The Hip Of Humanity

Ever since I heard “New Orleans Is Sinking,” I’ve appreciated Gord Downie’s lyrical genius.  As I listened to other Tragically Hip songs I learned about Downie and the things that he was interested in.  Expanding my Hip knowledge is like asking me if I have read the encyclopedia, how can I finish something that is so deep?

Take “Wheat Kings” for example, a song that I always thought was about the Brandon Wheat Kings until I read the lyrics and learned about David Milgaard who was wrongly convicted for murdering Gail Miller.  Milgaard would spend “twenty years for nothing,” because he did not commit the crime and would even have twenty chances for parole being denied every time.

In 2012, Downie said in a CBC interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, “I don’t think you can throw over science and research for ideology.”  Downie, lead singer of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, was speaking on the cutting of funding and support to small communities in Canada and how it affects their well-being.  Something that can lead to long-term issues like cancer, an issue that Downie knows all too well.  Downie’s ex-wife, Laurie survived breast cancer and Downie has terminal brain cancer.

The announcement of his diagnosis was followed by the band releasing a schedule of nationwide tour dates finishing up in Kingston, where the group has a street christened after them.

As Downie and the Hip toured Canada this past Summer on what was termed a final tour it made me think about what he was going through.  I pondered a man who has spent his life exploring his country, standing up for the people in his country, making people realize that those people need help and even though the Hip are one of Canada’s most cherished bands he’s never let that get to his head.

He’s opened people’s eyes to social injustice – to things that matter not just something random or nonsensical.  Obviously the world is going to miss someone like this.

However, the world is going to miss a man who asks questions.  A man who gets people to asks questions of themselves as well.  Questions that we might not ask unless a poet like him framed it in a melody.

A question like “how do we start dealing with our well-being?”

No, not just about eating the right things and going to the doctor more often, I don’t think that’s the message I get from looking at his last hurrah.  His lyrics seem more cutting and shrewd to be so simple as take care not to get the common cold.

He strikes me as the man who says “when I’m gone pick up where I left off and take care of one another.”  The man who in what could be his last year of his life toured his home country making people smile and spreading the good will of a band that never quit.  For a man who is so intent on keeping his personal life private, he made this last chapter the most documented part.  As someone who is private I can’t imagine announcing something like cancer on a website like he did, knowing that millions of people suddenly know.  With the advent of social media the diagnosis would be known almost instantly throughout the world.  His condition could never be private again.  Downie could never keep this secret again.

Maybe at this point though, it didn’t matter anymore.  There’s nothing left to hide.  It’s all up to us to continue what he started.  It’s all up to us whether we are Canadian or American or whatever nationality to look out for one another.  To keep the hope for humanity alive.  Downie’s hope that the fight against social injustice doesn’t stop with him.  Everyone, especially the people of Canada, continue to learn, love and take care of their land.  I’m proud to be a Hip fan even though I’m American.  I’m proud to have been introduced to Downie’s words before he left this world and to have been influenced by a man who never forgot that everyone matters no matter what they believe in because at the root of it all, we are human.

Views First Take – The Six is Upside Down

Hate

When a new Drake album comes out you hear hate.

From the guy on the internet who is so convinced that Drake is nothing but garbage to the kid up the block who says that Kendrick is a better rapper and Drake is just biting off someone else.

Every time something new comes along like “Hotline Bling” and memes come out Drake is more than willing to be the brunt of the joke.  Take the Super Bowl ad for instance.

Hate

Some critics want to say 29 year old Drake is not relatable.  Really?  That’s a poor diss from Drake’s earlier days when rappers wanted to say he came from money.

Thanks to his new track, “Keep The Family Close,” I know Kennedy Road taught Drake not to trust people like that.  When Drake’s mom moved him from Weston Road to a Jewish neighborhood so he could get a better start in life he was looked down on by those he went to school with.  Guess he wasn’t relatable then either?

He dropped out of school to be that kid “Jimmy” on Degrassi High at 15 so he could take care of his mother’s medical bills.  He wasn’t using that money to go buy himself fancy cars, maybe he borrowed his uncle’s car to ride around and pick up girls.

Drake has explored those rumors many times, even in the video for “Started From the Bottom” off of his third album Nothing Was The Same when he shows the street he grew up on and the house that he lived in as a child.

A little over decade ago the rapper year old just left his single mother’s basement to go follow his dream of rapping and provide for her.  With an endorsement from Young Money label founder Lil’ Wayne, Drake took his mix-tape fame and left the friendly confines of his Forest Hill neighborhood.

Some people would never look back – but not Drake.  He’s given back to his community when he could and he’s made people of Toronto proud of their city.  Changing the way the world views the city – becoming the global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors, launching a line of clothing that includes a 6 on it and promoting an OVO fest in his home base.

Love

I’ve heard Drake grow as an artist and as a man through his words and his flows.  He’s still struggling but he’s exploring what it is that has made him.  He explores himself on Views as a man, as a rapper, as an icon for his beloved Toronto (the 9 , “I turn the six upside down, it’s a nine down) and as a partner.  “If I ever loved ya, I’ll always love ya that’s how I was raised” he professes on “Keep The Family Close.”

He’s made good on his promise to his mom to take care of her – even though he claims on “9” that “Momma hit my phone and said rap’s no good, better than her telling me the check’s no good.”  He’s been spotted on “Drake Night” at Raptors games in October with his mom in tow.

There’s too much hate and jealousy in the world.  People need to embrace each other.  Music does that.  Music makes people come together.  There’s so much to break us apart as a nation with elections and politics that when rap can bring races together how can that be wrong?  But when you go out in an OVO owl shirt and someone you don’t know that’s a different race says “hey nice shirt man” that’s love and that’s unity.  That’s what this is about.  It’s bigger than you and I.

