“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
So said Nelson Mandela when he appeared in 2000 at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco.
Much of what Mandela said nearly two decades ago is resonating this month in Canada as the nation’s lone NBA team has indeed become Canada’s team.
(Yes, there will always be holdouts, especially in Western Canada, who will never cheer for a Toronto sports franchise, but they are by and large the minority.)
From Tofino to Iqaluit to St. John’s, the Raptors have truly captured this nation’s attention with their remarkable run to the National Basketball Association’s championship series.
The scene across Canada on Monday night, as the Raptors sought to win the title, was reminiscent of the landscape of the country in August of 2016, when villages, towns and cities turned their collectives eyes to screens of all sizes to watch the final Tragically Hip concert from Kingston.
In living rooms in Kamloops, in arenas in the Lower Mainland, in fields across the Prairies and in town and city squares from Ontario to Newfoundland-Labrador, Monday night’s Toronto-Golden State game was must-watch TV that has united the young and old and all the magnificent ethnic groups that combine to create Canada.
The fervor seen is akin to that which takes hold in the Great White North during the Olympics and when a Canadian NHL team comes within grasp of Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Game 6 tips off on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Watch and be united.