Tag: toronto raptors

How To Attend A Championship Parade

Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Congratulations! Your favorite professional sports team won the championship, and now it’s party time! Or more specifically, it’s victory parade time! But, what’s that, you say? You’ve never been to one before, and don’t know what it’s like? Well, have no fear, dear reader, as I’m about to hook you up, and give you some advice on how to attend a championship parade. Let’s get it on, FAQ style!

Have you even been to a championship parade before?

Yup. I was one of the two plus million who took part in the Toronto Raptors’ celebration this year. As someone who’s a lifelong fan of the Raptors, the Phoenix Suns, and the Toronto Blue Jays, all of whom aren’t exactly perennial champions, it was a pretty amazing day!

Your choice in teams is very questionable, so I don’t think that I trust your judgement, or your advice. Do you mind if I stop reading now?

Uh, yes, I mind? Please read on?

Fine.  What should I bring with me?

I’ll start with what you should not bring.  And that…..is little kids.

Huh?! You’re suggesting depriving my children of a historical moment that they’ll remember forever? You’re a terrible parent!

I’m just sayin’. For one, teams tend to schedule these things during the week, so they’ll have to miss a day of school, which may or may not be a big deal, to some folks. For another, kids are short. You’re planning on watching a parade with hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of other grown fans. You’re going to have to go early, to guarantee a spot in the front, so they can see over everyone. Otherwise, be prepared to have them lifted up on your shoulders for extended periods. Back to going early, though. It’s potentially a long day (in my case with the Raptors’, I was there around 9am, but the parade ran late, so it didn’t pass us until around 2pm). You don’t exactly have in and out privileges. If you claim a good spot up front, and then leave, you’re not getting that spot back.   I don’t know about you, but my kids have this habit of wanting to use the bathroom at the most inopportune times.  How would you feel if, you’ve been standing around for hours, crammed among a huge crowd of people, and in the distance, you finally see the team caravan coming, but you then hear these words: “Daddy? I have to go to the bathroom really bad! I can’t hold it!”

I’d be furious! ARGH!

Right.  Furthermore, my kids get restless pretty easily, which leads to boredom complaints, or worse. It’s just potentially a long, tiring day of keeping them entertained. I overheard at least one unhappy little camper asking to go home, about two hours into the Raptors’ parade. Bringing lots of food and drinks is a good idea, in theory, but this will inevitably lead to bathroom breaks, which means spot-losing. My kids also have this habit of gobbling up everything in site and then, minutes later,  complaining that they’re still hungry. Food runs again leads to spot-losing.  I mean, sure, a championship parade is a fun event for families, and some, heck, maybe most families, have a positive experience, but I’d definitely put an asterisk next to them.

Kawhi Leonard at the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Kawhi Leonard waving the trophy in the air like he just don’t care. What a fun guy!

OK, OK, I get it. Ditch the kiddos. What should I bring, then?

Food and drinks are good, with the disclaimer mentioned above (if you’re moving around, throughout the parade route, that isn’t much of a problem, however). Comfortable shoes. Sunscreen. A fully charged phone, so when the good stuff happens, you have enough battery life to spam your social media with pictures to make your friends, to quote J-Lo, jelly.  Some fresh, official championship merchandise to wear.  An umbrella.

An umbrella? Because the parade goes on, rain or shine?

Nah. Because your favorite athlete might roll by drunkenly popping bottles of champagne and spraying them into the crowd. Champagne soaked clothes doesn’t sound like a comfortable look.

 

Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Watch out! He has an open bottle!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But if they’re pouring beer afterwards, I should be good, correct? Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear?

 

That saying doesn’t apply at all.

Whatever. What else shouldn’t I bring?

GUNS! Like, it’s a day about showing love to your team, and coming together as a community. There’s no need for weapons. Besides that, don’t bring giant signs that obstruct the view of those behind you. At the very least, if you do bring them, be smart about when you hold them up.

Do I need to do anything beforehand, to prepare? Should I memorize every player’s stats , so I’ll have some conversation points, when I’m standing for hours on end surrounded by strangers?

