“homerism” – an unswerving enthusiasm for the hometown sports team(s).
I thought I was over it.
Sure, Toronto was my official hometown and always would be, but I had not lived there for more than forty-two years.
When I did live there, I rooted passionately for the local sports teams – the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey), the Toronto Argonauts (Canadian football) and the Toronto Maple Leaf “Triple A” baseball team. (Which “left the building” in 1967.)
I remember when I first noticed I was a maniac.
I was ten or eleven years old, and the “parent” Milwaukee Braves were in town for a promotional “exhibition game” against their minor league affiliate, my beloved Toronto Maples Leafs.
I had splurged on a front-row box seat (cost: a dollar-fifty), from which I would hurl scurrilous invective at our lofty adversary, a big league squad boasting the “pathetic” likes of future Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Eddie Matthews.
At that moment, I heard a hoarse-voiced, taunting tirade exiting my mouth, identified more commonly with irate dockworkers than with a Fifth Grader from the Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto.
“You don’t belong on the same field with us,” I bellowed in a feral growl that sounded nothing like my usual “Good Boy” patois. “You think you can come in here and beat the pants off of us because you’re big-shot major leaguers and we’re not? Well, think again, you big bullies! We’re gonna wipe the floor with you guys, and send you home like the wimpy little crybabies you are. The Milwaukee Braves stiiiink!”
Yes I was simply root-root-rooting for the home team. But Holy Catfish! Who was that kid!
And don’t get me started on the hockey Leafs. It was like my physical and mental wellbeing were inextricably linked to the Mapleos’ current won-lost record. Not quite as bad as “I lived and died with the Leafs” but a losing streak correlated inversely with my temperature. The worse they did, the more it shot up.
When I moved here, my behavior was recognizably identical. Except that instead of the Leafs, the other Leafs and Argos, it was now the Dodgers, the Lakers and the Rams (who subsequently departed for St. Louis, and are about to return.)
During the seventies, I grieved like a wolf whose baby cub had been eaten by coyotes – I have no idea if that’s anything – when a clearly superior Dodgers team was twice swaggered into submission by the despised New York Yankees. A Rams wide receiver dropping an easy Super Bowl-winning catch in the end-zone broke my heart into tiny little pieces.
On the other hand, I exulted triumphantly when the Magic Johnson-spearheaded Lakers captured five NBA championships in the eighties, high-fiving strangers, attending series-determining “Game Six” back in 1982.
The record shows: I had officially changed allegiances.
Goodbye, Toronto. Hello, L.A.
Or so it appeared.
Last night, flipping around the channels, I came upon a playoff basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors.
I had never followed the Raptors; they were created after I was gone. I knew the names of none of the players on this team. (Or on any Raptors team. Wait, Vince Carter.) I had no idea if the team was good or they were terrible; it was the first round of the playoffs and sometimes, “not terrific” gets in.
Seeing the Raptors were down by 13 points in the Fourth Quarter, I indifferently channeled away. Later, however, flipping around again – as is my habit, having watched virtually no commercials since the invention of the remote – I came back to the basketball game, and the Raptors were marginally ahead.
A close game is a close game; they are interesting to watch. So that’s exactly what I did.
In the final two minutes, it remained exceedingly tight. Then, with time rapidly running out and the Raptors leading by three, a Pacers player threw up a desperation, game-tying “three-pointer”, and it went in.
What then followed was a mandatory review. After watching the “replay”, the officials declared that the tying shot had been released mille-seconds after the final buzzer. The Pacers tying basket was consequently waved off, making the Toronto Raptors the winners of the game.
Hearing that news, I leaped exultantly into the air.
I was startlingly surprised. I had no inkling whatsoever that I cared.
You can take the boy out of the hometown.
But you can’t take hometown out of the boy.
“Go Raptors Go! Go Raptors Go!.... “