“The Blue Jays won the World Series!” she said.
She is not, as you may have guessed, a big follower of baseball. The Blue Jays had not won the World Series, but only the division series by defeating Texas in the first round of the playoffs. Winning the World Series again is still only a dream at this point.
But although her celebration was a bit misplaced, her enthusiasm was genuine. She knew the Jays had just won something big and wanted to talk about it. I think it was the first time we had talked baseball since I was a kid in little league.
The Blue Jays have got people who don’t normally care about baseball suddenly watching every game, rooting for the good guys. This remarkable run by Canada’s only Major League Baseball team, which as of Friday afternoon was still alive, has been more nationally unifying than anything I’ve seen in a long time.
The newspapers are full of stories about towns from Newfoundland to British Columbia getting swept up in the moment. Blue Jays hats, T-shirts and jerseys are on display across the country. Neighbours and co-workers are stopping each other to talk about last night’s game.
Throughout their playoff run, millions of Canadians from coast to coast planned their days around the team’s television and radio broadcasts. Even Quebecers, with their own complicated relationship with Canadian national pride, and still pining for the loss of their beloved Expos, were cheering along with us.
It’s a remarkable thing, how a group of mostly non-Canadians (Dominican, American, Venezualan, Australian and Japanese, this lot) have been adopted and embraced by what feels like the entire country. And what’s best is the whole thing is unscripted.
It also says a lot about the power of sports. In our increasingly secular and insular world, sports are one of the few things that can still move millions of people in profound ways. It can make you feel deep emotions, from pure joy when Jose Bautista hits one over the fence, to utter despair when the Blue Jays bullpen implodes.
We shell out handsomely to watch them play, to cheer along with everyone, to live and die with the men on the field. We high-five strangers in the streets, we honk our horns for fellow supporters, we drape ourselves in our team’s colours.
Why do we do this?
Critics of professional sports will say, so what? What difference does it make if a group of extremely well-paid athletes win or lose a game? It’s only a game, after all. Their battles on the field have no bearing on real life. If the Jays season ended Friday night, nothing changes. We still have mortgages to pay, jobs to fulfil, bills to pay.
The critics are right. But they’re also missing the point. There’s something about being part of a community of fans, of feeling like we’re all in this together. When your team wins or loses, you feel connected to something much bigger than yourself. And that’s a special thing.
So whatever happens to the Blue Jays next year, whatever happened to them last night, I hope we were able to pause and enjoy the moment. Just for a little bit.
- Guelph Mercury, Oct. 24/2015