With the division clinched and the playoffs coming, the Toronto Blue Jays have obviously done a whole lot of good.
They’ve reignited Toronto’s interest in baseball. They’ve been a boon to basically any business with beer. And they’ve turned the Rogers Centre into an awesome place to be with every home game.
But the significance of this team and their success doesn’t end there.
Because whether you’re a fair-weather fan, a long-suffering die-hard or someone who barely cares about the finer points of sportsball, an end to the Blue Jays’ 22-year streak of futile baseball matters.
I know, I know. I too have long been hesitant to attach much importance to muscly millionaires playing games, but my thinking has changed in recent years. I have seen first-hand that local success in sports can and does mean an increased level of civic pride.
And Toronto is a city in need of more civic pride.
Consider our history. Since the Jays last saw real success with World Series wins in 1992 and 1993, the city has been dealing with something of an extended hangover following a steep mid-90s downturn.
At the same time, the TTC had to deal with a death spiral of falling ridership and service cuts. A brand new subway tunnel was filled in with dirt.
And ambitious plans for high-rise buildings were abandoned mid-construction, left as ugly stumps.
Things got better, of course, but it’s been a slow climb back, with some notable setbacks. Toronto only surpassed the job numbers from the 1989 peak two years ago. And though it’s brought severe challenges related to affordability, the condo boom has brought new people and new energy.
Still, a feeling of cynicism stubbornly persists.
It’s a cynicism that asks, “Can Toronto really be a great city? Is it even worth trying?”
Sports can help cut through that. The NBA’s Toronto Raptors proved it over the last two seasons, drawing thousands to stand outside the Air Canada Centre until the bitter end.
And the Jays are proving it now.
What the players do on the field is only part of the equation. The other part is how the city has responded. That part is represented by the “Let’s go Blue Jays” chants that spontaneously ring out while walking down the ramps at SkyDome. It’s represented by the way entire bars erupt with every home run.
It’s represented by noise. By identity.
Sure, it’s only a game.
Economic growth and smart city building definitely shouldn’t hinge on winning the World Series. But we also shouldn’t write off the importance of civic pride – of having a populace ready to believe their city can do great things.
Toronto is a city long in search of things we can collectively be proud of. It’s worth celebrating that now – again – we have the Blue Jays.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/opinion/2015/09/30/toronto-needs-civic-pride-and-the-blue-jays-can-give-it-to-us.html on 2015-10-01T00:00:00.000Z