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Raptors: What a Glorious Day for Canada, and Therefore of Course, the World!

The Toronto Raptors are the 2019 NBA Champions! I witnessed this Canadian Heritage Moment unfold at the Jurassic Park outdoor viewing party in London, Ontario - one of many that sprung up across the country, in pockets of America, and even internationally. I was 200km away from my hometown and the original Jurassic Park, in the middle of a crowd of fans, feeling very short and unable to see the on-screen scoreboard, but swept up in the moment nonetheless.

The Toronto Raptors is a franchise and fanbase with a notorious inferiority complex, one that yearns for recognition while latching ferociously to its underdog, outsider status. Is there another franchise that rides the crests of pop culture as slavishly? It named itself after a blockbuster movie from the year before its inception, adopted a slogan invoking the biggest show on TV, and employed one of the world’s most popular artists as its “Global Ambassador” (whatever that means).

But the Raptors actually are popular, with the fourth best attendance in the league. Raptor Nation runs deep, inspiring fans from across the country. I stood in London’s Jurassic Park and chanted “Let’s Go Raptors!” in unison with the hordes of fans I was watching on the screen. I held up three fingers alongside everyone else in the crowd and secretly hoped for Matt Devlin to announce a deep shot “...from Arviat!” as one of his Canada-wide shoutouts. I laughed when five Jurassic Park satellite locations were shown on-screen, from Montréal to Halifax, and someone shouted, “where’s London?!”.

I also watched with over 4 million other Canadian viewers as Klay Thompson landed awkwardly on his dunk attempt and lay on the court, screaming in pain. Everyone watched the replay of his landing and saw his knee buckle sideways.

The armchair physician in me said to my friends, “I think he’s torn his ACL. That’s exactly what happened to me when I tore mine.”

“Oh, were you dunking in Game 6 of the NBA Finals?” one teased.

The armchair coach in me chimed in, “That’s a good foul by Danny Green - no easy buckets. It’s just a super unfortunate result.”

The armchair psychologist in me also thought, “Man, his season’s over. And next season. His livelihood and everything he’s worked towards, stripped away in an instant.”

My ACL injury affected me mentally, being unable to dance or play sports or even do basic everyday things. And I’m not even a professional athlete playing in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The immense pressure on athletes to perform at the highest level, fight through pain, and rehabilitate themselves back to form with their career and passion in limbo has been well-documented, both in these Finals and throughout sports.

Sport is powerful, with the ability to unite a nation, deliver soaring highs and crushing defeats, and help acquaintances continue to carry a conversation after discussions about the weather run dry. But it’s also just a sport, just a game, and there are moments of clarity that bring this point home. As the final 0.9 seconds of the game ticked away over the course of what seemed like half an hour, the fans in Jurassic Park around me became excited and restless, waiting for a shared moment in Canadian history.