During the first round of the playoffs when the Toronto Raptors were facing off against the Indiana Pacers, most people that know I’m a Pacers would ask me, who are you rooting for? I would tell them the Pacers, with no hesitation. I knew the stakes living in the GTA, and the pressure on the Raptors to get out of the first round, but still I was rooting for my squad. One Raptors fan on YouTube went as far as saying that I am a sell out to my city because I am rooting for the Pacers, but Why? I have been rooting for the Pacers before the Raptors came into existence. I grew up a huge Reggie Miller fan, which is why I am even a Pacers fan to this day. I have also been a Pittsburgh Penguins fan since my childhood also, even though growing up I watched more Maple Leafs than Penguins. Mario Lemieux is also my favorite player of all time, so there’s that. Being a fan of a team in my opinion consists of three things, the team’s reputation, history of winning and if you’re born into the fandom; which a lot of Maple Leafs fans are. While the Pacers have been consistently competitive over the years, but never won an NBA championship, they have made the conference finals plenty of times, while the Penguins just won their 4th Stanley Cup this season. What has any of the Toronto major sports teams done to make me switch to being a “true” Toronto sports fan? It all began with the management during a poor stretch where the teams had no direction, no pulse for winning and was just in it to make money. There was a lot to not like about the way Toronto teams used to operate, and living in Toronto witnessing it first hand, it was never worth the stress to dive deep in Toronto sports fandom, even when I wanted them to turn it around.
Toronto teams recently got new ownership in Rogers and Bell, and now the focus has turned to winning. Since they took over, the city’s teams have been competitive and even making the playoffs, when the Maple Leafs made the playoffs it showed the city’s true potential when you put winning teams out there. I am happy for the turnaround, I root for the teams and go to the games, but I will not root for them when my true teams are facing them, but why? I have come to the conclusion that my love for the Pacers and Penguins have nothing to do with the cities they reside in. I have never been to Pittsburgh, and I have never set foot in Indiana but I love their teams, they have my loyalty. I look at it as brand loyalty in a lot of ways because to me sports is entertainment, it’s a business as well. The best thing about living in a major city like Toronto is that you have access to Major League Sports, and you have options to purchase tickets to be entertained by them whether it’s the NBA or NHL, not a lot of cities can say that. To me its more about accessibility if you can afford to go to the games. It’s better and cheaper than traveling abroad and paying a lot more money to see your team play.
You have to look at it at that perspective, that’s my perspective anyways. If the Raptors win the NBA Championship or the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup, regardless of what happened during the playoff, I will be there to be apart of the celebration. Anytime you can witness your own city celebrate a Major League Championship you do it. There’s people in Toronto that hate Toronto teams with a passion, I am not one of those people, I actually want to see them succeed and do good, because it’s healthy to win. Every fan that roots for outside teams always has the options to root for the home team if they choose too, and the owners who own these teams can always try to gain new fans, it’s all a choice, but at the end of the day, loyalty always wins, wherever your heart is, that’s where you’ll go.