11 years ago, on her first visit to Toronto, a young Heather Parry sat in her hotel room with her dad, watching a Blue Jays game on the TV.
Not really understanding what was going on, and seeing nothing to get excited about, they roundly decided that baseball was crap, and they should probably stick with hockey.
Just over a decade later, that same Parry daughter finds herself back in TO, this time to live for as long as they’ll let her stay, and she’s changed her opinion on this most peculiar of sports.
It was the lure of $7 tickets that ensnared me into attending my first Blue Jays game, a little more than a week after I arrived in glorious Ontario.
With nothing much else to do in between finding ourselves places to live, a few friends and I set off to the venue formerly known as the Skydome (surely a far better name than the corporation-ass-sucking current one) to see the Jays in action against Boston Red Sox (although we’re not sure why a team would be named after an item of clothing).
We weren’t prepared for what we were about to see.
After reaching our seats in the nosebleeds, we settled down into what must be the most relaxed sporting atmosphere in the civilised world.
No one complained when we walked in late and had to constrict their view to get to our seats; people chat away pleasantly while keeping a cursory eye on the game; the guys next to us didn’t even mind when the foreigners had to ask them what exactly was going on.
Several of the sportsmen in front of us were bordering treacherously on the "overweight" line, and the pace of the game left a lot to be desired.
Yet after a while I find myself enjoying the whole scene. You get a beer, have some peanuts and catch some rays without having to worry about someone scoring while you’re looking the other way.
As soon as something interesting happens, the crowd lets you know, and you have chance to focus on the play before the batter finishes his run or someone catches the ball.
Strangest of all, though, is the crowd’s willingness to participate.
They may sit quietly the majority of the time, but when asked to stand and sing along with the laughable song and accompanying graphics on the screen….they do! They play ridiculous chants, and the crowd sings along. They start a Mexican wave, and everyone joins in.
The whole time I don’t hear a heckle, or an abusive call, or someone complaining about the fact that the Jays go the whole game without getting a home run or doing whatever else it is that’s positive.
What’s going on?
The bottom line seems to be this: it’s not about winning; it’s about having a good time.
The message that Phys Ed teachers drilled into Torontonians at primary school planted a seed that has now bloomed into a whole sporting philosophy, and though Jays fans, Leafs fans and Raptors fans the city over might bitch and complain when their team yet again fails to win anything of significance, the truth is that it doesn’t matter—they support these teams not really for their abilities, but for the sheer love of engaging with sport.
And so, my enlightenment is complete: people don’t go to the Blue Jays to sit on the edge of their seats, panicking about the ticking clock and the lack of scoring ability in their team.
They go to sit in the sun, enjoy a cold beer, and have a relaxing time.
I can appreciate that; who wouldn’t?