What to Watch Now That the Jays are Gone

By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @nikolastheo

It’s official: the long cold baseball-less winter is upon us.

Despite any amount of hope fans may have had, the Blue Jays were unable to rally back from a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series last week.

But the end of the baseball season means we can now turn our collective attention to the other teams in this city. And, for what it’s worth, this is turning out to be as good a winter in Toronto as we’ve had in a few years.

Raptors

Let’s start with Toronto’s most successful team as of late. The Raptors ended last year on a high having made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. Although the team was outmatched by the Cleveland Cavaliers, there was some joy found in taking two games from the eventual champs in between four blowout losses. Winning a playoff series was the main goal last year, and, though they struggled to do so, they won two of them.

This year, gauging the team’s success might be a bit more difficult.

A repeat trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would be appreciated but can hardly be expected. Multiple teams in the East have improved in the offseason, including division rivals Boston and New York, so the Raptors shouldn’t be considered a lock for anything like last year.  But a first round elimination would feel like a step backwards for a team that overcame so much in terms of shaking the franchise’s monkeys off their backs.

Perhaps the team’s success will be determined by the actual product on court, rather than the mile markers the team passes on their way to being eliminated. The team, and particularly newly minted Olympic Gold Medallists Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, have been criticized for playing “hero ball” in the past that has been a detriment to the team. If the team can play in a more effective way – one that doesn’t leave fans burying their face in their free giveaway t-shirt – elimination won’t feel as bad and might provide more hope for the future.

Leafs

The Leafs have not been must-see TV for a few years now. If you opened up the fridge of Toronto sports and all you saw was the Leafs, you’d complain that there was nothing to eat. But this year’s version of the Buds is already way more appetizing.

The only thing the Leafs have won in recent memory was the draft lottery at the end of last season. With that came the arrival of Auston Matthews. The 18-year-old American centre has been anointed the saviour of the Leafs and so far, he’s lived up to the high praise. In his first NHL game, Matthews scored four goals, a feat that had never been accomplished before by anyone in their first game.

And he’s not the only youngster getting in on the action. Mitch Marner has also been turning heads, notching three points through five games, including a great goal against Boston in the Leafs home opener. And William Nylander has nine points through six games, including a two-goal night against Chicago this past Saturday.

Unfortunately, the goal scoring has not led to success for the Leafs as of yet. They have just one win this season and have blown third period games in four of their six games so far this season. But at least they are starting to look relevant again, right? A team that scores goals but can’t prevent them is more enjoyable than the opposite any day of the week.

Toronto FC

And finally, we have TFC. The butt of many jokes in Toronto sports, TFC have actually put together their most successful season to date. Gaining a franchise high 53 points, the Reds have secured a home playoff match for the first time in the team’s history. They will take on the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night at BMO Field in a win-or-go-home match with a spot on the Eastern Conference semi-finals on the line.

Once again, it has been a spectacular season for Sebastian Giovinco. If it wasn’t clear after his first season with the club, we can say for sure that he is the best player in team history after his second. He scored 17 goals and racked 15 assists without even playing a game in September.

A win on Wednesday and a somewhat deep playoff run could finally give TFC their fair share of the media attention. It’s hard to think that a team sitting near the top of their conference for most of their season and an MVP candidate on their roster – kind of like the Blue Jays of the last two years – would be relegated to the middle of the sports section or to the latter part of a Sportscentre broadcast, but that’s where TFC often find themselves. TFC have the best chance to bring the city a championship and deserve to be treated that way.

Featured image via Toronto Star

How to Cheer for Toronto Teams on a Budget

If there’s one thing the last year has shown us, it’s that Toronto teams are working hard to make their fans proud.

But team pride and coming together means a lot of bars and, you guessed it, high bar tabs. And when you have an entire city getting hammered with you in the name of team spirit, blowing money on drinks somehow seems justified.

But it really isn’t, and your bank does not offer city pride rebates. Being smart with your money while supporting Toronto teams doesn’t mean you have to sit at home with a meal of bread and water while you wait for updates on the radio. You can definitely feel the team spirit without forcing your wallet to feel it, too.

Read the Drink Specials and Spend Accordingly

Even if you are not a big sports fan, any bar when a Toronto team is in the playoffs is infectious. Some might say this is being a bandwagoner. I call it having a good time. But that doesn’t mean you have to order the most expensive items. Take a moment to read over the drink specials. Hell, you might find you like something different (and cheap!) And even if you insist on getting your usual, you can search for drink specials based on day and drink online. 

Sip Slowly – Your Drink Isn’t Going Anywhere

If you are somebody who feels anxious about the server coming over and asking you if you want another drink, sip slowly. They are busy, and they are about their tips. So long as your glass isn’t empty they have nothing to say to you aside from a routine quality check to “see how everything’s going”. Nurse your drink. That way you won’t feel tempted to order multiple rounds just to have something in front of you throughout the evening.

Order Appetizers and See If Anyone Else Just Wants Something To Nibble On

Do a quick survey of your friends to see if people are actually hungry. Most of the time people just want something to nibble on, but convince themselves they should order a full meal. If your appetite is not feeling up to a $15 burger, ask if anyone wants to split an appetizer. Apps are less expensive, and if you are splitting it with someone it will be even cheaper.

Pick a Few Evenings to Be a Teetotaler

You are a hard core “Toronto til the death of me” sports fan who needs to watch virtually every game in a bar surrounded by your people. It’s cool. So choose a few nights to be a temporary teetotaler. Pick a few games where you just don’t drink. Even if you grab some food, your bill will still be significantly lower than a bill that includes several rounds. Your liver thanks you.

Find That Friend With Cable and Parents Who Don’t Give a Damn

I don’t think anyone with their own apartment who is under the age of 25 has cable, but this is Toronto, people. That means a large number of your friends or classmates are from the city or the suburbs and are commuters. You know what this means: houses owned by old people (love you, parents!) with cable. Now, most of those people will have parents who do not want a bunch of rowdy sports fans tearing up their living room, but there is always one with parents cool about it – or at least a friend who is willing to risk a cussing from their parents.

Buy some stuff from the grocery store, make an LCBO run, and watch the game without paying restaurant premiums. Thank their mom on the way out. Don’t spill anything.

Order a Pitcher

Go out with people who like the same drinks as you, and then order a pitcher. If you’re gonna spend money drinking, might as well be in bulk.

AND REMEMBER: Don’t drive drunk. Better passed out on the TTC than dead or a murderer. Cheers xo