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The Journey Begins Here

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After getting in at the NBL Canada Draft this past weekend, the anticipation for the league to start was in the air.  Now all that's needed is the public's support to help get the NBLC off the ground properly.
After getting in at the NBL Canada Draft this past weekend, the anticipation for the league to start was in the air. Now all that's needed is the public's support to help get the NBLC off the ground properly.

With the first Draft in NBL Canada history done, the building of the teams is now in high gear to get ready for the first games in the fall. Can Ball Ray talks of the large media contigent at the event and what we, as basketball fans, should be looking to take from this ...

Sunday night was a historic one for Canadian basketball fans. If you didn’t already know (and you SHOULD have) it was the inaugural NBL Canada Draft for the newest of basketball leagues in this country. Now, being the first big event of the upcoming NBLC season, I think that it was great. I saw a whole lot of people in a place that was full of happiness, optimism and pure love of the game.

I would think that by now you have all read/heard/seen something on the Draft. There was a load of media there, both traditional and new, so there was a whole lot of stuff being written or typed out for you to ingest at some point today so my post will not be about what happened yesterday. If you really want the nitty-gritty details of who wore what, who sat where and any other thing like that, well you can go elsewhere. I’m gonna talk about something else that I feel is important: support.

As some of you may know, living in this great country called Canada often means a few things that we can accept as givens. Snow and cold weather for instance can be viewed as a given, during certain times of the year of course, being that we live here. What also can be viewed as a given is that we do not live in a basketball mad country. Hockey is the nation’s first love and it has been woven into the fabric of Canada’s history. Hockey, like snow and cold weather, are all almost fundamentally Canadian.

So now some of you might be asking yourselves, "What the hell is Ray talking about? I thought he was talking about support, or at least basketball?!?" And well my friends, here is the where I make my point converge.

Being in that room at the Rogers Centre on Sunday night for the very first NBLC Draft for its very first season of what will hopefully be followed by successful successive season, I realized that there was support from all forms of media. The Draft was being commentated by Eric Smith and Paul Jones, who do the same for Raptors games, online to a streaming audience, there was traditional media from the major Toronto newspapers as well as those from out of town, there was new media personalities there also looking to get the news to the information superhighway. I haven't seen this many people covering a basketball event that didn’t have the letters NBA attached to it in some way in a long time. It was something that I thought was truly great about the night. I was happy to see that outlets are looking to cover this event and it bodes well for the start of the season.

So what does that mean to us the basketball fans? It means that we should be looking to do the same.

Now I’m no spring chicken so I’ve been around a little bit and I’ve seen some things. I know first had that people are going to be a little suspect of things that are 1) new and 2) Canadian in or part. I know that that the so-called critics and haters and of course the "experts" will all have something to say which may sound negative about this league. Shot, I’m the first to say that I have my reservations as well. But regardless of what we are all thinking or feeling or hating on, we as fans of the game that (I hope) are looking to help grow and foster the game in Canada, we all need to step up and support this league.

A few months back, I wrote something about how a Canadian basketball league should make a move to set up in not so large urban areas so as to avoid the many "distractions" and competition that come with a major urban center like a Toronto or a Montreal. The smaller locations were ideal for building the teams support in the immediate areas where there isn’t another team or sport to root for. That formula will work but the rest of us who don’t live in Halifax, London, Quebec City or any of the other four league cities have to lend our support to the league as well.

There are very few things that I will openly complain about in the world but one of them is the apathy that so-called basketball fans have for any local product. Most of the Canadian basketball fans will know Myck Kabongo but not many will know who Dyshawn Pierre is. Many will tune in to watch the McDonald’s All American Game but not many will make an effort to catch the All Canada Game. A whole lot of you will scan through the boxscores of an ESPN college game like the stock market but few will skim the scores from Saturday night in the CIS. My point is that I know that there is always going to be a filter through which we as sports fans will peer out of and it usually is made in the USA. But even though we have jaded vision we still need to make an effort to support the Canadian game and it should start with this league.

Now do I expect you to run out and by your season tickets? No of course not because that’s unreasonable at this point. But I would expect that you take the time to get into this league. Get to know something, anything about the league and begin your support from there. We, as a group of basketball loving Canadians, need to get behind this. Many people have always talked openly about Canada being the only FIBA associate country to not have a domestic league. Well, here it is. There are going to be growing pains and issues that come up but for now we need to get behind this endeavor 110%.

I’ll end this rant with a closing thought. As I rushed into the area where the NBLC Draft was being held, I walked into a very tightly packed space. To my right, I could see through the windows of the restaurant and they overlooked the outfield of the Rogers Centre. The room was not as big as it could have been, the event was not as grand as it could have been, but everyone in there was anxious to start. And I don’t mean start the Draft but start the journey. Everyone there was anxious to start this new basketball journey. Everyone.

There will always be room on the bandwagon for the late comers to the party but won’t be nice to say that you were there when …