Now that we have washed our hands of all the 2017 filth and negativity, let’s take a look at some of those stories that filled us with pride and joy. It was a special year in these parts as we walked away with three significant championships. The Grey Cup winning Toronto Argonauts turned a few heads as did the new tennis sensation Denis Shapovalov. Right after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, it just seemed right that the Houston Astros won their first ever World Series.Here are my three favourite stories from 2017.
Better with Age
To think that most of us may have even forgot about this moment is because we have been spoiled for years. Yes, spoiled to be in one of, if not the greatest tennis era with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. So when we talk about the 2017 Australian Grand Slam we may falsely think of it as “just” another classic clash between Nadal and Federer. It was, and it wasn’t. Forget that old men in their 30s shouldn’t be in the finals of Grand slams anymore. Forget that tennis players recovering from injury shouldn’t be there either. To old guys like myself, this wasn’t just a battle between these two warriors, it was a battle for anyone who was ever told they were past their prime. Making it to the finals was one thing, but putting on a show of shows was another. The absolute giants of the game going mano a mano once again. The fact that it went 5 sets shouldn’t have surprised anyone. The fact that Fereder, the eldest of the two elder statemen, came back from being down 3-1 in that fifth and final set, well, that was a surprise and a pleasant one.
These two men have earned the respect of the sporting world and its fans not only because of how much they have achieved, but by how they have handled themselves throughout it all. Pick whatever positive adjective you want and it applies to these two. Class, heart, humility, determination, professionalism, finesse, strength, will, confidence, composure and grace. We were all fortunate to witness such greatness one more time that it seems quite selfish to hope it happens again… but we hope it happens again.
Everyone howls with the Wolfpack
Just being able to cover the Toronto Wolfpack in their inaugural season would have made it special enough for me on its own. The fact that they had a near perfect season, won the championship and advanced to Tier 2, well that is just the double dose of cream cheese icing on the legendary carrot cake. The games were entertaining but for the majority of them, not really suspenseful as the outcome was predictable in all but 2 matches all year. What makes this sport, this league and more significantly, this team this year so special has more to do with everything off the field rather than on it.
Start with the leadership and Eric Perez. One of the first ownership groups that not only spoke like a common fan, but carried a swagger about him like a true fan would too. Coach Paul Rowley and all the players were cooperative, accessible, charming and even humble to both fans and media alike as they sincerely helped promote Rugby League in North America. But above all, or more appropriately, in addition to all of this was the phenomenal fan experience at home games. None of the other sports in this city comes close to that experience where fans not only interact with the Wolfpack players post game with selfies, autographs but they can also share a pint or two with them and the opposing team as well. It was a wondrous atmosphere from start to finish and it made you feel special to be a part of it.
All for One
It is funny how perspective can alter your emotions. The Toronto Argonauts were not supposed to win the Grey Cup and so each moment of their victory was enjoyable until those final few seconds when you weren’t sure they were going to hold on. Toronto FC winning the MLS Cup on the other hand was the complete opposite. Even though they were the heavy favourites, everyone held their breath until that second goal in added time. Finally, TFC fans could breathe again and what a glorious breath it was. After a history of shortcomings, poor management and poor results we earned and held the MLS Cup. We held the Supporters Shield. We held the Canadian Cup and to top it all off, we also hold the best regular season in MLS history. What an incredible year and an incredible accomplishment for any team.
After being the laughing stock of the league for years, the gratifying emotions of relief, revenge and complete euphoria rose to the top as we clearly can claim the title of being the best team in MLS history. After last year’s loss, this team deserved that. After the years of suffering, this loyal fan base deserved that. Without a doubt, they are the crowning achievement of the year and the best feel good story for any Torontonian no matter if you were there from the beginning or hopped on the wagon at any other time along the ride.
2017 was the year Toronto became a city of champions. That’s definitely worth a toast or two… or three on New Year’s eve.
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