TORONTO — The NBA Finals were a coming out party for the city of Toronto, and the country of Canada, but all that goodwill was lost in a matter of 30 seconds.
Raptors fans are suddenly the scum of the entire league after a thoroughly embarrassing showing in Game 5. From fans jeering a helpless Kevin Durant as he clutched at his torn Achilles, to hooligans cussing at Stephen Curry’s mother (and wife of beloved Raptors alumni Dell Curry) Sonya Curry, and finally with two Warriors fans being apparently assaulted for no particular reason outside Scotiabank Arena, it was enough to ruin the reputation of Raptors fans for good.
More disturbing still were the lame excuses from Raptors fans after being called out. The immediate reaction was to dig up instances of other fanbases cheering on injuries, as if two wrongs made a right, while others busied themselves with distancing themselves and endeavouring to protect the dignity of the fanbase. Others attributed the cheers as part of Serge Ibaka’s driving layup going the other way, while ignoring the fact that cheers persisted even after Steve Kerr called timeout. Some even blamed the Warriors for putting Durant in that position in the first place, which is fair, but that’s also entirely besides the point.
Amid all the deflections, there was a regrettable lack of contrition. It wasn’t the time for rationalization — it was time to own the mistake. It wasn’t just a few filthy rich punks sitting courtside who had one too many to drink — the same cheers were heard throughout Jurassic Park and in bars across the city. It was a classless and insensitive reaction from a city that purports to carry itself to a higher standard, and the only way to live up to that reputation is to own the mistake.
There’s no point in putting a spin on the situation because everyone knew exactly what was going on. This is a city thirsty for success and recognition, and Durant being out of the picture made that goal more attainable. That’s where minds went to in the heat of the moment, and the primal response was that of elation. Some kept it bottled, while others vocalized it, but every Raptors fan felt relief wash over them. Nobody wanted one of the greatest players in history to suffer a catastrophic injury, but he was standing in the way of a championship, and then he was on the ground and out for good. Just be honest about that response instead of making excuses for it.
It goes without saying that not every Raptors fan acted out in such an ugly manner. Look no further than Drake consoling Durant as he came off the floor, and the heartfelt tribute that he posted on Instagram. TV broadcasts cut to commercial because it was a timeout, but during that unaired break there was a loud ovation from fans as Durant walked off the floor, and uproarious chants of “KD” rang around the arena as he disappeared down the tunnel. Maybe it was too little too late, but it shows at least some evidence of the good character that Canadians purportedly carry. But again, the rush to absolve those who are innocent shouldn’t come before apologizing for those who weren’t.
Raptors give Durant a “KD” chant to salute his effort to play 👏 pic.twitter.com/STIv8QNfIS
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) June 11, 2019
Remember, this is not just about basketball. The core identity of the Raptors as a franchise, and of Canadians in relation to Americans, is this sense of otherness. We are different, but we are just as worthy and capable. That’s the subtext of “We The North” and it’s why this Finals run has drawn so much attraction from parts of the country that have traditionally ignored basketball. With the Raptors as a proxy, the great nation of Canada is finally getting the spotlight we so badly craved, and it’s just unfortunate that in this exact moment we came up so woefully short.
Yes, there are jerks wherever you go, and Toronto is no different. But if we trait in this mythology of Canadians being above it all, then it’s time we live up to it. We failed to do so when Durant went down, so the least we can do is be decent from here on and own our mistake.
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