A bit from the memory banks and a bit of some of your mail as we start yet another crazy week in these crazy times and I really, really hope you’re all hanging in there and doing as well as you can.
These remain quite difficult times but, somehow, we’re gonna get through them.
It’s all the rage these days to look back and wistfully remember good sports moments, isn’t it?
The run to the Raptors NBA championship, the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays World Series wins and, wonder of wonders, I saw or read something about the 1978 Leafs, which were, you know, the last title team in the history of that inglorious franchise.
It’s a fun thing to do, especially with all the dour feelings and doubts about our uncertain future and how much it will be different from about three months ago and legitimate, heartfelt concerns for our fellow men and women and families in these times.
Well, here’s another one:
On this day in 2001, Alvin Williams hit what I’ve got as the second biggest shot in franchise history, the one that gave the Raptors a Game 5 and series win over the Knicks in a first-round playoff series.
Yeah, 19 years ago today. How about that?
He picked up a loose ball on the right of the basket, right in front of the Knicks bench, and hit the shot that basically won the game and sent Toronto to the next round.
It wasn’t a great shot off a great play call, it was a quick reaction to the flow of the play and that’s often how those things come up in those biggest moments.
It was a huge play and until last season I had it as the biggest shot a Raptor ever made and it’s neat that today is the anniversary of it.
(I should call Alvin and maybe have a celebratory shot of Patrone later on to mark the occasion.)
Why was it neat?
Well, let me tell you.
I’m sitting around yesterday afternoon and my pal Dei Lynam texts from Philly to see if I’ll do a hit on her radio show to talk about the one-year anniversary of Game 4 of the Raptors-Sixers semifinal, which I was made to realize was May 4, 2019.
Of course I did the show and we had a nice chat and we agreed it was the biggest shot of the series. You could make the case that it was even bigger than the Four Bouncer in Game 7 that ultimately won it.
That Game 4 shot – a Kawhi Leonard three-pointer over the hapless defence of Joel Embiid in the final minutes — with the Raptors trailing 2-1 in the series and playing in one of the most hostile environments imaginable, with Pascal Siakam bothered by a bad leg and the newly-minted frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka somehow salvaging the game when they’d barely played together, stole the Sixers’ soul.
It was a big-time shot by a big-time player and if Leonard doesn’t make it, the championship doesn’t happen.
Helluva weekend for memorable Raptors dates, wasn’t it?
We gave over the mailbag to Bobby Webster as you well know and he got to a handful of your questions with written and video replies and it worked out pretty well. He couldn’t get to them all because the guy’s got a life and a job, but we got to a representative group of the questions most wanted answered and maybe we’ll do it again some time.
But there were some leftovers that came for me, so here we go.
And we’ll be back to normal this week so if you want to start loading up the mailbag, you do it at email@example.com and there’s also the DM thingy on The Magical Tweeter Machine if you want.
Q: As it seems inevitable that pro sports with spectators will be the last area to be released, can the CFL survive this shutdown or does its TV contract make it worth playing in empty stadia?
A: The CFL is such a gate-driven league, I don’t see how it can survive too long without any paying customers. The TSN deal was extended in 2019 for six years and pours some much-needed money into the league – I’ve seen it reported at somewhere near $ 50 million a year for what that’s worth – but they need ticket revenue very badly.
In the list(s) of what we miss during the pandemic (it is said to be mentally healthy to identify what we miss so that in a way the pandemic “teaches us” what we value) I miss the sounds of sport.
Not the artificial amped up cheering you have so well dissed at Raptors games. Rather, the background sounds of the fans, the concessions, the ref’s raised voice to the scorer’s table above the roar.
I remember in earlier times how baseball games were broadcast over radio with the announcer using ticker tape – AND supplying baseball sounds with a stick to strike wood when the ball was hit; and a dull roar of crowd recording in the background.
If and when sports resume in front of empty stands, perhaps we will more clearly remember how we, the fans, are part of a sports soundscape – those sounds as a key , if heretofore hard to identify, ingredient in what the game consists of.