Jealousy

Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time right Aubrey?

You know because you see him on Instagram doing this or on Twitter with this person.  He may have some flash, but at 20 something years old, you didn’t want that if you could have it?  Am I jealous of Drake?  No.  Do I wish I could do some of the things he does?  Maybe.  I’d love to shoot hoops with Steph Curry and make curry with Chef Curry but I don’t have to have all the other things.  Drake is where he’s at because he worked and he’s been grinding to get here.  Views points back to those roots but explores where he is. On Weston Road Flows he thinks “back when we couldn’t buy pizza cause we were down to pennies,” but now  “I’m happiest I can buy what I want.”  I would think most people would admit that they know the feeling.

Redemption

As Drake looks around at all he’s gained over the years, he looks at what he’s lost as well.  Those who left and gained something from their time with him while he is left wondering if he lost a piece of himself in the process.  On Redemption he wonders if “Redemptions on your mind when you think about me, oh please give me time,’cause I’m searchin’ for these words to say to you right now.”  Of all the songs, this seems to be the one where he opens himself the most, he gives us just enough, “I wonder when my shit drop do they listen?  Wonder if they’re second guessin’ their decisions?”  He exposes his wounds just a little bit more when he waxes “they would sell my secrets for a tropical vacation, sell my secrets back to me if I was payin’ who’s gonna save me when I need savin’?”  It’s amazing to see such a brash, ambitious and cocksure rapper open up himself after such rhymes like “Back to Back” and “Charged Up” last summer.

Views

Is Drake about himself?  Maybe?  Is Drake about his city?  You could say that.  Is Drake about his “day ones.” I could make a case for that argument.  More than anything Drake is about the music.  Since the time he started rapping he’s devoting his time, his energy and his life into his music.  That’s what this is about.  That’s what Views is about, the music and rap.  Whatever you want to call it, this is his most sincere production yet.  With big sound coming from the lyrics (some guest spots but only enough to keep the flow going), 40’s fingerprints all over the production and an album that I anticipated heavily and I haven’t been let down by.  I’m not worried about Drake being a political activist, I don’t need my favorite artist to tell me what I need to do to save the environment or be some sort of movement starter.  That’s not me.  I want Views.

Looking Forward To The NHL’s Awards

I know it’s early and we are still 12 days away from the end of the regular season but it’s just about the time to look at who should win the NHL’s regular season awards.  There are a few we may not truly be able to know until the end but that’s part of the fun!  We will start with one of the ones I think is pretty much wrapped up.

*stats as of 3/29/16

Vezina Trophy

Braden Holtby      (2.17 Goals Against Average, .923 Save %, 46 wins)
Henrik Lundqvist (2.41 GAA, .922 SV %, 33 wins)
Ben Bishop             (2.02 GAA, .928 SV%, 33 wins)
Honorable mention: Corey Crawford, Cory Schneider

For me, no one has been more impressive between the pipes than Holtby because he has backstopped a team that has ratcheted up the pressure on the rest of the NHL to the tune of an NHL leading 54 wins and a guaranteed President’s Trophy.  Holtby has won 46 of those 54 games and proven to be a workhorse for the Capitals on their run to what they hope is a Cup winning season.  While they are a well built team, I think they are built from the goalie position on.  Last year’s playoff performance by Holtby was his coming out party and I think he is showing what he is made of.  He played in 13 games last year posting a 1.71 GAA and .944 SV%, winning 6 of the 13 games before the Caps bowed out to the New York Rangers in the 7th game.

As for the Rangers, Lundqvist has held them in the playoff race on his back alone. Once again they’ve built a team designed to win around Hank.  The Rangers leading scorer Derek Brassard has 57 points (27 goals -30 assists) and isn’t even in the 20 in points or the top 20 in goals (26).  If the Rangers expect to beat the Capitals in the Eastern Conference they’ll have to rely on defense and Lundqvist.
Quietly Ben Bishop has powered the Tampa Bay Lightning to 93 points and a tie with Florida atop the Atlantic division.  While we’ve heard about Florida’s resurgence, the Lightning have quietly come on thanks in large part to Bishop’s play in net.  As long as he continues to play strong he’ll have a chance to take that top spot in the Atlantic.

The Corey-Cory tandem both have played well and it was hard to keep them off the board but the top three candidates couldn’t be overlooked.  Crawford has kept the Hawks in many games but the offense in front of him has overshadowed his work many times.  I don’t believe he’s the top tier goal like the other three.  Schneider is a top tier goaltender but he’s been hurt by New Jersey’s lack of depth.  Once the Devils get the pieces in place, they have a great goalkeeper in place to get them where they want to be.

Calder Trophy

Artemi Panarin
Jack Eichel
Shayne Gostisbehere
Honorable mention: Max Domi

Some may question the fact that Panarin is 24 and played for 6 years in the Russian KHL before coming over to the NHL.  By the NHL standards however, Panarin is a rookie and stands to win the Calder hands down with 64 points, which is good for 17th in the league, the best by a rookie.  

Eichel is at 50 and Gostisbehere, the Flyers’ D-man, has 42 points for a team that is gunning for the playoffs as best they can.  Eichel has looked good for the Sabres, a good runner-up prize for the team that missed out on “can’t miss” prospect Connor McDavid that Edmonton took with the first overall pick.

Meanwhile Max Domi has shown flashes of brilliance in his time in a Coyotes sweater, even scoring on his father, Tie’s old team Toronto this year as he has amassed 48 points.

Norris Trophy

Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson….

no seriously…..

