Every weekend or every other weekend, I would visit my dad in Milton. And during those visits he and I would watch a sports game. One of those was a season game between the Toronto Raptors and some other team. I can’t remember which team, even though I could look it up, who cares. I protested my dad’s choice of programming.
“Why are we watching this,” I asked. “We’re losing.”
“Just wait for it,” he replied.
And sure enough, we won that game. My dad eventually explained Nick Nurse’s philosophy of calm, a way of thinking that his players adopted. My dad and I aren’t the calmest of people, but I watched him mellow through the years. I’ll give the Raptors and Nick Nurse some credit for that.
I’ve had an ambivalent relationship with basketball. The Philippines, where I was from, was basketball country. But the sport, along with its uber masculine culture, was alienating. It also required a hand-eye-leg coordination that I didn’t have, giving my classmates another excuse to bully me for the way I moved in the court. Instead of basketball I chose to play soccer, which was more European and therefore more refined. And volleyball, which, in the Philippines, is very gay.
My interest in basketball slowly but surely increased when I moved to Canada on June 14, 2001. My induction as a fan was because of certain people, some of whom don’t seem like your average fan of the sport. There was my cousin who had a crush on Vince Carter, a good reason to be a fan as any. And there was the girl who played drums in my music class. She would usually say that the Leafs suck and that the Raptors were better.
This was when the Leafs got further into the finals than the Raptors. But there was something in the way my classmate said it that someone like me would fit in better as a Raptors fan. That meant being a fan during the Carter-Bosh days. The former resented playing for us. The latter was a skinny kid with a funky hairdo who I watched grow and when he grew, he grew tired of carrying the team and left us for Miami.
Bosh’s departure is one of the reasons I drifted away from the Raptors. I had other interests too, like the art form I usually write about. Being a fan of Mad Men and Game of Thrones made me appreciate the We The North campaign. I regret that that’s my memory of that era instead of being there for DeMar De Rozan, the team’s most loyal player. But eventually, I came back thanks to my dad and my roommate, who was a fan during the Stoudemire days.
Just as I did with my dad, I watched games with my roommate as a way of being polite and to expand my horizons. I was cautious, remembering the anxiety attacks I had during the 2015 Jays season. But that quickly turned into an obsession mostly through the things outside the games themselves. The photos and memes on social media, some of which have other fans, who are presumably male, would talk about their love for the players the way frat boys or soldiers do.
These fans mostly shower their love for Kawhi Leonard who, because of his awkwardness and spare use of language during press conferences makes him the Daisy Buchanan of basketball in that his relative silence draws people in. He’s specifically silent about either staying with the Raptors, instead showing his love for the team and the fans through the way he plays. But he eventually showed that he was capable of giving the press enough for a quote. When they won the Eastern Conference Finals, he told the media that he doesn’t care about being the best player. He cares about being on the best team.
The games themselves have a visual appeal. Even if the camera is mostly far away these broadcasts still exude a sense of intimacy. Maybe it’s every time anyone scores, the ball swishing within the net, making one of the greatest sounds anyone can make. Maybe it’s the players and their unique styles. The way Kawhi reboots during the second half of the game. The way Kyle Lowry rebounds or passes the ball to someone instead of taking the glory of shooting the ball himself. How Fred Van Vleet glides through the court, making shooting 3 pointers look easy. These players, with their humility and stoic nature. Every step they make on the court, from their games with the Sixers to the championship game, showed us that whatever it takes, I know they can make it through.