the team could handle the pressure of the Cavs if they could barely beat the Bucks. Still, Raptors fans came out with full faith in Cleveland on Game 1. They made the 5-hour trek south with anticipation. Heck, even I got into the spirit en route – could we really do this? Even with the odds stacked against us, we were anticipating big things for our team!
- I couldn’t help but notice how well Toronto Raptors fans engaged with Cleveland fans around the stadium. People were high-fiving their neighbours, making jokes, talking to the children around them. I didn’t see one fight or brawl or ill word spoken. Sure, we had the Canadian national anthem sung in multiple tones and phrases, and perhaps a sly ‘eh’ comment here and there, but overall the interaction was amazing to watch. In a country firmly divided and generally hostile towards differences right now, what a great way to be neighbours!
And as we started the trek back home to Toronto, I realized… I want to be more like Raptors fans in my faith. Passionate, faith-filled and full of neighbourly love. Passionate to show my colours, no matter the space I’m in; full of anticipation for what’s to come, regardless of the outcome; and continuously loving people, especially those different than me, along the way. Imagine what our world would be like if WE THE NORTH lived life like that! And shouldn’t the stakes be higher, if we know we’re playing for a winning team?
Reporter Molly Thomas (right) at Quicken Loans Arena for Game 2 in Cleveland, Ohio.