Erik Karlsson
Drew Doughty
Brent Burns
Honorable mention: P.K. Subban

Erik Karlsson has been a revelation once again in Ottawa.  A defenseman leading the league in assists?  Yup that’s him.  The gold standard of offensive defenseman.  But he’s always on the ice for his team, 30 minutes plus 30 or more times this year.  Karlsson has 62 assists and it is the most by a defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom in the 2007-2008 season when he had 60.  He won the Norris that year.

Doughty has played well on the blueline for the Kings.  He’s been one of the reasons that the Kings have performed so well and are contenders for the Cup.  Burns has been a point producer as well.  But both can’t really come close to what is Karlsson’s best and arguably magical season even though the Sens won’t make the playoffs it is an individual award and he has played the best season for a D-man.

P.K. has had some missed games due to injuries although he has brought his offensive game to the Canadiens this year.  When he’s come to the rink he’s been explosive.  He’s been physical and solid.  The team has struggled because of lack of depth and that has affected his numbers but I still see that Norris trophy D-man on the ice.  Not as good as the other three but he’s up there.

Hart Trophy

Patrick Kane
Sidney Crosby
Johnny Gaudreau
Honorable mention: Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist

Patrick Kane is the guy that checks all the boxes here, leader in points, second in goals, second in assists and plays on one of the NHL’s best teams.  But I’m struggling with this decision.  This is the one that I have a hard time with.  Do I think the Blackhawks would win without him?  No.  But do I think the Penguins win without Crosby?  No way.

In fact the Penguins have been a way different team in 2016 then in 2015.  On January 2, 2016 before facing the New York Islanders, the Penguins sat on 40 points – good for 10th in the Eastern Conference and 5th in the Metropolitan Division.  Now they are at 92 points, 3rd in the Metropolitan and 5th in the Conference, a hell of a swing in three months.

As for Gaudreau, the Flames would have struggled without his 28 goals and 45 assists. Johnny Hockey put the Calgary team on his back this year and even though they won’t make the playoffs, there is no doubt in my mind, this young lad is going to make this team a contender as long they continue to put complementary pieces around him.

As for my honorable mentions, I believe Karlsson will win the Norris and that speaks for itself, as well as Lundqvist’s play in net for the Rangers.

Selke Trophy

Patrice Bergeron

I can’t really throw anyone else in the mix because as long as he’s playing this is pretty much Bergeron’s trophy to lose.  Bergeron does everything you want a forward to do.  He wins faceoffs, kills penalties, back checks and is one of the best all around forwards.  His play is so good he makes everyone around him look good.

But if you are inclined, I’ll give you two names that could be included in the runner up spot:

Anze Kopitar
Sidney Crosby

You happy?  It still should be renamed the Bergeron trophy.  For as long as he’s playing, it will be his.

Adams Trophy

Mike Sullivan
Mike Babcock
Barry Trotz

This one should be a lot easier than it was.  But Mike Sullivan was gifted a talented team, the same that former Penguins coach Mike Johnston couldn’t get to produce.  On December 12, 2015 the Penguins introduced Mike Sullivan as coach and begin to see results.  As I stated above they are now knocking on the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference and this is thanks to Mike Sullivan who produced in Wilkes-Barre Scranton with the “Baby Pens.”  Many of his players there were brought up and have continued to produce in his system.  It’s worked well for him and I think it’s shown what a good coach can do with hard work and players that believe in a system.  You don’t always have to have the Kanes and the Karlssons to win.

Speaking of not having talent, Mike Babcock has done wonders with a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has stripped down the organization’s foundation to the core.  Babcock has worked well with the younger players brought up from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the Leafs have seen a resurgence not only on the ice but with the fan base as well.  It has given a once proud team reason to look to the future again.

Barry Trotz was given the keys to a Ferrari this year.  He was expected to drive the Ferrari as fast and as far as he could.  He has done that.  But he has also exceeded expectations.  Trotz has been able to guide the team through the ups and downs of the regular season without too much drama and changed the culture of the organization in two seasons.  He should have been nominated for this award last season.  Unfortunately I don’t see him winning it this year either.

Who do you think will win?

 

 

 

Why Can’t Hockey Be America’s Game?

Every time I go to Toronto I find myself drawn to the Hockey Hall of Fame and its marvelous displays of greatness.  Not that I make it to the Great White North all that much but it seems like since I’ve gotten older I’ve made it more than when I was younger.  I’ve been to the HHoF at least three times and to Toronto at least five but every single visit to the museum I’m always struck by the wonder of it all.

I know that Canada invented the game (although some may argue that it’s roots are in the Middle Ages – the game as we know now is Canadian in origin) and is celebrated as a religion country-wide.  In fact before it was replaced in 2013, the Canadian five dollar note featured children playing winter sports, including hockey, and wearing a number 9 sweater to honor  Montreal Canadiens great Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.  Included with the picture was a quotation from Canadian novelist Roch Carrier’s short story “The Hockey Sweater”:

The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons.  We lived in three places-the school, the church and the skating rink-but our real life was on the skating rink.

Yeah I get you Roch, the rink is where I’d be too if I lived in Canada.  Cold, brutal winters where you are forced inside, you might as well find something to do right?  Time for some hockey and after your legs are burnt out from skating turn on the television and watch some Hockey Night in Canada?  I mean come on, we don’t have anything like that here in America.  Sure we have Monday Night Football, but Hockey Night in Canada, there’s no chance.  The tradition and the history, plus Canadians have Don Cherry and his outfits.  No contest.