At the Raptors’ championship parade anyway, the crowd was massive, but it was a mixture of hardcore fans, casual fans, bandwagon fans who jumped on board when they realized the team might win the title, and people who were there out of FOMO. Basically, it wasn’t hard to make polite chit chat, so no need to bone up on statistics. Beyond that, know the parade route, and have a good entry/exit strategy. Large volumes of humans converging in one area makes getting there and going home a bit of an adventure. Also, you know how when you go to a Santa Claus parade, and before Santa’s float comes, there’s like a million other stuff before that? Bands, maybe some insurance company’s car, with smiling brokers waving in it, that kind of stuff?

Yes?

Same thing for a championship parade. It’s not just the team on a bus with the trophy. The Raptors’ one had some cars and buses full of people most wouldn’t recognise who were invited to take part. Sponsors, front office executives,  family members, etc.

Anything else?

Yeah. Shower and put on deodorant before you go. When the players do finally roll by, the mass of humanity around you will most likely lift up their arms to take pictures. I inhaled some interesting scents when that happened, to put it politely.

And just like those armpits, this post stinks, too!

OK, we’re done here. Enjoy the parade!

Masai Ujiri at the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Hand’s up, to take pictures of Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri’s butt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kids Are Alright

Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.

Now, that probably sounds like the ending to some cheesy, cliche sports story. It’s not, though! It’s the beginning to this non-cheesy,  non-cliche sports story. Trust me, it’ll make sense later.

stories about tolerance

 

I don’t know about you, but I worry about what kind of people my children will be, when they’re older. B, in particular can be a handful, to put it mildly.  We try to instil as much as we can, but at the end of the day, it’s on B to accept it or reject it. As such, putting him in the right environments is always a big factor for K and I.  Sports, for example, are perfect, as they expose him to all kinds of life lessons in a structured, fun way.

Luckily, B loves basketball, and he played on a rep team in Hamilton this year. Even more luckily,  the team was comprised of a good group of boys. Sure, skill and talent-wise, they were OK, but everyone got along, and their attitudes were fine.  Off the court, whereas B’s the type who takes goofing around to new levels, I was surprised to see that, when with his team,  he wasn’t any more rambunctious as anyone else (usually).

After an up and down season, the team competed in the provincial championships recently.  The tournament covered a whole weekend, which meant staying out of town in a hotel.  After the first game Friday evening, the team went out to a restaurant for dinner.

While there, some of the boys ended up at the bar area, to watch the Toronto Raptors game on TV, including B. Don’t worry, they weren’t drinking  (they’re 9 years old. C’mon now). Eventually, though, B came running over to K and I, excited. He had worn his warm-up shirt to the restaurant, but now, he just had his jersey on. He told us that he gave away his shirt, to a kid at the bar. Since we had paid for the shirt, as part of his uniform, and B has a track record for silliness, like I mentioned earlier, our immediate reaction was to cut him off, and tell him to go get the shirt back.  He ran back to the bar, and came back to show us that he got it.

I’ll admit to screwing up here, folks. Sometimes, like the Fresh Prince said, parents just don’t understand. After the shirt incident, J went over to snoop on her big bro, and reported back that the boy who the team was hanging with at the bar had a disability (not her words, but I’ll error on the side of vagueness here). Then, we started hearing from B’s teammates that the boy was really excited to be talking to, and chilling with, the team. Then, we heard that B and one of his buddies had given him their shirts, as a token of friendship, and that the boy was super excited about receiving them.  B had come over to explain this, but K and I kiboshed it.

Sigh. Don’t do this.

When B walked by, after we found out about his gesture, we told him that, of course, he could give his shirt to his new friend, if he wanted to.  So he did. He then returned to say that the boy’s mom wanted to know where our games were the next day, as they wanted to come watch. K jotted down the address on a paper, which B delivered. Afterwards, when it was time to go, the mom approached the parents on the team, to say thank you, and compliment the boys.

The next morning, B kept nervously wondering if his new pal would actually show up, with his mom. importance of tolerance in schools As game time neared, I looked around the gym, and didn’t see them, which was disappointing, but understandable. Right before tip-off, though, they walked in! The dude was even rocking B’s warm-up shirt. B broke into a goofy grin, which made me goofily grin, too.  After the game, the team went over to say hi, and give the boy props and stuff, which he was clearly thrilled about.

