For a city not known for winning sporting championships, Toronto seems to have taken its Grey Cup victory in stride.
Police reported no serious issues after Toronto’s Argonauts thumped the Calgary Stampeders 35-22. “Everything’s been good,” said police spokeswoman Constable Wendy Drummond.
It was a far cry from the destructive spirit that has flared up in many other cities, including the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots in 1994 and 2011 and the violence that has accompanied numerous sporting events in Montreal. Toronto, though, has gone to the other extreme. The morning after the Grey Cup looks pretty much like every other day. There will be a victory parade Tuesday morning but, other than that, life has returned to normal.
The city is notoriously short of winning teams. Long-suffering hockey fans have waited 45 years for the return of the Stanley Cup, the local baseball team hasn’t won a title in nearly two decades and basketball fan devotion has never been rewarded with a championship. The Argos, by contrast, have won the Grey Cup five of the last 22 years. So why the blasé response?
It could be that it can be easier, perversely, to cheer for a team that falls short. It’s a notion deconstructed in an August column for the New York Times, in which Steve Almond analyzes his lifelong devotion to the Oakland Raiders.
“We live in a culture that enforces competition and deifies success,” he writes. “We’re relentlessly subjected to winners, when the truth is that most of us spend our entire lives losing, or feeling anyway that we’ve failed to win it all. We squander our talent, we mismanage the clock, we choke in the clutch. Our teams, in other words, enact public dramas that we experience as struggles to transcend our own private defects. They allow us to psychically offload our sense of futility.”
Critics will add that Toronto is too soulless to let loose and party, pointing to the mixed response to the horse paraded around the downtown last week by Stampeders fans. But that doesn’t square with the city’s huge festivals and regular street parties.
Perhaps the simplest explanation is that many in Toronto still view Canadian football as bush-league. Globe and Mail columnist Ian Dowbiggin believes there are only “15,000 or so Toronto fans who actually gave a damn about the team all year.” He notes that the CFL has been hoping that the incessant hoopla around this game could convince locals to give the team a second look – but he wasn’t convinced it would work.
“The big question for the league is whether the CFL will experience a ‘lunch-bag letdown’ in the wake of Toronto’s big party,” he writes.“First, are Toronto fans inclined to give the CFL a second look after decades of neglect? Toronto affects a snobbism about the NFL product, and that’s not going to change soon. Till a new stadium gives them something to obsess about, don’t hold your breath.”