The Raptors and the Rock

The 2018-19 NBA season ended this past Thursday with my hometown Toronto Raptors winning their first-ever NBA Championship. I will admit that I’m mostly a fairweather NBA fan. I don’t watch very many games, but I keep an eye on the Raptors, and have even made my way to the ACC for a few games. I generally jump on the Raptors bandwagon when they hit the playoffs, and this year is no exception.

I remember watching Vince Carter miss the buzzer-beater in game seven of the Conference semi-finals against Philadelphia in 2001 so I understand the multi-level significance of Kawhi Leonard making the buzzer-beater in game seven of the Conference semi-finals against Philadelphia this year.

So congratulations to the Raptors. I’m thrilled that they were able to win it all, and I’m happy for my city. But during the Finals I tried to relate the whole Finals experience to the NLL and it kind of made me sad.

Kyle Lowry & Kawhi Leonard

I summed up why in this tweet:

Since I started watching the NLL in 2001, the Rock have won four Championships and appeared in three more. How did the city of Toronto react? Other than the die-hard Rock fans, the city reacted with unmitigated indifference. I believe Toronto mayor John Tory did the standard mayor thing in 2015, a bet with the mayor of Saskatoon. I imagine Tory ended up wearing a Rush jersey to a city council meeting or something. It’s possible the Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays, Toronto FC, and Argonauts (or at least a couple of those) posted something to their social media wishing the Rock luck.

That’s probably it.

Did local businesses post “Go Rock Go” on their electronic signs, like the “Go Raptors Go” signs I’ve seen all over southern Ontario recently? Nope. Were the sports radio stations talking lacrosse at all, other than “Apparently there’s a lacrosse team in Toronto and they’re in the Championships. Moving on to hockey…”? Nope. Did people strike up conversations about the Rock with strangers while standing in the line at the grocery store? Nope. Were people who think a good swim move is the front crawl* buying lacrosse t-shirts and hats? Nope.

Is any of this even remotely surprising? Nope.

None of this happened when the Rock were in the NLL Championships in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2010, 2011, or 2015, but that’s not what made me sad. I’ve loved watching the city go Raptor-crazy over the last few weeks and I wondered if it would ever happen for the Rock. I know it wouldn’t be to this extent – it wasn’t even to this extent when the Argonauts won the Grey Cup in 2017 – but could it be anywhere close? Could the league or the team do enough over the next two / five / ten years to get those who aren’t lacrosse die-hards excited about an NLL Championship?

What made me sad is realizing that I believe the answer is no.

I’ll expand on that tomorrow.


* – Or as I saw on a basketball tweet: “people who wouldn’t know a pick-and-roll from a Tootsie roll”



3 thoughts on “The Raptors and the Rock

  1. From everything I’ve seen and heard, Saskatoon has wholeheartedly accepted the Rush into their collective hearts. Games are a big deal in the city and people who knew next to nothing about lacrosse before the Rush arrived in town are now diehard fans. So I think it’s possible, but it has to be the right market and arguably that means a market without competition from more prestigious sports.


  2. The only Toronto teams that ever seems to do anything for the Rock are the Argos and the Marlies. If you saw the ads for the Scotiabank Centre around the name change everything said “home of the Leafs and Raptors.” I am starting to think (and I have no evidence of this, just based on things I have seen in my life), that MLSE doesn’t do anything to support it with the hope it will fail and they can buy the team.

    I spoke to people at work and they genuinely don’t understand that in the time it took the Raptors to win 1, the Rock started 5 years later and won 6. While it is a smaller league, that also means the talent pool can be so much more concentrated and stronger.

    I am not a basketball fan, but I enjoyed the tail end of the Bucks series and the finals. It was a lot of fun to watch from the sidelines.

    It drives me nuts though, when the mayor tells companies to let people play hookie and the Prime Minister shows up. Yet in 2011 Rob Ford gave a half assed speech and clearly didn’t know a damn thing about the game or team.


  3. Pingback: The Raptors and the Rock, part II | NLL Chatter

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