Needless to say, I was proud that B, unsolicited and unprompted, made a new buddy, not because he was ‘different’, not because it was ‘the right thing to do’, but just…….because.  Maybe that guy will be alright, after all. We could all stand to be more tolerant, accepting and not quick to judge, right?

The only part that sucked was that the team kind of got killed in that game. However…..

Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.

 

Told ya that it would make sense. Til the next one, later!

 

 

No Role Modelz

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a few brushes with fame in my life. Of these celebrity encounters, one has always stuck with me, though.

At a 1994 FIBA World Basketball Championship game, when I was a kid, NBA star Toni Kukoc happened to be in the stands. This totally got me starstruck.  People were coming up to him in his seat, between breaks, so figured I’d ask him for an autograph, too.  I remember being super nervous as I got closer and closer to him. When I did get near, I didn’t get a chance to speak, unfortunately. Mr Kukoc, without looking at me, said “Get out of my face.” I couldn’t believe it…..but he then said it again! The dude he was with also told me to go away, which I quickly did.  Once the shock wore off, I can’t say that I was really upset about the incident. It was more of a disappointed, angry feeling.  However, because of that one moment, in my opinion, Mr. Kukoc (who may be a swell guy, to others) was, and always will be, a jerk.

 

Let’s now talk about the other day, when like father, like son, B had a similar  “celebrity” encounter.

It happened at a Toronto Raptors 905 NBA G-League game. B was there with his basketball teammates and their parents, which included yours truly. Midway through the game, a bunch of them noticed Fred VanVleet, point guard for the Toronto Raptors, was also in attendance. Like any 8-10 year old hoops fans, they were excited about seeing a real life NBA player. So, at halftime, one of the other dads in our group took the boys down, to meet Mr. VanVleet, and get autographs.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t see what exactly happened next. I can only go by what B and the other parents told me.  I saw the group down near where Mr. VanVleet was, and then I looked away for a bit. When I looked back, I saw the group walking towards our section, with a bunch of disappointed faces. From what I was told, Mr. VanVleet saw the team approaching, and legit turned his back on them to talk to someone else instead. A 905 representative came over as well, to tell the boys that Fred VanVleet “wasn’t available”. I guess the optics of it were savage, as one of the dads got really worked up when he saw the incident occur.

Now look, there are always two sides to every story.  For all we know, Mr. VanVleet was having a bad day, and is normally very accommodating to his young fans. It could have been a case of bad timing and miscommunication. He could possibly have been sick, and didn’t want to infect the boys with his illness. Or, maybe, he just wanted to enjoy the game, without having to interact with the general public.  In any event, why he wouldn’t be more appreciative to the ones who put him on a pedestal so he can make a comfortable living playing a freaking game?

I understand that, in our culture, we tend to idolize, romanticize and build up celebrities. Shoot, I remember last year, when B and I went to a 905 game, Mr. VanVleet was on that team, as just another guy. I don’t think he had many people looking to take selfies or get an autograph then. To go from there, to now playing a regular role on one of the best teams in the NBA, well, I’m sure a lot of stuff comes with that. It’s just like if anybody in any job works their way up to become successful. You hope that they remain decently humble and stuff doesn’t go to their head, but that’s not always the case.

Yet, who are we to judge, if the celebrities we make role models turn out not to be who we thought they were? They’re  human beings, too. They don’t owe us anything. If they want to turn their back to ignore a group of kids, in spite of how bad it might reflect on them and their employer, it’s their choice, right? Like Charles Barkley said back in the day – just because someone can dunk a basketball shouldn’t make them a role model. Just because someone played a hero in a movie doesn’t mean that they aren’t a scummy deviant once the camera stops rolling. I guess that’s on us, for buying into the facade, when the truth emerges.  With all that said,  finding out Toni Kukoc was a jerk still kind of hit me the same way as when I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real. It sucked.

Ho-Ho-Hold up! I’m not real?

Ok, rambling over.

Unlike my Kukoc experience, B’s night ended on a happy note.  At the end of the game, B’s team went down to high five the 905s as they walked off the court. Bruno Caboclo, sometime Raptor/sometime 905er, on his way out, high fived everyone, AND signed every autograph, no questions asked. The kids were pumped and had the biggest smiles when they came back to us. This made their night, including B’s, who doesn’t want me to wash his autographed shirt now!