But here’s the thing.  Most places in America don’t have access to a rink.  In the South you are lucky to find a rink.  It’s getting better but when I was growing up I could only tell you where one was.  Even living in New York, where you think there’d be a bunch – it’s cold!, I have to drive an hour and a half on a good day to find a rink to play hockey.  True, I’ve read Derek Boogaard’s biography where it talks about his father driving him all over.  If my daughter is going to play she’s going to have to go at least three hours in multiple directions to play.  All over the Eastern Seaboard.  I can’t imagine doing that as a kid to play a sport.

But what’s funny about hockey, is that for as much as it costs-and trust me it costs, at some point you start to find this itch.  You can’t get enough ice time.  You can’t get even time on your skates.  You want to feel that stick in your hands every chance you get.  Even getting back into it at my age, I’m proud to say that I skated for an hour without falling-finally!  I’m getting better but I’m still pretty terrible.  Watch me skate backwards if you need a laugh.

However I’m bothered though, for all that hockey means to Canada there will probably not be one Canadian NHL team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Yes the teams are loaded with Canadian players, but I want to see Toronto or Calgary or Ottawa or Edmonton or Winnipeg or Vancouver go deep in the playoffs.  It just doesn’t seem right not to see a Canadian team.  I don’t like it at all.  I realize some of it has to do with the direction of the club, some has to do with the value of the dollar and some has to do with the quality of the team but no matter I don’t like it.  I’ll trade a potential Florida team or two for a Canadian team any day.

I know these teams are all because of the Gretzky effect – the same Gretzky who perfected the so-called Gretzky buttonhook.  A move that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl perfected in a game on March 20, 2016 when he assisted on Bryan Rust’s goal.  The Pens took out the league leading Washington Capitals 6-2 that night behind Kuhnhackl and his spin moving self.  I’m not sure Gretzky could have made a better pass, this was text book.  Maybe Chris Becker taught him that at the Revolution Ice Rink in Pittston at skills night while he was playing for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pens?  It’s a possibility.  You never know where he may have picked that one up.  Then he sold him some Ribcore skates?  Just kidding Chris.

Because of Gretzky’s influence on the league we’ve seen more and more Americans jump into hockey.  I was probably exposed to more hockey because of him and I have to thank him for that.  It is one of those sports that gets in your blood.  No matter what other sport you think you love, until you actually get on the ice and strap on the pads, skates and grab a stick, you don’t know what you are missing.  I can understand why it’s Canada’s sport and you know what?  I don’t think we’ll ever be good enough at it to best them.  We’ll never have the access or the commitment to hockey.  Our focus is on baseball, basketball and most importantly football.  There’s no way we’ll take up hockey as our number one sport.  I think Canada should take hockey, mold it and each year make it better and better.  Each visit to Toronto make the HHoF a place that I never want to leave at the end of the day, a place where those that gave everything they had to the game have a chance to pay tribute to their teammates and those they respected.  Hockey deserves a place where it can be worshipped and I think that place will be and should always be Canada…O Canada.

Maple Leafs Toujours

Ah…you see what I did didn’t you?  Tricky.  I hate to name my blog the same as Tim Thompson’s video.  The video is in a class by itself.  Watch it and tell me you don’t feel like a trip to the Air Canada Centre to see the Leafs.  

Let’s back up a bit.  November 2015, Leafs-Canucks pre game in the ACC and the lights go out.  All of the sudden you hear the music and this video plays.  The Stanley Cup Banners are hanging from the ceiling and the legends banners across from them.  It’s this melancholy madness.  I can’t figure out whether I’m supposed to get excited for the future or miss the ghosts of the past.  Crap.  When the game starts I almost don’t care it’s my first Leafs game.  I’m conflicted and confused.

Growing up with the greats like Gilmour, Clark, Gill, Ellett, Thomas, Iafrate, Leeman and countless others I watch that video and am struck by the memories.  I remember that Stanley Cup run and how Killer got high sticked.  I stayed up to watch those games on ESPN when they were on the west coast.  What memories. I remember how much it hurt because that team belonged in the Final.  That was a dynamic team.  That was the last team the Leafs have seen in a long time that truly had a real chance.

But now we are looking ahead while we celebrate the past.  The Leafs do something really amazing and have a row of statues outside of the ACC.  Just this past weekend they honored Leaf legends Dave Keon, Tim Horton and Turk Broda by adding their  likeness to those of Leafs greats Mats Sundin, Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower and George Armstrong.  His appearance on Legends Row and with the team may signal an end to the feud he’s had with the team over the years.  It also is a reminder to the fans and players that this is the greatness the the Toronto Maple Leafs are built on.  

As you watch the video think of the Leafs you grew up watching.  Your memories.  Think of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2015 when the streets were filled with fans watching, cheering every save and holding their breath with every save.  These are our Leafs, our Leafs forever.  Toujours my friends.

Owning October In Ontario

Like a multitude of Jays’ fans, I was tuned to Game 5 of the Jays-Rangers game but I was only able to catch it after getting home from work.  By that time, the Jays were down, 2-1, and it was starting to feel like all those years of dreaming of getting back to another World Series were going to come to an end.

I should back everything up and tell you what it was like to be the kid growing up in Virginia that was “weird” because he liked the Jays.  Or when the Jays played the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series where I was the only kid in a Virginia resort (where they filmed Dirty Dancing) and the room was ready to run me out of the building when the Jays took the lead in the game and won?  This was of course before the Washington Nationals and most people who weren’t Baltimore Orioles fans loved the Braves, so I was enemy number one not only because I was rooting against the beloved Braves but this was the Southern team, “America’s team” at the time, and I was rooting for the Canadian team.

They would look at me and ask “what’s wrong with you?”

