By Bill Fox/Columnist
What is up with the Raptors and Jurassic Park and how seemingly everyone across Canada watched and cheered, including my wife and I? Even on the 75th anniversary of D-Day – the day of the Normandy landings, even then, the first 15 minutes of local newscasts were centred on the Raptors playoff win in Game 3 in Oakland.
Perhaps I could understand and appreciate better if there were Canadians or even better, Torontonians on the team. Yet we cheer as if this was Canada vs. the USA. The only Canadian connection at all in the finals was with the Warriors’ all star guard Steph Curry. He, in fact, lived in the GTA for three years, graduating from Grade 8 at a Christian school in Etobicoke. On July 30, 2011, Curry then married long-time girlfriend and Markham, Ont. native Ayesha Alexander. Too bad he doesn’t play for the Raptors, as his dad did for two years, then I could better appreciate the hype.
In fact, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) owns the team. It is also the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Soccer’s Toronto FC, the Toronto Argonauts and development teams with the Toronto Marlies (American Hockey League), Raptors 905 (NBA G League) and Toronto FC II (United Soccer League). MLSE also owns or operates all of the venues its teams play and train in, including Scotiabank Arena, BMO Field, Coca-Cola Coliseum, MasterCard Centre, BMO Training Ground and the Toronto Raptors Training Centre. MLSE states that it “strives to deliver championships to our city and our fans, and bring the world to its feet.”
Although they are doing a great job, and that is wonderful, do we realize that we were cheering on a team owned by a company focusing on profits?
The way the Raptors have attracted fanatical fans across the nation is mind-boggling. In Toronto, fans were lining up at 6 a.m. just to watch the game almost 40 hours later on the big screen in Jurassic Park. Mississagua, with the permission of MLSE has Jurassic Park West and attracted 20,000 people to their venue and there were more than 40 Jurassic Parks across Canada with Regina and Oshawa being added for the last games.
I met Mother Teresa on her first visit to Toronto and she said that we had a terrible problem in the GTA. Unlike the problems in Calcutta, like poverty and homelessness that you could clearly see, our problem was hidden. The problem she spoke of was “loneliness.” Is this in part why we all wanted to attend Raptors games or viewing parties?
Nav Bhatia is the Toronto Raptors’ most visible fan. You can find him courtside at every home game the team plays. Bhatia immigrated to Canada from India in 1984. Legend has it, that once he found work as a car salesman, he desperately wanted to assimilate into Canadian society so he started simply by attending the first game in Raptors franchise history, and he was hooked.
According to the results of a recent survey of more than 1,500 Canadians, “watching basketball is a bigger part of the Canadian immigrant’s life than the national average: While three per cent of the total number of people surveyed said basketball is the sport they watch most often with their friends and kids, 10 per cent of immigrants said the same thing.”
Bhatia has also been involved in promoting South Asian and East Indian charities, building basketball courts in Peel Region just west of Toronto, and has worked with the Raptors to organize multicultural nights at their games. During Vaisakhi and Diwali, he purchases 3,000 tickets to give to Sikh youth, costing him roughly $300,000.
“The goal is to integrate my Indian community with the mainstream,” he says.
That’s what I love about watching the enormous crowds cheering on the Raptors. Doesn’t matter your race, religion or sexual preference, we were all in this together cheering on the Raptors.
I just wish there was a way to harness this energy and enthusiasm away from a private business enterprise into a Canadian social concern like childhood poverty or ‘climate change’. Just wish I had the answers
If you have suggestions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.