I’m three drinks deep. Give me a microphone and a soapbox.
I want you to think back to where you were when the news broke. Maybe you saw it on Twitter. Maybe you caught it here. Perhaps your favorite award-winning sports app passed along a push-alert. Your buddy might have texted you. Or you might have caught it on the late-night re-runs of Sportscenter. No matter what the circumstance, remember it. Treasure it in your mind and lock it in a safe place.
I was at work when I saw Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet flash across Tweetdeck. I literally shrieked. I have a strange job where watching sports merits financial compensation rather than grounds for dismissal. It’s my job to repackage breaking news and provide unbiased analysis. I couldn’t do it. An all-consuming feeling of happiness washed over me, making me hot and flustered. I clicked Woj’s profile to make sure it was actually him, and not yet another impostor. I gathered myself enough to write this incredibly one-sided piece with a shit-eating grin on my face. It’s been almost three hours since and it has not come off. I’m afraid it’ll stay like this.
I know it won’t. There’s a karmic balance with sports fandom. With a normal team, there’s an accompanying low paired with every high. Call it the Newton’s third law of sports. Teams contend for a title, then wholly fall apart, only to rebuild itself and propagate the cycle.
The process is broken for Raptors. Any slight twinge of happiness is immediately smacked down by tragedy and disappointment. Think 2006-07 then the years thereafter. Think Vince leaving for essentially nothing. Think picking Bargnani first overall. If the Raptors were a novel, its author would be Fyodor Dostoevsky. Or George R.R. Martin. Every season ends with a repeat of the Red Wedding.
Shit like this doesn’t happen to the Raptors.
And yet it did, which is why most fans are borderline euphoric. It’s the jarring feeling of shock that something actually broke right for the franchise. It shatters the numbing self-loathing that comes with devotion to this squad. It pierces through the thick cloud of pessimism, which looms at all times waiting to drench us in a cold shower, leaving us with nothing but pneumonia and a pair of players named Williams. This is new.
I’m not naive enough to dive head-first into a sell-job of culture change and a brighter day. I’m too skeptical, as I suspect many of you are. Acting aloof affords us protection against the let-downs. Pessimism after the fact is somehow better than shock and disappointment.
It’s imperative that we remember to cherish these moments, especially if you’re a glass-half-empty fan like myself. The whole reason sports exist is to give us something to cheer for, something to hang our emotions on. We’re feigning the comfort of an actual relationship by bonding to a specifically patterned jersey. With this team, it’s not a happy marriage by any means, but try to make room for love. The draining, emotive, self-flagellating nature of the pairing should make moments like these extra special. Having Lowry pick us over attractive alternatives in the Lakers, Rockets and Heat? That’s like the team putting down the remote, scooting down the couch and snuggling up for once. It’s not time to bicker about right or wrong. It’s time to close our eyes and cherish the moment.
This is why we do this at all.