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Unreasonable Expecations - Blueprint III and the 2009-10 Toronto Raptors

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With 48 days till opening tip, Franchise takes a look at expectations for the upcoming Raptors' season...

How often have you anticipated the release of a new album or new movie, only to be disappointed when it finally arrives?

This summer was full of examples of this from supposed Hollywood blockbusters like Terminator 4, to new music releases such as the latest from the Arctic Monkeys and Method Man and Redman that fell flat.

In today's world of social media and billior-dollar marketing machines, it seems at times that it's almost inevitable that this occurs. Things become over-hyped and over-produced in a market that's often over-saturated with similar content to begin with, and sometimes I wonder if this doesn't create a sense of desperation amongst the public who longs more than in past decades to have that sense of anticipation rewarded. This creates an even wider gap between "hype and delivery against said hype" and the result of course is a giant sense of disappointment.

Think about it - when was the last time something lived up to its hype?

For me from a film perspective, it probably would have been the sequel to the rebirth of the Batman franchise, last summer's Dark Knight. It was a film in my opinion that truly raised the bar for summer blockbusters in that it put forth not only a great story line and intense visual stimulation, but also some terrific acting performances.

The past few weeks has brought forth another interesting example of meeting expectations, this time from the world of music and more specifically, hip-hop.

For those who were unaware, Jay-Z, arguably the greatest rapper of all time and one of music history's most iconic solo acts, was preparing a follow-up to his magnum opus, The Blueprint. Over the past few months the music industry and online world had been buzzing about this much-anticipated release with many preparing for a classic in the same vein as some of his other work such as "The Black Album" and "Reasonable Doubt."

Last week the album was leaked in advance of this Friday's official release date and so far the response to it has not exactly been overwhelming. To this point the online world has either reacted to the finished product with indifference or lukewarm appreciation, and most reviews read a bit like this.

In fact another follow-up to a classic hip-hop LP which was released yesterday, Raekwon the Chef's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II," is receiving much more praise from critics, even though it hasn't received the same degree of hype as Blueprint III.

In my books Blueprint III isn't a terrible album.

It's got some highlights such as the Alicia Keys collabo "Empire State of Mind," but it simply doesn't hold a candle to the original Blueprint release.

So was the problem that yet again too much hype surrounded this release or in reality is the finished product just not that great? And why do I bring all of this up?

Well for us Raptors' fans, we know all too well about having huge expectations only to see these dashed soon into the advent of a season. Last year's Jermaine O'Neal-led squad was a perfect example and numerous other incarnations of the club (the 2002-03 and 2003-04 Dinos) have failed to leap over the bar that fans had set. This season the bar seems to have been set high once more although I'd argue that after last season's fiasco, most fans are cautiously optimistic.

The Jay-Z/Raekwon back-and-forth of late got me wondering just how as fans we should define our expecations of the club this year.

Should we consider a return to the playoffs a success?

How about a certain win total or certain individual player accolades?

Getting past the first round?

There's really no limit to the ways in which one can define meeting expectations and the hope of course is that the hype from this offseason's exciting flurry of transactions, doesn't cloud the fact that we've still yet to see this team play a game together.

For myself, a return to the playoffs regardless of the outcome upon arrival, would make for a successful season.

Again, I'm not quite sold on all the pieces of next year's roster so for me, simply getting back to that level would be a great first step.

For others, that likely won't be the case.

If the team wins 50 games and fails to get out of the first round, disappointment I'm sure will abound. This would be akin to Jay-Z topping the Billboard charts next week (which I fully expect) only to have sales then fall off sharply under the weight of both criticism from fans and reviewers.

In the end it's a hollow victory.

So let's poll the masses here; how exactly would you define a successful season?

Would it be a Raekwon-esque solid regular season that culminates in a very strong first-round playoff performance win?

Or would it be a Jay-Z-esque "in like a lion" regular season followed by an "out like a lamb" playoffs?