North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Words from the worst sports city in the world

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Grantland, presented by Subway, published a story on Wednesday calling Toronto the worst sports city in all the world. This is a unique distinction which, if I understand it correctly, makes it a worse place to be fan than Tehran, home of Azadi Stadium; worse than Pyongyang, where all soccer is played under the guidance of Fatherly Leader and his invisible cell phones; worse than Yangon, Burma or Freetown, Sierra Leone.

How did it get to be such a bad place? Because the teams lose, mostly. Most of the time, anyway.

After all, it’s horrors beyond horrors that Toronto hasn’t won anything since 1993 (unless you count the Argos, which Marche doesn’t do until it suits his hypotheses). I wake up in the middle of the night with a jolt, sweat-drenched, angry beyond words about Tie Domi on a semi-regular basis. But it also isn’t that big of a deal: so what if the Leafs lose every year. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and life has gone on there ever since. The Jays lost tonight. C’est la vie.

It’s worth noting that in his slam on Toronto, Marche gets a few little things wrong. Like who owns the Blue Jays (Rogers, not MLSE), the Argos record, the idea the Leafs haven’t purchased any players despite a vast riches (never mind that the NHL operates on a salary cap) or that Toronto never took to Mats Sundin (never mind the ovation he got as a Vancouver Canuck). And it’s Marche’s opinion that the Leafs best chance at winning a cup was in 2001, but don’t forget they made it deeper in the playoffs the next year.

To me, the biggest question about the whole piece is why. Why does he think Toronto is so bad for fans? It certainly doesn’t bother me that the Jays are missing the postseason since I’m not the guy from Big Fan. Toronto teams lose; every city has losing teams. When Marche calls out the Leafs for not making the playoffs in six years, one wonders why that’s some violation of his fandom. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t made the playoffs recently either and nobody proposes the “inverted statue” for their owners. And nevermind that Marche doesn’t mention the Leafs were a two points – one NHL win – away from the playoffs in 2007.

There’s a kernal of truth when he says the city loves scrappy overachiever; the mundane player who shows up on time, all the time. John MacDonald was beloved here and the Jays went as far as to honor Kelly Gruber’s number. Every Leaf fan I’ve ever known – myself included – has adored Wendel Clark, who – lets face it – was a not a strong first-overall pick.

But find me a city where this doesn’t happen. Boston, recently named the best sports city in the world, idolized the Lunch Pail Gang teams of the late 1970s. Find me a media market that didn’t award David Eckstein the title “scrappy.”

He only focuses on the minor teams when they fail, too. The Argos are underwhelming right now, but they won the Grey Cup in 2004. He ignores every season of Toronto FC except their first, when they were an expansion team. Even the Toronto Raptors get shortchanged: they’re mentioned twice and their postseasons – 2008 and 2007 – go unnoticed.

If Toronto sports are failing you so completely, Marche, maybe it’s time you took a break to one of the world’s better sports towns. I hear Pyongyang is nice this time of year. And they have a good soccer program, too.

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Written by M.

September 27, 2011 at 11:52 pm

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