Monday, October 05, 2015

22 Years - An Ode to Dreamers, the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays

I remember the first time they won the World Series. I was 21 years old. The Blue Jays had been so good during my teens, however, so good that the championship felt more like a coronation.  What I didn't know was that they wouldn't sniff the playoffs again until well after my 40th birthday, producing mediocre teams that were never awful, but rarely competitive.

What a difference a year makes.

With a lineup so long it extends 3000 miles from Vancouver to St, John, from 1 through 9, the Toronto Blue Jays used some key acquisitions (Price, Tulo, Revere, Lowe, Hawkins), and some long time stars (Bautista, Eddie) as well as some off-season pick-ups (Donaldson, Russell) to fashion a season that any novelist, any storyteller, any dreamer, would love. (I would love to write this screenplay!)

Watching their goggled, champagne and beer soaked festivities when they clinched the division in the clubhouse was as close to I can remember, as a sports fan, of truly living vicariously through one of my teams.(I asked my wife if we had some goggles, sadly, we did not)

I know that this website is about dreams, and one might wonder what a professional sports team has to do with that. But like many dreamers, I grew up a fan. I loved the stories of players being second-guessed, of working their whole life towards a dream. No doubt they heard the same stuff we all hear. "Get a regular job. Become an honest citizen. Why the hell are you still trying to make it by playing a stupid game?"

I think about Chris Colabello, who spent seven years(!) in Independent baseball making about as much as someone working at Molly Maid, still believing he could do it. Or Kevin Pillar, the Blue Jays' highlight reel center fielder, drafted in the 32nd round and being doubted every step of the way.

As a fan, sports can be draining. This is especially true of Toronto sports fans. (I see you Cleveland) The Bills, the most followed team in Southern Ontario, haven't been to the NFL playoffs in fifteen years. The Raptors (God Bless Them!) made it to the playoffs the past two years, but were swept in the first round and didn't look competitive. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that plays in the NHL. They haven't been to the Cup Finals since 1967. (I see you, Cubs' fans.)

So when a season like this happens, especially in an immersive sport like baseball, you revel in it. And as a dreamer and writer, with every home run, with every great defensive play, and every key strikeout, it causes you to throw your hands up in joy. Why? Because every single member of a professional sports team is a dreamer, that's why. They've been told they're whole life that the odds were low. That they had to be prepared for failure. That they would only make it if they were lucky.

Why do you think fans buy in so much?

Many experts have picked the Blue Jays, with their thunderous offense and what amounts to two aces in their rotation (Price and Stroman) as World Series favourites. Maybe, but playoff baseball is essentially tournament baseball, so anything can happen.

If they do win though, I will celebrate this more than I did when I was twenty-one. Back then, as a late bloomer, I didn't realize that I wanted to be a writer. Didn't realize that the one dream that would consume me for the next two decades would never compel me to mix the two, that throughout my writing life, I'd never seen my favourite team in the post season. And I didn't realize that the price I would pay for those dreams, or the rewards from it, even as I watched our boys flounder, year after year.

Well, they're back. A bunch of dreamers from all over the world, put together to achieve the ultimate prize.

Go get 'em, boys. And like Wee Will Keeler once said. 'hit 'em where they ain't!'