Actions speak louder than words.  And when you’re on a pedestal, role model or not, it can go a long way in affecting how you’re perceived.
Fred VanVleet, you lost some young fans that night, bro, sorry.  Bruno Caboclo, on the other hand, gained a bunch.

 

 

The Canadian Basketball League – Turning Hoop Dreams Into Reality

 

I’ve mentioned before on this site that one of the best things about being a parent is sharing my interests with my kids. Take basketball, for example.  It’s always been my favorite sport. B’s picked up on that vibe and become a huge hoops fiend, too.  If he’s not playing ball, then he’s talking about it constantly.  It’s that interest which led me to stumbling onto the Canadian Basketball League  (CBL).

The CBL is the brainchild of Butch Carter, the Toronto Raptors’ former head coach. It’s a fledgling, four team professional league in its first season, with all four teams located in the GTA. I discovered this while randomly looking at things to do one weekend recently. To my surprise, one of the teams is located in Hamilton. As such, I copped a couple of tickets, and B and I checked out a game: the Hamilton Basketball Club vs. the Scarborough Basketball Club.

You’re probably now wondering what the game was like. And to that I say it was…….professional. Lemme explain.

I think one of the keys to operating any sports league or team is to not come across as rinky dink, or lame. With that said, I think the CBL does a pretty good job with that. The league website looks pretty slick, for example. They also have their own online ticket buying site, as opposed to going through Ticketmaster, which I think is pretty clever (both them and the consumer save paying Ticketmaster fees).  They even have a TV deal, as they show some games on Yes TV.

Hamilton plays it home games at Mohawk College, which has a decent sized facility, and a fair number of rafters. B did ask about buying snacks at the game, as we were driving there. Being familiar with the campus, I knew that there weren’t any concessions. However, that just meant we had to make a quick stop at Bulk Barn, to load up on goodies. When  we got there, the attendants at the game didn’t care that we brought our own food and drinks. In a neat touch, we were given a free Hamilton Basketball Club rally towel as we walked in, too.

In terms of in-game presentation, I was pleasantly surprised. There was an announcer who did his best to hype the crowd up, and played music throughout the contest (similar to an NBA game).  The players looked like real basketball players, for lack of a better term, which was good, because they were real basketball players.  I read their bios, and they were all legit. From local stars, to former US high school standouts, to college grads looking for another chance, there were a lot of talented dudes, which made for some quality, entertaining basketball.

It really is an interesting niche to go after. Ballers who aren’t ready to give up their hoop dreams yet, and need a place to play, to take the next step up in their careers. They are paid for their services, too.  There is another league in Canada, the National Basketball League, which is bigger, and has been around longer, and I think does the same type of thing. However, the CBL’s rosters seems to skew on the younger side, most likely by design.

One other interesting thing of note.  B and I sat in the front row, so we could hear everything that was being said on the court. I don’t know if it was conscious effort by the players and coaches, but we only heard one use of profanity the whole game. The rest of time, there was a lot of “Shoot!” or “Dang it!”, stuff like that. When you’re with small kids, this is huge. I was happy that the atmosphere was so family-friendly.

Now, obviously, it’s not the same as going to an NBA game, or even a D-League game. To say the attendance was sparse would be putting it generously. It’s a shame, but I guess that goes with the growing pains of a new league that isn’t heavily promoted. Regardless, it was still fun.  We went to a Hamilton Bulldogs (a  junior hockey team who play out of the FirstOntario Centre, which is a borderline NHL-caliber arena) game a few weeks prior to the CBL game, and the products were similarly entertaining.

B was really into it, by the end, cheering the home team on (even though they ended up losing).  It was also an eye-opening experience for him, as he didn’t realize that you could make a living playing basketball outside of the NBA or D-League.

When I say that the CBL is professional, I mean it as a compliment. The effort is obviously there, to make for an enjoyable fan experience, and it’s pretty good value, relative to other pro sports in the GTA.  Hopefully, the league continues to grow and improve!

