Relax, I’m Canadian. Why am I labelling my countrymen with an infamous ignorant-American belief about Canada? Because booing Chris Bosh, and especially if the reception is anything comparable to Vince Carter treatment, shows a comparably frustrating lack of knowledge about basketball and Chris Bosh’s abilities, about our neighbours (American) culture and about the hard work and good attitude Bosh maintained playing basketball in hockey country.
Chris Bosh is one of the most talented basketball players in the world (at very worst top 40-50). He was also a decent person, a hard working employee of the Toronto Raptors organization and was respectful of the fans and the city. If you love basketball and the Raptors, Chris Bosh’s seven years of work here in Canada is something to appreciate and to not take for granted.
Here is an elite American athlete playing for quasi-loyal NBA fans in a, in many ways, basketball apathetic and, not to overlook, foreign, country. He’s playing in a society that gives him nowhere near the recognition that he’d get in other markets. Here, he is less revered and recognizable than third string NHL players for many citizens; which would be an utterly laughable notion to an NBA player, let alone a perennial all star, of any other NBA team.
Wooing and keeping American (the world’s best) basketball players in Canada is without a doubt a pursuit from an underdog position. This must be recognized before judging a player’s character for not wanting to play here.
America is a sports crazy and athlete revering nation. From serious and elaborate pep rallies for even high school athletes to year round competition and training with AAU and school teams to having athletic scholarships offered at thousands of institutions and having multiple ludicrously successful domestic professional leagues, sports is a staple of American culture. The athlete is the hero, honoured and respected, locally and nationwide.
While Raptors fans cheer loudly when their team is doing well, the fans don’t have the rabid, adoring (even of the 12th man on the team) and basketball knowledgeable fans such as the Jazz, Cavs or Blazers. Being an NBA fan is way more common in these cities. Following the Raptors is not the status quo for Torontonians.
Whoever it is that pro athletes make friends and acquaintances with, be it business leaders, artists, beautiful people, whoever, I doubt that Raptors players are being welcomed by the "elite" community in Toronto like they would be in any other market in the states. There’s no Jay Z to hang with either. No Leo Dicaprio to invite you to the movies. http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/columns/story?id=5393974
Furthermore, although he was here for seven years, Chris simply said he couldn’t make Toronto feel like home. He said that Canada "smells different. That all his senses told him he’s somewhere different." Quite a well put expression of a culture clash, if you ask me. How different is Canada for an American? Canadians, can’t you appreciate that observation? Don’t you feel that way when you only cross the border to Syracuse or Detroit? Does it not feel/seem different? Perhaps Canada’s multiculturalism instead of a more uniform culture "smelled" different to Chris. Perhaps it was him being a cultural minority here with few African Americans and that African Caribbean-Canadian culture isn't an equivalent substitute like perhaps we ignorantly assume it might be. Perhaps the fact that he, an NBA player, can’t get NBA games on Canadian TV was alienating for him. In fact, in contrast to the impulsive mocking and backlash from Chris’s NBA league pass comment, not having many NBA games on TV here may have been the simplest yet purest sign that this is not home to a basketball player. But who knows. All he said was it felt different and not like home. Is it so hard to take that a man from Dallas might not want to make this his home for longer than seven years? Do you think Canadian hockey players playing in Tampa or Atlanta feel like they’re in a foreign place? Do they feel less "at home" and would you respect them if they wanted to be back home after seven years of work under contract? Don’t be so spoiled. Perhaps it should be informative to us. Or perhaps our hospitality just needs some improvement.
For the lot of you who don’t know how good of a basketball player Chris Bosh is, who are perhaps slowly learning basketball by listening to Jack Armstrong’s (excellent, by the way) basketball for Canadians lessons smoothly mixed in with his in-game commentary, know that you had an excellent talent in Chris Bosh on your team. Moulded from a young age in the tremendous athlete training factory that is America and delivered to Toronto, Bosh has arguably the most reliable mid range jump shot in the NBA and certainly for his position. He can finish around the basket, in traffic, with both hands with refined skill. He’s an excellent rebounder. He has a great basketball body. He works very hard at his basketball skills. He’s a team player who doesn’t play for stats even though he had consistently excellent scoring and rebounding averages. He’s intelligent and articulate to boot.
But Chris Bosh isn’t humble enough and he’s seeking fame, you say? You knew him from age 19-26. Think about that. Give the guy a break. He wasn’t a vocal leader. So what? How many players are?
He apparently alienated some fans by publicly announcing his interest in playing for a new team by twitterings such as "should I stay or should I go" during the free agent process. Cry me a river, Raptors fans. This was more of an uninhibited assertion to the public that he’s not ashamed of having feelings about switching teams. If anything, this was refreshingly transparent and honest.
Anyways, I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t "express" your feelings by booing or resenting Chris Bosh or tell you you should be more rational. And maybe you’ve seen one more uninspired Chris Bosh performance than I. Maybe you know the psychology of the average Raptor fan better than I. And yes, Toronto is an awesome, affluent, world class city. And yes, financially, the Raptors have good fan support.
But, giving Chris bosh a bad reception, when so many other players refused to play in Toronto, asked to be traded, played their most uninspired basketball here, whereas Bosh, who, although not perfect (as if it matters), played the second most games all time as a Raptor, is the all time leading scorer, represented the Raptors at the All-Star game, won an Olympic gold medal and more, reeks of Torontonian snobbery, of apathy to basketball and the well being of the Toronto Raptors and it reeks of petty anti-Americanism. It is a hindrance to the Raptors organization and it’s not going to attract or inspire current or future Raptors. And frankly, as a lover of the NBA and of the Raptors and a well wisher for the Raptors’ future, it will be awkward and embarrassing to witness this as your fellow fan.
Instead, looking forward, let’s be the bigger people and let’s collectively improve our support of the Raptors and improve what we can offer as a market. Let’s love the American athlete even more and help make this feel like home and possibly have a better chance at retaining players. Politicians or business leaders, invite the Young Onez (Amir, DeMar, Sonny) who’ve reached out in the community by playing street ball in various parks in the summer, to dinners or other events. Reciprocate before it’s too late. Reporters, help us learn about our players and where they’re from. Ask Sonny about Memphis culture and DeMar about Los Angeles. (You hate that Americans don’t know anything about Canada. What do we know about them and their culture?) Fans, show your adoration in public. Don’t be too cool or shy to ask for autographs and pictures when you see your Raptors around Toronto. Toast to them if you see them at a club. Store keepers, recognize them and treat them for the talented athletes that they are. Let’s make them feel at home. Let’s compete to have the most supportive and adoring fan base. And maybe, just maybe, we can hang on to DeMar or even attract a top notch American free agent like Carmelo or Amar’e some day in the future by having a reputation of tremendous love and support from the entire community for the sport of basketball and the Toronto Raptors. Maybe then, when we have truly loved basketball and basketball players properly, we can justify booing a deserter for them taking us for granted.