The world witnessed a gathering on June 17, 2019 unlike any seen before on Canadian soil. An estimated two million people congregated in the streets of Toronto to cheer on their beloved Toronto Raptors during a milestone championship parade. Those that couldn’t attend in person were spectating from wherever they possibly could.
For any fan watching that day either in person or from afar, it was in one word: amazing. I have never witnessed such a spectacle as a fan. Honestly, it brought me to tears as I watched at home, crying on my couch, overwhelmed with pride and a sense of genuine patriotism. I re-watched that event over and over again when I got home from work that day.
I was moved beyond measure.
I am proud to be Canadian for many reasons. We have a great country; it has flaws but the pros of living here far outweigh the cons in my opinion. Seeing the gathering of people from all over the country, coming together in a united front was confirmation enough that this moment in time was truly special. It was something really, really special. It was also validation that basketball fever had swept across the land making even the most stoic and steadfast hockey fan jealous. Even the Blue Jays of yore did not have the same showing of support during their heyday.
The Raptors became more than a basketball team. They became a beacon of hope; a symbol of Canadian pride. “We The North” took on an entirely new meaning. I know there was an element of us versus them at play; that tends to happen in sports – it’s a part of the game. However, this felt bigger than the sport itself. It felt bigger than Canada. When I saw that the majority of fans in the United States were cheering on the Raptors alongside many others across the globe, it inspired me. I felt that for a brief few hours in time, fans were in a state of total harmony; that race, religion, sexuality and gender simply did not matter. In today’s world, that’s rare.
I know there was an unfortunate incident during the celebrations that almost derailed the entire event, but even in the midst of chaos the incident was handled with grace, patience, calmness and sincerity. This too made me proud. The larger truth is that people did not riot, were non-violent, and certainly not there to harm one another. They all gathered to celebrate, together.
This alone was reason to rejoice. This parade transcended fandom. It touched the hearts and minds of an entire country and an entire generation. To see people coming together is heartwarming, and to witness it amass is spectacular.
I don’t know what’ll happen in the next few weeks as Kawhi contemplates his future with the Raptors and we move on to another season. All I do know is that for me, this championship win has brought so much joy and so much happiness it’s hard to articulate. I am proud of this team; I am proud to be a fan, but I am even more proud to witness how this trophy united an entire country for a brief but unforgettable moment.