I walk into the dentist’s office at 8:30 on a Monday morning. It’s May 13 in Toronto and it feels like November in London, U.K. The coldest May I can remember. “Really?” I think. Kawhi just made franchise and Game 7 history, and he can’t wake up to a warm and sunny day? My dentist walks in. I only met him once briefly when he told me I needed a filling a few weeks ago when my usual dentist was on maternity leave. “How are you doing today, Emma?” he asks. I say, “It’s cold, and rainy, and grey, and Monday, and I’m about to get a filling. But the Raptors won Game 7, so I’m great!” He smiles. “Exactly,” he says.
I tell him I was at the game and my voice is hoarse. I admit I’d been yelling. He looks a little closer at me and asks where I sat. We quickly determine that he was sitting beside me for Game 5 and his girlfriend was directly beside me. While she was loud, I was even louder. We laugh. I’m a little embarrassed. I would call myself a passionate person but my playoff persona is a version of myself I sometimes didn’t even know existed.
While we wait for the freezing to kick in, we talk about the Raptors. Who will guard Giannis? Do they have a chance? We break down the Philly series. We discuss the shot. THE shot. I’ve watched the shot more times than I can count – I’ve seen every remix, every slow-mo. It’s reminiscent of the bat flip, of Edwin’s walk-off homer in the wildcard 2016. Joe Carter’s … okay so not quite the World Series walk-off. But nobody’s ever seen a shot like that before.
I am a basketball fan. I come from a basketball family and I grew up watching it at all levels. I was passionate when I watched my brother’s and dad’s games. I cheered loudly and crossed my fingers during big foul shots. I may have yelled at a fan or two from opposing teams in my day.
My boyfriend and I visited his family in Windsor at the start of the Philly series and he warned them that I might be a bit of a passionate viewer during the game. The Raptors came out strong and handily defeated Philly in Game 1. Quiet and smiling I was calm and relaxed. See, I’m fine. Unfortunately, as that exciting and competitive series progressed so too did my passion, at times unnecessary negativity, and sincere nervousness. I began reflecting – what is it about being a fan? Why do we care SO much?
On another cold Monday night in Toronto the Raptors played Game 3 of the Philly series and some friends came over for sushi and the Raptors. The playoffs were bringing us closer together, as we gathered with friends and family on nights otherwise reserved for working late, working out, cooking, organizing, resting. It was fun, but the Raptors started losing for the second game in a row. And they looked bad. I looked up at my TV. The same TV that broadcasted Trump’s win, and other elections and news stories that left me feeling as though I had lost. I asked my friends, “Can’t we at least have the Raptors?” When the news is often grim and it feels like your team is always losing, your sports team can offer an opportunity for success. For cheering. For hugging. For high fives and jumping.
Over the last two series I have noticed peculiar behaviours in myself and in those around me. My boyfriend has been wearing the same shoes for weeks – the Jordan Retros with red for the Raptors that he bought when the playoffs started. During one game I noticed my best friend tapping me on the shoulder every time the Raptors put up a shot. I thought she was doing this because she was nervous. She later tells me that every time she tapped my shoulder the shot went in. During another game she asked the Raptors in a British accent to “please get a stop” (defensive). And then she did that five times during a big run to come back in Game 5 of the Bucks series. And I emphatically requested that she keep doing it.
My mom and I were there for the wins in Games 6 and 7 and we’re pretty convinced that we have good juju. (We also watched Edwin’s walk-off together on a beautiful Toronto night in 2016 and yes the Dome was open). I am grateful to have had those moments with her.
Superstitions. Luck. Juju. That’s being a fan. We’re grown-ups, professionals, and we suspend disbelief. “Miss it miss miss it,” I say, the same thing I said as a kid when my 10-year old brother’s opponents were at the line. My Italian friend’s husband tells my friend to “give the Bucks the malocchio (evil eye)” as they lost their lead in Game 5. We revert to our childhood selves. We allow ourselves to believe that the shirt we wore, or where we watched, or what we said might actually matter. We know better than that in our real lives.
The arena was so loud after Game 6 and so were the streets. I’ve never seen anything like it. I ran from King up to Queen trying to get home and high-fived strangers along the way. Everywhere you walked people were wearing Raptors shirts or hats and were all smiling at one another. I talked to strangers on the subway and in and outside the arena. The feeling of cheering. Of jumping. Of laughing. Of people on your side. A city often divided between the urban centre and the GTA feels cohesive. People in the gym. And outside the gym. The diversity of Toronto reflected in the arena, in the bars, in Jurassic Park. The Raptors bringing Toronto together.
So we’re all in. Win or lose, stay or go – we’ll always have this run. We’ll always have that Eastern Conference Final night in Toronto and we’ll always have that shot.
– Emma Katz
Photos by Emma Katz
P.S. Champions!!! Thousands celebrating in Yonge Dundas Square… and everywhere!
@Em_Cats the biggest and truest raps fan I know!!!
Moana Hanna, Toronto
Great article! Go raps!!!
I can’t wait for Thursday togetherness.
Alexander Moyle, Toronto
This is the best and rare chance for the raptors to win nba finals in their whole team history. They should do their best so that whatever happen, they don’t regret it. Playing in the finals is very hard to come-by so they should do their best, avoid making too much mistakes, play defense 48 minutes, and execute the play carefully.
John Andrew Smith