Somehow, I avoided all the hoopla (see what I did there?) over the recent Toronto Raptors championship series.
I am not proud of it, but am writing this from the other side of the court.
I admit I am just not a sports person in any way. I thought dunking and dribbling had to do with donuts and coffee.
In some ways, I wish I were a fan because there is always, always some game to watch on television. It would save me endless hours of channel surfing for a true crime documentary.
From what I do know, the series between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors was an example of incredible basketball with lots of ups and downs and nail-biting moments. Some people had to increase their blood pressure medication to handle the stress.
There were injuries that looked incredibly painful.
There was the controversy when a few Canadian fans seemingly cheered when Golde State's Kevin Durant was taken out of the second-to-last game. Hopefully, that was just a bad kneejerk reaction made in the heat of the moment.
Thankfully, people got it together quickly and returned to empathy and the more polite Canadian way.
When the final basket was made and the buzzer sounded, it was utter jubilation.
Here’s the thing -- I didn’t jump on the bandwagon then, but I have jumped on it now.
I was in Toronto the day after the big victory and there was something in the air. It was a palpable vibration. The atmosphere felt lighter, less angry and less rushed somehow.
I found myself smiling as I travelled the 401 and saw all the digital signs flashing 'We the North', 'Congratulations Raptors', 'Champions'.
There were so many vehicles flying the Raptor flags. Motorists actually let others merge into traffic. People waved at each other.
Kids, young and not so young, were sporting their Raptors gear.
I must have had a half-dozen conversations with strangers who were clearly still celebrating. You could tell they were fans, because they couldn’t stop smiling and I didn’t have to ask why.
Conversations were started in elevators, on the street and in restaurants.
It was then that it hit me -- this is so great. It was more than basketball. It brought us together as Canadians and, more importantly, as people.
It made me so proud when Good Morning America opened the show the next day with Good Morning Canada and then led the news with the game highlights.
The anchors seemed legitimately thrilled for the team and the city of Toronto. Americans, in general, don’t usually give many compliments to the north, but this time they really did. We topped the news on every network for something good!
There was a video of fans on Yonge Street waiting at the corner for the “walk” signal before flooding the street. As the commentator remarked, “Only in Canada."
The goodwill was contagious.
It reminded me of the speech in which former U.S. President Barack Obama said, “The world needs more Canada.”
I can feel my heart swelling as I write those words.
We, as a country, truly have it all.
If it took a sporting event and guys in shorts chasing a ball to remind me, so be it.
Congratulations to all of you who invested in the action and lost sleep over it all.
Thank you from someone on the sidelines who has benefitted from your enthusiasm and your excitement.May “We the North” continue the party for a long time.