The confirmation of former Raptors franchise player Chris Bosh’s departure came with resignation in Toronto. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, many in Toronto knew the search for a new face of the franchise was on as soon as the doors closed on another season outside the playoffs.
Bosh flirted with the Chicago Bulls and others, but eventually landed with the Miami Heat to partner with Dwyane Wade. He turned down a hard push from LeBron James to join him in Cleveland in favor of a bigger market.
CB4 also kept busy since July 1, tweeting his adventures and tweaking the Toronto faithful. He was a juvenile enjoying the attention as it seemed every team but the Raptors might have a shot at him.
And while the fans were upset, the local media fanned the flames.
Bosh is not, and will not be, public enemy #1 (that spot is forever reserved for Vince Carter). But a fair amount of heat (pardon the pun) has definitely built not only for his leaving, but also for the way he is leaving.
The bragging about other teams wooing him and the incommunicado stance with Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo since this free agency dance began. None of this could be seen as positive or good fun.
The life of a franchise is literally at stake.
Selling basketball in T.O. is not a slam dunk when the team is not winning and doesn’t have a recognizable face. The hardcore fans will always be there but the casual ones have too many other entertainment options to bother with a loser.
If you are not the Maple Leafs, you cannot guarantee fan support through the thin years. Just ask the Blue Jays and the Argos. Toronto FC may prove to be another exception, but they are still basking in the expansion years’ exemption to this rule.
The Toronto Raptors’ owners, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, have plenty of money, and it is not likely the team would fold or leave. But stranger things have happened.
This land of hockey has already lost one basketball franchise, so it is not inconceivable that the other could go too after a bout of sustained irrelevance.
The Raptors have been lucky to persevere through the loss of other top players in their 15-year history. The aforementioned Carter, Tracy McGrady, and first-ever draft pick Damon Stoudamire, chief among them. But the team is currently on a slippery slope. In Bosh’s seven years, they only made the playoffs twice. They were eliminated in the first round both times.
In an effort to change that, they grossly overpaid Hedo Turkoglu last summer off his stellar Finals run with the Orlando Magic. He underperformed last season, and now the remaining four years on that deal are an expensive albatross around the Dinos’ neck (not to mention the fact he has also said he no longer wants to be here).
Now Toronto basketball fans have two new people at whom to aim their cross hairs in addition to all the others. McGrady still can’t touch court in the Air Canada Centre without 20,000 strong telling him how much he sucks. Marcus Camby still hears the occasional boos, and he was merely traded out of here without any public prompting.
But none compare to Mr. Carter. He was the one player in this city who consistently garnered international attention. The best Toronto Raptor ever. He took them to the second round of the playoffs. He was a nightly fixture on highlight reels.
The love for him was tremendous, and that’s why it hurt so much when he ended the relationship.
Comparing Bosh to Carter in terms of venom through this city is actually no comparison. Bosh completed seven years of service, while Carter left acrimoniously early in his seventh season. He demanded a trade when he thought the team was doomed, and Toronto got nothing for him. He became the easy target.
Bosh’s departure leaves this team scrambling for relevance as well as replacements. The true effect will not be seen for months. That will ultimately decide how much hatred he breeds upon return engagements as part of the opposition.
History shows Toronto sports fans are largely a group of whiny crybabies when it comes to this sort of thing. So yes, he will be booed vociferously. Because we hate being jilted, especially for an American counterpart.
You'd think by now we would be used to our patrons leaving the cold of Canada for the warmth of Florida.