A long time ago, I used to sign my forum/newsgroup posts with “RFFL” which stood for Raptors Fan For Life, something I stole after seeing Mark Cuban’s license plate (MFFL). A few years ago, after being embarrassed by the actions of “fans”, basically doing whatever the media told them to do (Vince Carter? Boooo…Antonio Davis wanting an education for his children? Booo…No pizza after a blowout win? Booo…) I changed it to “RSFL” where the S stood for Supporter, a level above fan in (real) football. While the Raptors have never had a supporters group (something we will be attempting to start here at Raptors Republic and something the TFC have in spades), a group of fellow season ticket holders shared the same beliefs, so we were a small but happy group. We were euphoric at every win and frustrated by every loss. That frustration was tempered, though, if the effort was there. We avoided mainstream media like the plague, despising how much the hockey team in Anaheim was getting more local press than our own NBA team. We turned to various blogs, USENET, and stole DirecTv feeds in order to get our basketball fix.
One thing that has been abundantly clear is that the Raptor fanbase is a vocal bunch. In the old Usenet days, we were really only outshone by the Lakers newsgroup and the Bulls during the Jordan years. Same can be said for the activity on RealGM. With large numbers comes disagreement and division, but also it’s a great microcosm for what I personally find so funny. The team goes 3-0 and the team is touted as an elite team on its path to a conference final, then they lose 2 and it’s time to fire the coach, look at re-jigging their defensive schemes and cutting down their rotations even more. Love and panic……it could be a theme for Toronto sports fans across the board.
Those of you that have followed me over the past few years at www.altraps.com, and even those that have done so just these past few weeks at RR, know that I think Colangelo has taken this team in the wrong direction. I don’t mean this just from the on-court level either. Since Bryan took over, the in-game entertainment has been getting worse, season ticket holders were paying the FOURTH HIGHEST in the NBA (you could see Kobe in LA for cheaper in most seats), there were many in-house changes in different departments on the basketball side of MLSE, and many season ticket holder perks were taken away or depleted. Personally, I had been a season ticket holder since day one and only missed one home game until the end of last year. I had finally had enough, cancelled my tickets and wrote this.
Reading Sam’s comment #26 on this post made this feeling come rushing back. I remember asking people who were “fans” to come to a game with me and the first question was “who are they playing?”. Why ask? Thought you were a fan? If you were a fan, why not go and see them play, say, Charlotte in their first year? You should be going to support your home team, no? All that passion you see during the playoffs…where is it during the regular season? It’s alarming to me the number of Raptor fans who live in the GTA and go to no or just a couple of games. Price can’t be a factor, since you can buy cheap tickets upstairs. Even if you live out of town, why do our viewing numbers consistently come in danger of being outdrawn by darts? Why doesn’t this team have the draw that it should? Why are people considering cancelling their tickets? Are they maybe mirroring the effort on the court and by management? They play and manage like they don’t care, so why should we?
The power of the fan is strong, if harnessed. The power of the supporter, though, is intense. Don’t believe the numbers the team is feeding you when it comes to renewals. If they had 12,000 season seats sold, you wouldn’t see both ends of the court half empty consistently from game to game, as well as 4 sections in the upper level. Next time you go to a mediocre-opponent game, take a look. If it was season ticket holders not showing up, you would see just pairs or fours of empty seats, not rows upon rows. If Colangelo hadn’t let some of the group sales department go, maybe they could be filling those up.
Maybe the time has come to ask yourself: fan or supporter? How much do you love this team and want to see it succeed? Do you think the moves he has made since being here have put this team on the road to consistency? Are you willing to pay to see the Raptors or are you paying to see the opponent? How best to get that message across to BC and the board? Was it not said that BC would have complete and utter control over moves when he came here? If so, why continue, as a fan, to blame the MLSE board? Are those seats you are sitting in worth the price? Is this team indeed better than the Spurs and the Lakers?
Passion is a funny thing. It’s why you are here on our site. It’s why you can’t stand that other guys opinion. It’s why you want so badly to say that you were at “that” game when “that” happened. But it also makes you question HD scoreboards and a club restaurant being renovated twice in two years. What happened to the plethora of giveaway nights? If the Dance Pak was deemed one of the best in the league four years ago, why are they barely on the court, instead replaced by silly games that are sponsored by big Raptors sponsors?
I still consider myself an ardent supporter of this ball club. It’s why I think 2 or 3 pieces to fill up more holes would have been better than one big piece. I want what are glaring weaknesses addressed. I want another banner, but one with even greater importance. If it takes putting a scare in the coffers of this franchise, then I will, and did, do it. I will not buy any merchandise or tickets until I see or hear a plan to make this franchise a consistent contender. I’d love to open a season with little to no question marks, but with hope and pride.
I am a supporter, not a fan.