“Why the Canadian team?  Why can’t you find an American team?”

“Because Robbie Alomar is my favorite player,” I would reply, “Because he is the best second baseman in the game.  Because I like the Jays.  I don’t question who you like.  Why do I have to defend who I like?”

Keep in mind that Joltin’ Joe Carter was from Oklahoma, Minnesota’s Dave Winfield was the DH, the SS was Kelly Gruber from Texas, John Olerud and his batting helmet hailed from Seattle and he patrolled first base and Pat Borders the catcher was from Ohio among the countless other players from America.

All anyone saw was the name on the front of the jersey, they didn’t see the players and who they were.  What they saw was a maple leaf or a “Toronto” and instantly they saw it as an insult to America.  Suddenly I was the outcast because I was the fan of the “foreign team.”  In a way, I think it was a wake up call for me, I think it was something that made me realize that the world can be such an unforgiving, unassuming and definitely a biased place.

While I was cheering for the Jays I also grew to love the Maple Leafs as well and I knew all their players.  It was a huge time for the city of Toronto, as the Leafs and Jays were winning and it seemed that entire city was feeling great.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned about Bill Barilko but also that the Leafs haven’t won a Cup since 1967.  I watched that Western Conference Final with the Kings and the Leafs and I still don’t know how Gretzky was not penalized for high sticking Killer.  That Leafs team has and probably always will be my favorite.  Dougie will probably always be my favorite Leaf as well.  So for someone who doesn’t live in Toronto or Canada, I’ve followed the Jays and Leafs from afar for years, unlike many of the people commenting on the game in the broadcast booth or in the Texas dugout.

Jump back to Game 5 and after Edwing ties the game with a monster shot, there’s nothing but nerves in the crowd for minutes to come.

That 7th inning that played out in Rogers Centre, the most bizarre 7th inning I’ll probably ever see, or you may ever see.  A ball bounces off a bat, an ump waves off play, a manager questions an ump’s decision, a run scores after the ump changes his mind, panic ensues, the ump calls his boss, more questioning, fans throw stuff on the field and then play starts back with the Jays down 3-2.  Phew.  I think I got all that.

I don’t condone what the fans in Rogers Centre did when they threw stuff on the field, but I will say that there’s a lot of pent-up feelings about the way Canadians have been treated.  Harold Reynolds’ jab at Canadians and the feeling that once again someone was going to screw their team out of advancement (Kerry Fraser not calling that high stick) among other things.  But I would never throw anything on the field. I don’t understand when fans throw home run balls back, keep that ball, what’s the point?  So it wasn’t your team, but it’s a Major League baseball, who cares who hit it?

When the bottom half of the inning played itself out all the way up to Joey Bats, sorry I had to call him that, it just felt like this is the way the game was supposed to be.  Jeff Banister can say it came down to bad fielding and this that or the other, but in reality, the better team won.  But I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Joey Bats.  The homer.  THE HOMER.  Joe Carter said it was the second best home run in Jays history, Joe should know.  I still remember Joe’s home run.  I think I jumped through the house like Joe.  I couldn’t stand Mitch Williams.  For Joe to slam that ball over the fence like that and beat the terrible Phillies, it was the best.  But in some ways this was almost better.

I almost think Robbie’s homer off Eckersley in Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS is up there too.  Robbie who hardly ever was a home run threat against a guy that all those damn A’s fans thought would shut down the Jays and he just sends it down the line.  I had a poster I got from Toronto with him winning the ALCS MVP that showed him holding up his arms after hitting that home run.  I remember I had rigged up an antenna in my room so I could listen to radio stations all over the country (and Canada!) and I happened to catch that game and I still remember that home run.

Anyway, Jose hits the home run and flips his bat.  He just has no more use for a bat because in reality the ball is on its way to Vancouver.  They are going to need to send out the RCMP to find it.  Apparently some felt that Jose was showing up the pitcher which led me to ask the question, why is that in baseball everyone is so against showing emotion?

In football, you score a touchdown and you celebrate.  Guys run down the field to grab each other and jump up and down.  A quarterback makes a toss to a wide receiver who burns a safety to score and the safety doesn’t say after the game he felt like the wide receiver showed him up by celebrating.

In basketball some guy makes a huge three in the corner to tie the game late in the fourth and the entire bench goes crazy.  No one is over there saying that they are being shown up.

In hockey, you score a goal and you go celebrate.  You jump up against the glass and celebrate with your linemates.  You celebrate.  No one says you are showing up the goalie.

In soccer, it’s the same thing.  Goal.  Celebrate.

The pitcher’s job is to throw the ball by the batter and the batter’s job is to hit the ball.  That being said there’s emotion because we are human.  When humans do jobs, emotions get involved.

What I can’t understand is why are we still talking about people being shown up in 2015?  When this gets brought up I think about those two old guys on the Muppets.  I imagine baseball as being a game for old guys that want to see a boring game.  If that’s what people want to see then it’s time to change the game.

Steve Phillips of SiriusXm’s The Lead Off Spot made a comment on the day after the game that David Price had a note left in his locker by Joe Maddon when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Maddon told him if he didn’t want to be shown up that he needs to make the pitch.  In this situation if Sam Dyson throws a better pitch we aren’t talking about the second greatest home run in Jays history occurring on October 14, 2015.  How ironic is it that Sam Dyson was drafted by the Jays in 2010?

Now it’s time to move on to Kansas City and hopefully the Jays don’t let all the emotional energy of a comeback win and odd 7th drain them.  It’s time for them not only to take October but Own October because October is for bats…Joey Bats!

