Some of my favourite childhood memories involve watching the Blue Jays on TV with my Dad. Win or lose, I supported the Toronto MLB team with everything I had from the very beginning of my life. No lie, one of my first baby pictures involved an oversize Blue Jays shirt with black lines painted under my eyes. I was raised in a baseball family. Some families sat around the dinner table and said grace while mine sat in front of the TV together and prayed for a perfect game. Overkill? Maybe to some. But those memories will last with me forever, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Okay, maybe I would change some things about growing up as a baseball lover. For one, it would have been great if my High School had a baseball team. I requested one a few times, but I was told that baseball just wasn’t as popular a sport as all the others; especially hockey. Ah yes, hockey. The great Canadian pastime. I was a Blue Jays die hard in a sea of hockey fanatics. You could ask any kid in my graduating year what NHL team they rooted for and you would get an entire monologue about which team they liked and which team they absolutely hated. But ask them about MLB, and they just shake their heads and say “I don’t really follow baseball. I like hockey”. It was the early 2000’s, after all. Our one and only major league team was in the middle of their worst seasons since the 90’s. After back to back World Series Championships in ’92 and ’93, the Toronto team didn’t qualify for playoffs until 2015. That’s 21 consecutive seasons. It was quite the dry spell, and the Jays weren’t exactly a household name. I was teased quite a bit for my love of baseball. That is, until just last year.
When the Toronto Blue Jays shocked the baseball world in 2015 by making their first postseason appearance in 22 years, fans came out of the woodwork to support our blue feathered brothers. Blue Jays merchandise was flying off the racks and tickets were being sold out faster than you can say homerun! With any comeback, a bandwagon is sure to follow. We know this. We expect this. And yet, Blue Jays fans (the ones pre-dating 2015) are morally outraged by it. I was at a pub with my Dad watching the final game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals for the 2015 season. You could clearly see which people were bandwagoners, and which people have been proud supporters for years. After the game ended, a brief silence fell over the entire room as we all realized that the Blue Jays would be coming home empty handed. A man next to us started to tear up a little, and one of the obvious bandwagon fans, looking confused, began to laugh at the seasoned fan while saying things like “there’s always next time” and “cheer up”. He didn’t mean any harm by these words, but things still escalated.
Let me pause my story to say that you must understand, bandwagoners, that this was an emotional moment for those of us who have waited 22 years to see the Jays shine again. For some of us born in 1993 or later, like myself, it was the only time in our short lives where we could witness our baseball heroes step up to the plate in a World Series.
The crying man became angry and shouted at the younger man about not being a true fan, and how real fans support their team even before success. The confrontation got heated, a lot of words were spoken, and a lot of alcohol spilled. My Dad shook his head, and we both left. On the way home, my Dad turned to me and said “I don’t want to see you treating anyone like that, Jays fan or not”. He looked sad. I have never seen my father so visibly upset about something that seemed, to me, so trivial. Some of you may be wondering why this drunken pub argument over baseball affected my Pops so much. I was wondering too, and it took me a year to realize.
All those times when I was younger, crowded around the TV with my family, my Dad would give speeches about how baseball isn’t just a sport; it’s a comradery. He was upset by the man in the pub because he took something that brings everyone together, something sacred to our family, and made it into a competition of worthiness. To all those who are offended by this sudden surge of fandom for the Blue Jays: don’t be. Welcome the newcomers with open arms. Let them know that we celebrate together, we mourn together, and we support each other. There is too much hate in the world right now as it is without us turning something that brings us all together, like baseball, into yet another platform for superiority. If anything, we should be excited that the Jays, the only Canadian based team in the major leagues, is finally receiving the support that they deserve. To all who are newbie Jays fans: welcome aboard. We’re glad to have you.