By Ahmad Nasser, October 27 2015 —
In a country where hockey dominates sporting culture, a new obsession emerged over the past few months to challenge this throne. And no, I’m not talking about Justin Trudeau — it was the Toronto Blue Jays.
Regardless of how their promising 2015 campaign ended, there’s no denying that the Blue Jays rallied an entire country behind them during their first postseason appearance in over two decades.
As the Blue Jays rose to become a legitimate contender this fall, local sports fans weren’t concerned with the Calgary Flames or the Calgary Stampeders. Instead, all eyes were on our boys in blue and white. We proved as a country that no matter the sport, we stand behind our Canadian teams.
Growing up just outside of Toronto, I remember my dad taking my brother and I to catch Blue Jays games on Sundays. Back then, good seats and a memorable afternoon rang it at under $20. No one had high expectations for the team. The same was true in 2013 when I last saw the Jays in action.
The Jays continued without much promise even as recently as this
season. The club sat below .500 after the all-star break in July, with their championship chances looking decidedly nonexistent. It wasn’t until the team’s management acquired some of the sport’s best players that fans across the country took notice.
Winning 21 of 27 games with the new stars in tow and earning the American League pennant shortly after, the Blue Jays went from sitting on the outside to dominating headlines seemingly overnight.
Fast forward to their 0–2 start in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, which pushed Toronto to the brink of elimination. Though the club seemed like they were heading for an early playoff exit, their supporters refused to count them out — a wise decision considering the Blue Jays won game five to stay alive, marking one of the most dramatic performances in team history.
While their loss to the Kansas City Royals wasn’t what fans expected — especially after seeing comeback after comeback from the seemingly unstoppable team — Toronto’s run is still a significant achievement in its own right, simply because of where they were just a few months earlier.
The promising postseason highlighted some of the issues the Jays will have to improve upon this offseason, including a lack of depth in the bullpen and a steady first baseman. Also, with star pitcher David Price’s contract up, a big decision will have to be made as to whether he’ll return to the team.
This isn’t the first time Canadians united to stand behind a rising Toronto-based sports team. Just look back a couple years ago, when the NBA’s Toronto Raptors won the Atlantic Division title for their first playoff appearance since the Vince Carter days.
During that storybook run, all of Canada donned Toronto gear to root on the de facto national team — just like the myriad of Blue Jays jerseys floating through University of Calgary hallways these past months.
Although the team’s World Series dreams fell short, Jays fans across Canada can still rejoice. We saw a nation coming together in support of a team and a sport often overlooked in the Great White North.
The Blue Jays know they are now on the national stage, with the ability to galvanize the nation behind them. And with that attitude, the club may soon be able to deliver Canada their first World Series title since 1993.