These are, in my opinion, the top Toronto-team moments of Sports Hope in my lifetime.
THE TORONTO RAPTORS
It was 2000. We'd all survived the Y2K scare so our pantries were full of dented cans. For the first time since they'd been baby-dinos, there was a sniff of hope for the Raptors. His name was Vince. It's often even tough for me to remember how electric Vincanity was. Kids had posters in their lockers and there were schoolyard fights over who got to be VC on the court. They would make the playoffs in 2000 and have their only ever real "run" in 2001. But Raptor "Sports Hope" peaked during the Slam Dunk competition with two words, "It's Over"
I was with a group of guys who EXPLODED. We literally had to pick pieces of one guy off the roof. Since "Sports Hope" is a fleeting fickle friend, it wasn't many years later when Vince choose his NC grad over the playoffs and admittedly quit on the team. But we should never forget that slam dunk day.
THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
There is only one moment that really cuts the mustard in this discussion. There were other events during the 92-93 run that were huge. Memorable and magic ones. But "Sports Hope" piqued in the opener of the Conference semifinal with St. Louis at Maple Leaf Gardens. I was supposed to be doing a school project while watching the game... but that wasn't happening this spring night. The Leafs threw everything in the arena at Curtis Joseph, outshooting them 64-34! But this... this.... Cujo character was saving EVERYTHING! Then, at 3:16 of double OT, "Sports Hope" happened via Dougie Gilmour.
I was beside myself. I jumped so high I actually cracked my head on the basement ceiling fan. My Leafs were playing the hockey of their lives and were clearly DESTINED to finally win the cup. Nothing would ever stop them now. Nothing except a slow motion Jamie Macoun and a terrible non-call on Wayne Gretzky. "Sports Hope" doesn't guarantee anything, but the rush lasts for the rest of your life.
THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS
It's not the Joe Carter homerun. That was the end of "THE Era". It wasn't even the '92 win. That was another culmination. The payoff ain't the hope.
It was Game Four of the '92 ALCS. Dennis Eckersley on the mound. He was the unbeatable one with a menacing mustache and a fowl scowl. He was nasty side-arm vicious. Roberto Alomar was "that showboat" to the haters. He was "the one with the punch" to the marketers. But he was the greatest baseball player I've ever watched play day in and day out to me.
I was in the den at my Grandmother's house; a house that is now mine. My Sunday-dinnering extended family were all gathered around the little TV because baseball fever had enveloped the nation. If you weren't there... you wouldn't believe it. But I was and it did. With nobody out and a 2-2 count, Roberto Alomar went down to get the pitch from Eckersley and lofted it into stands tying the game at sixes.
Sports Hope. I still feel it when I watch it.
Sports isn't the most important thing in life... but it's a really good thing in life.