Great article in today’s Toronto Sun by Steve Simmons examining the fact that the Toronto Sports fan seems to have a love affair with the blue collar athlete as opposed to the “star”.
“This is not a blue-collar town but a town of blue and white and double blue. And yet for reasons that have never been completely explained or hypothesized, we adopt the blue-collars athletes as if they are our own. For whatever reason, Andrea Bargnani can dominate, as he did at times against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, but the ovations for him are few and far between. This is really nothing new for the Raptors or Toronto”
Simmons is bang on here in my opinion. We Torontonians have, at least in my lifetime always rallayed around the hardest working guy as opposed to the person with the most talented guy. Personally, I think there are 2 reasons for this.
First, and this one is easy, for the most part, none of major teams have had a true “superstar” in a long long time. I am 38 going on 39. I can’t think of more than 1 or 2 homegrown all stars on any of our teams since, well, since I have ever watched sports. So were clear when I say superstar I am referring to a player who is arguable one of the best in their given sport, say in the top 5.
Growing up watching the Leafs, the best players were, Sittler, Mcdonald, Salming, were any of those guys superstars in pure sense of the word? Were any considered within the top 5 at that time? Moving forward through the years to the Gilmour years of the Leafs, was he or anyone else on the team in the top 5 players in the league? Even Wendel Clark as beloved as he was, he was never in the top 5 elite players in the NHL, and part of the reason he was so beloved was because he was a hard working guy. He worked hard for everything. He wasn’t all finesse and show. Sundin, was one of the most polarizing athletes we had in Toronto. I don’t remember a player who was either totally beloved or loathed by the Toronto faithful. Today’s Maple Leafs, there are none.
The same can be said for the most part with both the Raptors and the Blue Jays too. Did the Raptors ever really have the bonafied superstar? Again, in their short history have they had a guy who was drafted here who was universally considered top 5 in the league?
Reason number is that those stars who have been here have disappointed or let us down. So many players have come to Toronto with huge promise only to fail. The list is endless, but Bill Caudill is but just one who comes to mind. Yes we got Robbie Alomar, Joe Carter, Dave Winfield, etc. That team won and those guys were adored here. Still, if memory serves me correctly it was the guy or guys who did the dirty work, who showed up every game who won the fans hearts. Maybe my memory is wrong, but Pat Borders comes to mind. With the Raptors we’ve tried to believe too many times only to be burned by the big names. We had some home drafted talent, none of which, so far has stuck around to achieve greatness here.
So what are we left with? In my mind, and based upon my experience we root for an appreciate the guys who deliver night in and night out simply by working their butts off. I remember the Brad Marshes and the Brad Smith’s. The Rockey Saginucks’ of the world. As someone else put on twitter, “Toronto has been burned by our stars so many times, we care more about the guys would do anything for us”. That’s entirely correct. In my lifetime anyways we have had our hearts broken too many times to feel differently. We appreciate those who are as advertised, who come to play every night and have made it to their level by earning every inch.
Simmons article on Toronto’s love affair with the blue collar athlete is here