Drizzy Drake Rogers

“I know way too many people here right now,” the hook, man the hook! NBA 2k11. There was this song I had no idea who this rapper/singer was but this kept coming back to me and I couldn’t turn it off. I was late to the 2k11 scene so by the time I picked it up half of North America already knew the artist known as Drake. I’m looking on the screen and seeing the name Drake and I’m scratching my head.

“Drake?”

So I google it and I see there’s this song “Headlines.” So I think “this is new Drake ill check it out.”

“I might be too strung out on compliments,
overdosed on confidence
Started not to give a fuck
and stopped fearing the consequence
Drinking every night
because we drink to my accomplishments
Faded way too long,
I’m floatin’ in and out of consciousness
And they saying I’m back,
I’d agree with that
I just take my time with all this shit,
I still believe in that
I had someone tell me I fell off,
ooh I needed that
And they want to see me pick back up,
well, where’d I leave it at?
I know I exaggerated things,
now I got it like that
Tuck my napkin in my shirt
cause I’m just mobbin’ like that
You know good and well that you don’t want a problem like that”

Holy hell. Mind. Blown. Just blown. Watching the video I see he’s from Canada and I’m like “wow, this guy is amazing.” So I go and download the Take Album from Amazon. Then I go get the “Thank Me Later” album and I search Datpiff for all the Drake mixtapes I can find. Comeback Season, So Far Gone. I couldn’t get enough.

The beats the hooks I was sucked in. But I didn’t listen, I mean really listen.

Nothing Was The Same. If You’re Reading This Its Too Late.

Looking back at him when he was just 23, talking to Katie Couric, when Find Your Love came out and he’s talking about being himself.

“I’m proud of myself. I’m a great judge of character.”
“I’m me.”
“I’m comfortable with who i am.”
“Be you.”

She goes on to ask him questions about Lil’ Wayne, his views on his music, his mom and of course women.  An only child who writes about the things that he knows, the things that he’s gone through, not about the things that he pretends to know.  I once had an English professor in college tell me that the best writers are the ones that pour themselves out about the things that they’ve been through.  How can you truly describe something unless you’ve seen it?  How do you talk about the Grand Canyon unless you’ve seen it?  Yeah it’s a large hole in the ground but what’s it really like?  I don’t know, never been there.  But if you’re asking me what Madison Square Garden is like during a Rangers game, that I can tell you.

When If You’re Reading This Its Too Late came out, I think maybe my appreciation of Drake may have hit an all time high.  The artistry on the “mixtape” if you want to call it that is absolutely amazing.  Legend just slowly kicks out of the gate with this slow beat and Drake just hammers the hook and catches me with one of my favorite lyrics, “on my way, money taught me Spanish, make it andale.”

I think between this and the following song Energy, I never got to further for a long time.  But I was missing out on so much.  Now & Forever is one of his finest slow songs,

“I don’t wanna miss the boat, I don’t wanna sit in coach,
I don’t wanna sit at home, I gotta get where I’m going.
I’m afraid that I’mma die before I get where I’m going,
I know I’mma be alone, I know I’m out on my own.”

Absolutely amazing.  But there’s so much on that album, his You & The 6, his song to his mom.  After I listened to the album and listening to the lyrics, I heard how much he’s grown as a man and as an artist.  I go back and look at the Drake in the Take Care album and he was talking about YOLO but in IYRTITL, Jungle

“She said you’re my everything,
I love you through everything, I done did everything to her,
She forgave me for everything, this a forever thing
Hate that I treated like it’s a whatever thing
Trust me girls, this shit is everything to me
She from the jungle, she from the jungle
I take somebody else’s car, drive there undercover
This shit is everything to me, this shit is everything
Don’t know where we stand, I used to hit you ’bout everything
Are we still good?  Are we still good?
Are we still good?  Are we still good?…

These days these new girls, they got me nervous
They go to school and do bottle service
They can’t decide, they keep switching majors
Being indecisive makes me anxious
Call your number and it’s out of service
Who can I call for your information?
What am I supposed to do after we done everything that we’ve done
Who is your replacement?”

What makes it amazing for me is to see this expansion of his work.  He’s made it so far from Aubrey Graham, that kid from the Forest Hill section of Toronto, but he’s not left Toronto, in fact he celebrates where he comes from.  A lot of people get money, get famous and leave home never to come back.  Drake blows up Toronto on IYRTITL, calling it the 6, and the people of Toronto have adopted it and even the athletes as well.  He’s become a global ambassador for the Raptors, who have given him a Drake Night as well as featuring his signature October’s Very Own Owl logo on playoff shirts and gear.  Recently Mitchell & Ness released OVO products featuring designs that Drake inspired for the brand and the Raptors.  Drake said 5 years ago in his interview with Katie Couric that Lil’ Wayne would be the icon for his generation and that everyone would know him and his picture would be everywhere.  But I don’t think he realized where he would be.  Drake transcends himself, he transcends his genre, his image, everything he’s involved in.  He’s bigger than the music.  It seems like everyone wants to know what he’s thinking, what’s he’s about, what’s he’s into.  But it’s all there in his music.  He’s let us into himself in so many ways.  It’s amazing that he can pour himself into the music that much.  He’s opened his heart on so many tracks and made it sound so incredible.  Each time you go back and listen to older albums you see his growth and his struggle to grow as a man.  His struggle with the fame and his hope for his mom to be happy while at the same time, his hope to be understood in a world where rappers are only acceptable when they are rapping about money, women and guns.  But he’s so much bigger than that.  His heart is bigger than the 6, but it’s that love, that heart that makes him an amazing artist, that propels him to be the best, and that’s what he is, that’s why he’ll always be the best.

