Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Then there was a parade and a party, and most people went home happy.

What concluded with the Raptors victory parade in Toronto on Monday was a wild and joyous ride. It lasted for weeks and its effect is not just the team being champions – at last – it’s the communal spirit the event created.

That spirit came about not only because the players on the court tried and triumphed. It was born out of this country becoming a village, thanks to TV and the communal experience of large groups of people watching the games in those Jurassic Parks across the country.

Story continues below advertisement

Professional sports in North America have been slow to grasp the power of communal viewing parties. Traditionally, it’s all about filling the arena and then the TV ratings. Bringing people together to a carnival was an afterthought. The arena in Toronto holds 20,000 people. It must be nice to be there. But a carnival is a state of mind: imaginative, playful and nourishing a sense of belonging. The effect is enormous.

Technology can have odd and unexpected effects on society. We live in an age that some people call one of loneliness. We are more connected by social media but less emotionally involved. Our visceral sense of belonging has diminished. And then somebody puts up a giant screen and we are physically there, joined in a rare experience of childish revelry. It is a deeply gratifying, uplifting feeling, one utterly unfamiliar to most adults in ordinary life.

Plot twist: Suddenly U.S. TV viewers really want to see the Raptors

What a laugh: Fear of the Toronto Raptors sweeps the U.S. TV industry

The Raptors have made Canada the home of triumph — but we’ll miss being losers

Toronto Raptors fans cheer on their team at a Jurassic Park watch party outside Scotiabank Arena.

Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Over the years, I have written about soccer from 17 countries on four continents. Often, what I was trying to convey was the sense of being there. Covering multiple World Cups and Euro tournaments is a great privilege, but it’s not entirely about the privilege of seeing the best teams and the greatest players. It’s about being at the carnival.

Starting with the 1998 World Cup in France, it became stunningly easy to attend and experience the tournament without having a ticket to a single game. Huge areas in host cities were set aside for visiting fans to show up, eat, drink, party and watch the games on giant screens. This became the norm and, at tournament after tournament, the event became something vaster than could be transmitted on TV or reported in a newspaper. At the World Cup in Germany in 2006, some three million people actually attended the games in the stadiums. About 18 million watched those games on the giant screens in the fan zones.

What unfolded in Toronto and so many other cities and towns mimicked that experience: Shared passion unfolding in public, in a spirit of peace, amiability and respect. The respect is for what is allowable – in this groovy kind of powerful, childlike glee, costumes are allowed and social barriers evaporate as people are immersed in a sea of goodwill and benign partisan belonging. In all my years of being among vast crowds in countless cities around the world, I have never once felt afraid. Most of the time, I’ve felt among the happiest people on Earth.

The shooting in Toronto during Monday’s parade casts a shadow over it, but it is anomalous. So many large gatherings around the Raptors’ games have blossomed and gone on for hours and hours without trouble, happening in communal peace.

The victory parade on Monday was just that, a rally to celebrate winning. But it was so large, so public and joyful that it was in fact the culmination of all those mass-viewing parties. During those parties, the ones we envied others for attending, the principle that a professional sports championship series is a form of ritual combat between cities or countries begins to shift. In this instance in Toronto and the rest of Canada, the nexus between social identity and sport became obvious. It was about us. Who we are.

Story continues below advertisement

Nobody can plan the effect of communal viewing. Culture, sports and politics converge in unknowable ways. You can just hope that the intoxication comes from a feeling of exuberance that in turn comes from the communal feeling. The hard-fought victories were delicious, and yet what was truly illuminated was what this country is and what it looks like. Politicians and political pundits, take note: the Jurassic Parks are us – we are the parks.

Put it on TV, then put it on a giant screen, invite people to come and watch as the carnival unfolds, and you’ve got a better world for a while because we are reminded who we are.

Enormous crowds of Raptors fans packed a route through Toronto’s downtown to see the NBA champions first-hand. Hours later than scheduled, the team arrived at Nathan Phillips Square where they thanked fans for the outpouring of support.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies