As the series gets set to return back to Toronto the Talking Raptors crew continues to cover all the festivities down at Maple Leaf Square. We’ve been out each game representing the podcast and Raptors Republic along with our fellow diehard brethren, rain or shine. It’s been a heck of a party so far. Here’s a break down of what’s goes on out front of the ACC:
What is it about out-of-store Pizza Pizza that makes it so good? The pepperoni and consistency of the grease are so much better than the pies that come from the traditional franchise. Cheese or pepperoni slices are priced at $5 in the square, which in terms of ACC prices doesn’t seem too bad. But beware of the topping upgrades. Deluxe slices jump up to $9! Four bucks extra for some green pepper and mushrooms?! Good lord. For those looking for a more traditional Canadian meal a healthy sized order of poutine goes for $6.
$9 dollars for a tallboy of MGD or Coors Light. Obviously a bit of a steep price but what can you do? It’s the playoffs and beer is gad damn delicious. Gotta take the hit for this one.
There’s nothing worse than a meathead security guard. A guy or woman that feels like a black t-shirt and bright yellow jacket somehow transforms them into Judge Dred. Fortunately there’s been no sign of Stalone at Raptor Square. Security has been thorough and in control but barely noticeable. They’re there to help if you ask them but otherwise they’ve let the party happen unfettered. Like the cool parents in high school that used to let their kids drink at home with friends as long as no one caused any trouble.
The pregame music definitely gets booties shaking. There’s a heavy amount of hip hop mixed in with some dance jams. A lot of the playlist comes from 2003 for some reason but it’s still good. Interestingly the sets often begin with Jay Z music, which is always welcomed with cautioned enthusiasm. That being said, Drake is used sparingly throughout the festivities and that’s a good thing. Raptor fans are knowledgeable about basketball in general and not just their team. Similarly, you get the impression that their musical knowledge is greater than just the team’s ambassador.
There’s some decent free stuff happening at Raptors Square. Everyone gets a Northern Uprising shirt when entering the gates. Its one size fits all so it’s more of a moomoo or nighty for most of us but that helps when pulling it over a hoody or long sleeve shirt.
You can also get your photo taken with the slam dunk trophy. According to the people from Sprite working the booth it’s the actual trophy that Terrence Ross hoisted last February. For those who get the itch while watching the game there’s arcade-type hoops set up too.
The only element that’s holding back the pre-game festivities at the square from becoming a utopian paradise for Raptor fans is the lack of a solid name. The people from NBA TV have been pushing Jurassic Park which is horrible. Why not just call it Jeff Goldblum’s Place? Something simple like Raptors Square is good enough. Keep in mind there’s a giant sign over the area that says Maple Leaf Square so whatever is used is an afterthought.
More than anything the events at the square have sent a clear message to those outside of Raptor Nation: Toronto is a basketball town. Are the Raptors as big a deal as the Leafs? No. And they never will be. But the Leafs are one of the most popular franchises on the planet so to use them as a bar to judge other teams in the city or even country is not only unrealistic, it’s insane.
For four games now thousands of people have gathered in the cold to unite and cheer on our beloved Raptors. There’s no other fans in the league that have shown the passion for their team like the Raptor faithful have this series and it’s time for Canadian media, specifically television to take notice.
Game four was the highest rated sporting event for the week on TSN and yet they continue to smash hockey down our throats. Following the franchise’s first playoff road win in thirteen years on Sunday, the network immediately flipped to the Anaheim Ducks – Dallas Stars hockey game and almost seemed apologetic to their hockey audience that they had to delay the coverage because of a silly novelty known as basketball.
Of course this is nothing new to hoop fans in this country. We’ve always been outsiders and treated like the ugly step-kid of the Toronto sports community, which is really what makes the events out front of the ACC that much more special. We’ve got a place to congregate and showcase that our passion is real, that we aren’t alone with our love for the game and our team. The evidence is overwhelming. There’s an audience that is waiting and deserves to be catered to. Much like the series itself, it’s there for the taking.