Stay Calm and Take A Damn Breath Already

I didn’t get to view the Leicester City game, however I was able to catch the Norwich game at the weekend.  Norwich is making their way back in the Prem after a season in the Championship this past year. Sunderland was coming off their 4-2 defeat at Leicester in an effort where they were already down 3-0 before the end of 30 minutes.  Head man Dick Advocaat named the following starting XI and subs:

Sunderland: Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones, Younes Kaboul, Seb Coates, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson, M’Vila, Defoe, Lens, Fletcher.

Subs: Mannone, Bridcutt, Rodwell, Matthews, O’Shea, Graham, Watmore.

The contest didn’t start too badly, but Sunderland didn’t look like they were ground shaking.  Before 30 minutes they were down 1-0 thanks to a goal by Russell Martin who was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce off himself and Pants after Robbie Brady took a long shot.

Eight minutes before half they went down 2-0 and you could sense that it was going to be a game that we weren’t going to come back from.  Nothing seemed right anywhere on the pitch for Sunderland no matter how hard they tried, it obviously wasn’t meant to be on the day.  Although two minutes before the end youngster Duncan Watmore fired home a consolation for the home side that only meant Sunderland lost 3-1, Nathan Redmond scored in the 57th to put it way out of reach.

Some Sunderland fans were heard to sing “are you watching, Ellis Short?”  I can only imagine based upon what I know of Ellis, he’s been watching since he took over the club.  He was there over the summer when the club took the North American tour.  He’s been there when the club was battling relegation.  He’s been there fueling the club with whatever he can.

After the match, Twitter blew up with Black Cat fans asking for Ellis to sell or pony up more funds.  Black Cat fans already believe that we are going down.  Apparently no club has ever come back from losing the first two games of the season.

I’m not going to question Ellis Short’s commitment to Sunderland because he’s done nothing but support the club year in and year out.  Ellis has made sweeping changes and made things better for the club.  I believe he’s tried to put people in the right place and he’s done what he could for the club.  He’s dished out more money for players and coaches.  He doesn’t play on the field, he doesn’t coach the team, he doesn’t organize the team  he just handles putting the people in places to do their jobs.

Some have questioned the players’ desire to play but I dispute that theory.  I didn’t see anyone refusing to play.  it’s an easy thing to run that theory out there as a way to excuse a loss.  “oh the players didn’t want to try,” yeah sure.  I’m sure they just got up this morning and said “well I don’t want to play cause this is my job and i’m going to half ass it.”  I just don’t buy it.

I do believe that we are seeing some growing pains under Advocaat.  van Aanhalt has struggled in his position at left back, Coates hasn’t commanded the central defensive back position like he should, Cattermole has been outworked in a majority of situations and Larsson can’t hit a free kick to save us.

We’ve relied on some new boys to help us find footing, Kaboul, Lens, M”vila and O’Shea and Brown have found their way out of the back.  The sale of Wickham makes sure that the club is going to rely on Lens (who is finding his way in the Prem) and Fletcher and Defoe.  Defoe spent half a season on Wearside and Fletcher struggled last season.  We needed Danny Graham to help score the goals to keep us up, who knew that would be the case?

As for the rest, we’re getting run off the pitch and not controlling the pitch or the ball.  Toronto did the same thing.  We got lucky against Toronto to score the winning goals, but they controlled most of the play.  Passes couldn’t be strung together, runs weren’t found, and corners couldn’t be defended.  Hey it’s Toronto all over again. Robbie Brady’s shot came off a poorly defended corner.  It’s gonna happen and it’s gonna keep happening.  Something has to change with that.  I got mocked for my observation of Pants and his agility but he made a marvelous save when he dove to his left.

I’m thinking it’s time to give Watmore a bit of a run out again, and it’s time to change the flow of the ball, it can’t keep going down the left.  van Aanholt isn’t keeping it and he’s not able to find the pass so switch it up, keep him back, play some defense and move it through the middle.  Use Catts more and M’vila to press forward to the strikers.  Let’s rethink it and move forward.

I’ve had enough of the Short out and the players don’t care nonsense, and for the love, we’re not relegated already.  Take a damn breath and stay calm.

I’m Sunderland How ‘Bout You?

It’s been a week since the Toronto game and I still find it hard to believe I was able to get the chance to go. I look back at the opportunity and I feel really lucky that I could be there with the other Sunderland supporters and cheer the Lads on as they fought their way back to win at BMO Field. There were things that made it absolutely great and things that I’ll never forget. I have memories that I’ll carry with me for life and a team that I’ll carry with me til I die

.  
I look back at the blog post I wrote afterward though with a bit of intrigue and I am proud that I wrote it. I can’t believe how much traffic it got and how far around the world went. I know I’ve seen that it’s gotten well over 1500 views at this point and I’m amazed at the responses to it that have been left. I know that in various parts of this world I have people who I’ve never met that will stand beside me and drink a beer and cheer for the Cats.
 We’ve got something special as Sunderland fans and I think it was brought up in the Sunderland message boards somewhere. We are what we are. We may not compete for the league title every year we may not be in the champions league and we don’t sign the Rooneys or Ronaldos.

 What we do have is loyalty and never wavering passion for our club and that badge. I’m proud to wear that badge. I’m proud to wear that kit. I’m proud to say I’m a Sunderland fan. 

 Some will say “yeah but we are going to be fighting relegation again” or “see we are only mid-table.” When are we happy? When is it that we won’t tell other fans who are optimistic that they are just going to end up miserable? That “it’s going to be a long year?” Why? Because there’s going to be ups and downs? Who are we ?

