Is it wrong for a grown man to show his support for his favourite team through his wardrobe? If it is, then I’d definitely be found guilty.
Being short and slow, I naturally gravitated to basketball during my youth, and although my playing days didn’t amount to much, I never lost the love for the sport. Living in Greater Vancouver, I soon became a fan of the Seattle SuperSonics, often making the trek down the I-5 to watch them play. I still have an autographed press guide from their lone championship season, although my ‘Green, hot and smokin’ T-shirt from that era is long gone.
When the National Basketball Association expanded in the mid-1990s, welcoming the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors, I found a new team. No, not the hometown Grizz, whose six-year run in the city was marked by record ineptitude, but rather the guys with the dinosaurs on their jerseys. It’s been a love affair since that inaugural season.
I’m not sure I should admit this, but that affection has somehow translated into 17 Raptors T-shirts finding their way into my dresser drawers. Most are emblazoned with some version of the team logo, but there are others that are a little more subtle, like the ‘In Masai we Trust’ shirt that pays homage to Masai Ujiri, the team president who has presided over the club’s most successful decade.
I’ve had non-basketball people ask who this Masai fellow is that we’re supposed to trust, at which time I have a little fun, telling them that he’s our leader and that there’s lots of room on the bus. The fact I do so while giving off a cult vibe usually limits the interaction to just the one question.
I’ve got some strange looks when wearing my ‘Get that garbage out of here’ T-shirt, a nod to Raptors colour commentator Jack Armstrong, who utters the catchphrase every time an opponent’s shot is blocked. I’ve also got the ‘Hello!’ shirt, in an Irish green, which is another of Armstrong’s signature sayings.
The closet contains seven Raptors hoodies, including one in camouflage, presumably when I must hide from rival fans, as well as one from that glorious 2019 title season, which seems like kind of a distant memory as the team languishes near the bottom of the standings.
There are also sweatpants, a golf shirt, several baseball hats, a couple of toques and even a pair of slippers, although I must warn you that if you’re in the market, know that you’re paying for the logo, not the arch support.
How did it get to this point? It can be partly attributed to the fact that when I’m asked what I’d like for my birthday or Christmas, the default answer has become, "Anything Raptors.” It could also have something to do with not throwing anything out unless it has become ratty, a term I’ve learned has differing thresholds for men and women.
Whatever the case, I’m proud to support my team. I think there’s even something noble about doing so when they’re sitting 25th in a 30-team league.