Doug: What sounds of sport do you miss? Will you watch soundless games on TV?
A: One thing stands out on the sound of sports.
It’s the spontaneous reaction to greatness. That “whoosh” of excitement and marvel and joy that comes when someone does something extraordinary on the field of play.
The extraneous noise, the attempt to manufacture passion and emotion and excitement does nothing for me. It’s too loud, too intrusive, too fake.
But hearing fans honestly react to what they are seeing and experiencing really is something special, and it will be what I miss most of all for however long it is that we have to watch games in empty buildings.
Q: Hi Doug,
Best of health to you and your friends and family.
There’s a nice piece on Sim Bhullar in The Ringer. You mentioned him in a note to me regarding Siakam and NM State. I couldn’t figure our how to forward it to you.
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A: Big week when I get a question/note from each of you and Charles!! Very cool.
It was a good story and way back when I was on the last road trip of the season it kind of came to mind, because in both Denver and Phoenix we saw fans adorned in Siakam replica New Mexico State jerseys and I’ve got to say, that was a first for me.
Did not, though, see a Bhullar one.
Q: Hi Doug,
Thanks for all your great work during these tough times.
Found your column about sports without fans fascinating – the question of what role fan reaction actually plays in performance. So if and when games are played without fans, what would happen if crowd f/x were piped in? Cheers after great plays and general fan noise – like they do in video games. Do you think it would normalize the experience a bit – both for players and fans watching at home, or just be kind of dumb and hokey?
Thanks and hope you’re doing well.
Joe in Bowmanville
A: I imagine teams are thinking about that kind of thing to at least provide ambient noise for any games. I personally think people watching at home will see it for what it is: Fake.
I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think it would add anything substantial to the experience of watching. People probably won’t turn off because of it, but I don’t think it will mean more will pay closer attention either.
Q: Good morning Doug,
I would imagine this will draw some backlash, but here goes anyway. The NBA announced they will be setting back the combines and draft to a date to be announced. With about 15 games left in the season and now into May, I feel it is time the league and players discuss how to wrap the season and start planning for 20-21 season. Having said that, one would have to imagine those discussions have started to some point. Yes there is a ton of potential points that will be under dispute such as pay, if there will be a champion, salary cap for the next season and of course free agency to name a few. I am more then glad that I am not involved in the decisions that need to be made.
A: I agree there’s a huge level of impatience for some decision, one way or the other, to be made but, honestly, there is no rush and it’s frustrating, for sure, but they are not at that point yet.
Moving back the combine and the draft lottery – not the draft itself yet, although that will come – was just a logical housekeeping move that could have been announced a month ago.
But I do know for sure that the possibility of ending this season and figuring out 2020-21 timing is part of larger discussions.
There’s just been no decisions, and likely won’t be for a while.
Q: Hello Doug. Long-time reader, first time submitting. I know the “what if” game is not your cup of tea, but really these days it passes the time. I have been watching old Raptor games on NBA TV Canada. Many of them go as far back as the first year. It’s fun to see some of those teams and the characters we had here: Carter and McGrady, how good would that have been (maybe a championship or two). But Tracy wanted to go home and there wasn’t much to do, though if i remember we did a sign-and-trade to give Tracy a lot of extra money. Maybe we could have played hardball to see how much he really wanted to go. But the thing I notice was how great and dominant Vince Carter really was. He would take over games and play defence also. In hindsight I blame management for how that went bad. He should have been given special treatment because he was a special player. I remember he wanted his mom to get preferential treatment and there were certain players he was having trouble with. (Rafer Alston?) If we had been in the times of player empowerment his mom would have been an assistant coach (I joke) and any players he wanted gone would have been. When engaged he could have been the best of his era and maybe have brought us a championship. Your thoughts?
A: Not sure what precisely you want my thoughts on. But, yeah, if McGrady had stayed they could have been a very good team, but I’m sure not going as far as to say a championship team because if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that it takes a ton of different factors to bring the ultimate team success and nothing is linear in sports.
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