Don’t be scared to cheer your home team on in person, even with an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old by your side!
One thing that almost everyone who knows me, knows about me, is my passion for sports and cheering on my home teams. I have pretty much watched all sports that were available to me and our basic cable package as a boy growing up in the 1980s. What that meant was a lot of Toronto Blue Jays and Buffalo Bills. The Blue Jays, Toronto’s Major League Baseball team franchise, soon became my favorite. What was interesting is how my parents, who had grown up on Pakistani cricket, would soon come to love the Blue jays with me. We would sit together watching the team play in the 1980s and get close to winning in 1985, 1989, and 1991 but losing each time before reaching their ultimate goal of winning the World Series. In these years we would go as a family to the game: My mom, my dad, my brother, and I would go and sit through all 9 innings which would take almost three hours. My brother was content as long as he had popcorn while I was lost in the sounds like the crack of the bat and the cheers of the crowd. I was mesmerized by it. There was nothing better than going to the game live with my family. It was everything in those days.
In 1992 and again in 1993, the Blue Jays would finally come through and become World Series champions. One day I remember with fondness was the day of the parade in 1992 where my Dad took off work and picked my brother and me up from school we drove down into the city and were able to get tickets to the Skydome and see the victory rally for the team. My dad, my brother, and I cheered on our sporting heroes from that 1992 team and to this day it remains a special memory for all of us.
Now, in my days as a father, the Blue Jays are still there but a new family team has taken first place: Toronto’s NBA franchise, the Toronto Raptors. This team did not come into existence until I was in high school. Early heroes such as Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady put our team on the map but in the mid-2000s the team had become known for their dinosaur logo and losing. It didn’t dampen our enthusiasm as I would take the kids with their mom when they were young and they were growing up with the traditions I had a generation earlier but this time with basketball. We would go to these games and kids enjoyed cheering, the mascot hijinx, as well all of the “hype” arena performers who were always shooting t-shirts out into the crowd. We would go to at least a few games a year. As a single Dad, I did become a little more nervous about taking to the game on my own. How would I deal with the inevitable washroom breaks? I would have to be hyper-vigilant to keep my eyes on them so they would not drift away. I was nervous. Could we go to the games in person anymore, just the three of us?
Well, on one day, in particular, I summoned up all my courage and the help of a good friend, and not only traveled to the game but “Jurassic Park” on May 4, 2014. This was game 7 of the first-round series of our beloved Raptors vs their opponents of that series, the Brooklyn Nets. The kids were with me that Sunday. I had to make a choice of whether to watch the game on TV or venture into the crowd and watch in the joy and energy of a makeshift park outside of the stadium. The tickets at the time were a little too rich for my blood but I was still a determined father bound on sharing the love of his home team with his children. Luckily that day, my dear friend Basil and I traveled with the kids right downtown and entered the square right in the middle of it all. That day the kids got to eat popcorn (and even a little soda!) as we all cheered our hearts for the home team. I had been scared about bringing the kids here but now I was so happy I did and had overcome my fears with a little extra planning and vigilance. In the end the Raptors lost the game by a basket but I had won something bigger; confidence as a single Dad that I would not be deterred from sharing the love of live sports with my children. If you are a sports fan like me, take it from me, as long as you prepare in advance, you too can share the love of your home team in person with an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old!