I've been to Raptors games before, but this one definitely had a different energy. A lot of the guys are the same, a lot of the fans are the same, but there was something extra "Toronto-ish" about last night's home opener against the Indiana Pacers.
The evening of Wednesday, December 28 began at 6:00pm, with Toronto-native Jamaal Magloire addressing the crowd, thanking the management, and promising the fans an exciting season. Although a new member of the team, it has been great to see the media unofficially annointing Magloire the "voice" of the Raptors.
My footage from the game intro...
Despite the well-appreciated presence of Bargnani, Calderon, and DeRozan, I think the fans, the media, and the team are enjoying the toughness and personalization that Magloire's addition to the team brings. Giving him the mic to start off the season is a perfect indicator of what he means to the franchise at this time. Magloire "is" Toronto. Naturally. It's a good look.
The game itself...close at times, occasionally disappointing despite the hype, but definitely exciting! DeRozan scored 22, Bargnani 21, and Bayless 13. The Raps fought the good fight, but still were defeated by the Pacers 85-90. Sucks...but it's only day 2 of 66. There's plenty of time and many moments to be had.
But trust me, the The energy in the Air Canada Centre...craziness!
I don't know if it was the waving of rags (and memoirs of the energy of carnival) that I have grown to love...but there was something about the vibe in the ACC that was definitely intangible. It was great to hear Drake's voice while the Raptors video intro was on, and during the player introductions.
It was wicked to see Kardinal Offishall performing at half time, and DJ Doc tearing it up on the court.
Cool to see Mark Strong; I was psyched to hear 4 Korners playing "Palaaaaance" up in the place, and a few other soca tracks. For the first time, really ever, this felt like MY Toronto Raptors. Like a real Toronto event, and a real Toronto team.
Even little Bieber was there. It doesn't get more Canadian than that! Exciting stuff. Only thing missing was Drizzy, and it would have been the complete current picture of the face of Toronto culture.
Not taking away from the previous 16 years of the organization...and I will always appreciate the Raptors through thick and thin, because I'm all about the home team...however, this time was different.
As mentioned, the setting, the fans, and the team may have been consistent for the most part over the past few years at least, but there was an added sense of personality this time around. Of familiarity. Of passion. Of excitement.
I don't want to be a bandwagon-ist but I'm definitely feeding off of the energy of last night, and hoping to channel it into the future games. I love to see people supporting "their own." Whether it's the Leafs, the Blue Jays, the Olympic teams, or individual players like Tristan Thompson or Cory Joseph. I love hometown pride, I love Canadian patriotism, and it's moments like last night that really bring out the Canuck in me!
Despite the fact that we're starting to hit double-digit temperatures below zero right now, I'm just grateful for the energy that this whirlwind NBA season is bringing in general(how is anyone supposed to keep up with 7 games a night?!) and I love to feel like Toronto is developing as an urban centre, developing it's identity, and really having fun.
I can remember the days when vibes in Toronto were lacking...in relation to other exciting places like New York, Miami, or LA. I remember when it wasn't necessarily cool to rep Toronto, or to sound like a Canadian, or listen to Canadian music. But now, the culture is definitely changing.
I look forward to attending more Raptors games. I look forward to seeing more Kardinal, Mark Strong, and all of the other hometown greats that bring personality, recognition, and energy and entertainment to our city.
And even though this cold weather is reminding me that our Canadian winter is finally here (boooooooooo)...I'm just going to be grateful for the local amenities that make being a Torontonian super-fun.