 

https://canadianbasketball.com/

https://secure.cbltickets.com/online/index.asp

 

 

We The North, He The Mouth

north

 

This post goes out to hoopsheads everywhere, and their little hoopsheads!

Now, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a basketball fan. I  was never much of a player, but I sure could watch a mean game of ball. Anyway, since my kids were little, I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could share my enjoyment of hoops with them. Luckily for me, that day came sooner than anticipated.

B’s six years old, and he’s turned into quite the little baller. If he’s not playing basketball, then he’s talking about it, especially all things NBA related.  While that part has been “like father, like son,” I’ve also realized that his perspective on the game is sometimes not like mine at all.

Because they’re the local team, I’ve watched many Toronto Raptors games with my buddies over the years, either on TV or in person. We have a beer or two, cheer the Raps on, talk some trash, and shoot the breeze about whatever. Good times.

When I watch games with B, though, it’s still good times,  but the discussions are….

Different.

Not bad, of course. Just random. The mind of small kid is a scary place, for real.

Here, let me give you an example. Game Two of the NBA playoffs. Toronto Raptors versus Miami Heat. Myself, B and our stuffed Raptors mascot……

20160505_220151_HDR

settle in to catch the action. The following conversations took place:

⊕ B thinks that I am like Human Google, and if I don’t have an answer, then actual Google knows all. When told that one of the commentators, Alvin Williams, used to play in the NBA, B wanted to know how many buzzer beaters he made.  Not surprisingly, this stat is hard to find. If anyone knows the answer, please let me know.

⊕  During the pre-game introductions:

B – “Daddy? Is that Miami’s coach?! Where’s he from? What colour is he?

I’m at a loss for words, as I’ve never thought about Erik Spoelstra’s heritage before.

Spoelstra_presents_President_Obama_the_team_trophy

I wonder if Spoelstra gets asked about his background as much as Obama does.

⊕ A few months ago,  I made the mistake of telling B that my least favorite NBA player was Joe Johnson (What? He’s a Raptor killer). Every time Johnson got the ball during the game, B cheered wildly, to spite me.

⊕ More human Googling:

B – “Has Norman Powell played against every team?”

Me – “I don’t think so.”

B – “What teams hasn’t he played?”

*At this point, I called an audible. Rather than spending the next several minutes cross-referencing Norman freakin’ Powell’s game log, I recanted my prior answer.*

Me – “Wait! He has played against every team!”

B – “He has? Even Golden State?”

Me – “Yeah!”

I figured that would be it. But B had one more, head-scratching question:

B – “What time did he play Golden State at? What minutes?”

Sigh. Moving on….

⊕ With about a minute and a half left in the first quarter, B started to get excited about possibly seeing his favorite play – a buzzer beater. He started chanting “Buzzer beater!” As the clock counted down, he added a weird, nasaly, Russian accent to his chant. Alas, no buzzer beater was made.

⊕  If you’re like me, you and your friends have probably discussed which players your favorite team should trade for. Fantasy general managing. B and I took a stab at it:

B – “Golden State should trade Steph Curry for Jonas Valančiūnas.”

Me – “That trade would never happen. Golden State would want more for their best player.”

B – “Like Bismack Biyombo?”

Me – “No. They would want a lot more. Like a team’s best player, or a bunch of really good players.”

B – “Oh. They should trade Steph Curry for Kobe Bryant.”

Me – “Why would they want someone who’s retired?”

B – “Curry for Lebron James!”

I couldn’t argue that one.

⊕  Later, the game showed a person in the crowd holding a sign which read  ‘Be Yourself, Lowry.’

B – “Well, who else would he be? He is Kyle’s Lowry!”

⊕ Even though the game was close, he went upstairs to his room, to shoot hoops on his mini net. He eventually wandered back down at halftime. He had two questions – was there a buzzer beater, and who took the last shot that wasn’t a buzzer beater.

⊕   Demarre Carroll dribbled to the basket, and nailed a layup.
Me – “Wow. Carroll usually just hits jump shots. He never drives.”
B –  “Yes he does! He has to drive.”
Me – “What do you mean?”
B – “Well, how does he get to games? He needs to drive a car to them!”
 Once again, I couldn’t argue that.

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