This may seem like a strange piece from someone who predicted the team to miss the playoffs this season, but I felt the need to spew my opinion on two things.
First things first, the poll I threw up today on the front page of the Republic is closer than I thought it would be and, frankly, closer than it should be. The comments here over the last few days and various blog posts on other sites have been full of theories and opinions on both sides of the fence, but I draw a line when fellow bloggers state they “hope we lose tonight”. One would hope if you run a Raptors based website that you are doing so out of passion and love of and for this team. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for blind faith, but to come out and say you want your team to lose is just weak. All the writers here get accused of being haters from time to time, but I think to a man, we still want this team to succeed. The draft is an unknown entity. Free agency is an unknown entity. These are two things left up to a brain trust at MLSE that, quite frankly, haven’t left the majority of us with too much hope. The playoffs are also an unknown entity, but it’s something that the players and coaches can control (to an extent) and most importantly learn from. There are differing opinions of the effort put forth on Sunday, but I for one didn’t have issue with it given the fact we were down a franchise player while playing a hungry motivated team that had all their weapons on blast. Who knows what happens in round one of the playoffs? We have a back up point guard that is about to burst at any mention of the word playoffs, we have an underachieving rookie that should look at it as an opportunity to step up his game, we have a free agent signing that knows he has a lot of making up to do, we have a centre that is playing out of position but when “on” can provide scoring punch that few teams get out of that position, and on and on. Anything can happen in a series. Long shot? Absolutely. So is the draft lottery, signing a free agent and accomplishing sign & trades. We as Raptors fans know this for a fact.
Speaking of our franchise player, I’m still somewhat amazed at the lack of passion we have shown this man. In perusing online articles every morning, I rarely see articles in Cleveland or Miami talking about how much better off their teams would be without their free-agents-to-be. Nor do I see fans putting their guys on blast and questioning their work ethic. What I do see is passion from fans hoping their guy re-signs and continues to make their team better. Here in Toronto, it’s a crapshoot every day you open the paper or click on a link as to whether or not the author wants one of the best players in the league, a perennial allstar, to stay or go. This, to me, is pure idiocy. Beyond that, though, I have seen or heard of very little effort made by the public to show their passion either way. The one and only exception to this is Joel Reilly and his BoshTown movement. He should be commended for creating a grassroots movement that is being used to show an important part of this team that it matters if he stays or goes. Probably the biggest push done in this teams history in this same regard was actually spearheaded by MLSE to Bring Back T-Mac. We know how it ended, but each and every game down the stretch of the season, team management ensured the home fans were voicing their opinion. None of that is happening this year. Gone are the days that hanging a players image on a billboard or plastering them on seasons tickets is enough. They want to be coddled and the fans and this franchise have done a poor job of showing Bosh that he’s appreciated and wanted back. We do a great job of turning on players that were once great, but our ability to appreciate them while they are here still posting double/doubles and going above and beyond with respect to community events is non-existent and laughable. That needs to change starting now.
Playoffs or no playoffs, we need to support this team. Irritated by what management or coaching has done, then don’t buy tickets or merchandise. Think the players suck because they aren’t showing effort? Maybe tell me what you thought of Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright, etc before they got here. Did you even know who they were? Bloggers and writers were casting Weems aside since “we don’t even know who he is”, yet he’s now in the starting lineup. Question is, is it because he possesses the quality of a starter or is the depth on this team that shallow?
At the end of the day…at the end of the season…you have found yourself defending your love of this team and its players to people that mock you for doing so. That means something. You make time to pull up websites and chat in forums because you have a passion inside you. That means something. You schedule most of your nights between October and April around Raptors games. That means something. You are a supporter of the red & black. It means that you care. You want success and you want the best players in this league to wear a Toronto jersey. Never lose sight of that. Never lose that passion. Some days will be more trying than others, but tonight you should want nothing but a victory at home and a little help from the Bobcats. That passion you felt when we beat the Cavs at home at the beginning of the season needs to be re-lit. The ACC, the bar you are at, or just your home needs to be filled with good vibes and the desire to win.
Light that fire tonight. Support this team.