 The spoiled of the bunch that expect everything handed to us? I’d hate to think you honestly go to a game and expect it always to be roses and champagne. If that’s what you expect I’m sure you can pick up a Chelsea shirt quite freely. Being a fan isn’t easy it isn’t meant to be. I don’t harbor any illusions and I don’t hold anything back. 

 I just get tired of people telling me how bad it is. How bad is it? We have a team we love that loves us, the owner loves the team, he loves the fans, the stadium is wonderful and we have hope. It’s not like we are playing in League One. Can we stop whining and start enjoying? Hold the flags and the scarves. Sing loud and proud. Show some damn support. I’m Sunderland how bout you?

Na Na Na Na Jermain Defoe

To say that I was excited to hear that Sunderland was playing in Toronto would be quite the understatement. To know that my Lads were now so close that I could finally reach out and see them within a fairly manageable drive was exciting news. For some people 400 miles might be too far to drive in one night after work across international lines.  But not this guy, I’d cross international lines.
I’ve been know to drive the east coast on a couple tanks of gas and all the caffeine I can handle, so the state of New York and Lake Ontario wasn’t getting in between me and the Black Cats. Plus I was finally going to meet someone from the U.K. I’d talked to over the years for breakfast on the morning of the game so I was bound and determined to make it all the way there on the day before the game, which I did just before midnight (Google Maps lies!).
My daughter was going to go with me, seeing as how she’s a Black Cat in training and my wife had to work. When we set off I had grand intentions that maybe somehow I’d end up making her into a bigger Black Cat fan, maybe even during the game she’d learn to love them even more from being there. Seeing as how it would be both our first live matches, I knew my love would only be cemented by the atmosphere of being around singing Sunderland supporters. I had no idea what she’d come away with.
The morning of the game we met my mate for breakfast and I got to ask him all kinds of Sunderland questions. “Did the trees grow up?” “What is Sunderland like?”. And on and on. I’m sure it was tiresome but I was dying to find out more. He had to return to work and my daughter and i were off to the hockey hall of fame but not before he told me that he would bet that Jozy was “nailed on to score against us.”
As game time approached I got more and more excited, it was set to begin at 7 so we arrived at 5:30 to walk around. I couldn’t believe the number of Red and White kits that met me. They seemed to be everywhere. We walked all over and I was quite sad there was no one selling scarves or anything Sunderland related. Hopes dashed. Toronto F.C.’s field seemed ok from the outside but I wasn’t sure how close to the field we’d get for 30 bucks a ticket. (Keep in perspective Chelsea tickets at Red Bull Arena were well over 100 dollars for crap seats).
Once inside we found our seats and looked out at the field but also found the standing room section where other Cats were gathering. Cats from all over the world. The kits people wore were amazing, they had the Black Cats on the sleeve (which were absolutely fantastic) and there were cool t-shirts. On more than one occasion I told myself that these are the people I relate with.  I’d never seen anything like it.

I knew it wouldn’t be too long after we got through the gates that the players would come out.  It wasn’t more than maybe five or ten minutes later that they did.  Vito and Jordan Pickford led the way and we applauded the keepers as they ran toward us to take warmups.  Underneath the away fans’ section is a standing room area where you can see the goal area from what seems like only feet away, so for me it was a magical experience.  I was mesmerized.  There were my heroes warming up.  Next thing I knew here comes this giant of a fellow running from the tunnel.

“Pants.”  Someone yelled behind me.  It’s Costel.  I had seen him on television but seeing him in person, I realized the man was huge.  He lumbered down the field but he was so agile.  Watching him take crosses, he seemed so fluid.  He didn’t move like I would imagine someone his size would.  He was perfectly suited to be a keeper.  Vito and Jordan took shots at net and Jordan missed one that hit a Toronto F.C. seat attendant right below us.  The guy had his body turned away from the field and had no idea when he got stung by a Pickford drive.  The entire Sunderland contingent had a chuckle as he tossed the ball back to the field.

A couple of fellows to the right of me were talking about the outfield players warming up and I noticed that Giach was out there to the right side with what might be the subs.  The starting 11 seemed to be warming up on the left.

“Who’s that fellow,” he asked me pointing to the left.

“I think that’s Fletcher, he got quite the tan.”

“Where are you from?  You’re not from England.”

“New York.”

“New York,” he stammered, “Why do you like Sunderland.”

That was the magical question I got asked from everyone I met.  “Why Sunderland?”  Why Sunderland indeed.  It’s hard to put into words the passion and intensity for a club that you fell for.  How do you explain it when it feels like you’ve known this club all your life.  How do you explain it when it feels like this club is all you know.  When this club plays and it’s the only thing that matters for that 90 minutes?  Is it about the passion that they show on the field?  Like Lee Cattermole?  When my mate asked me who my favorite player was I said it was Catts but it’s hard to pick one.

“Why Sunderland,” I replied, “because the passion.  Because they are Sunderland.  I don’t know how to explain it more than that.”

“Aye,” he said, “like Cattermole.  I like him.  He plays with heart.”

“You can’t teach that.”

“That’s right.”

We stood there and talked about things.  We watched them warm up.  He told me he was at Old Trafford last season when we took three points from the Red Devils.  He has a framed picture on his wall with his scarf he purchased from the match hanging around it.  He was from the area and interestingly enough knew one of the linesman from the game.

“Joe,” he yelled.

The linesman turned and gave him a thumbs up as he ran through a warm up.

We watched Fletcher, Johno and Defoe take shots from just outside the box.  I marveled at the pace on the shots.  But Vito and Pickford took them in style.  Some saved, some not, but they were diving and jumping and punching.

Finally the clock counted down and in the Lads ran to get on their green away kits for the match.  To be fair, I asked if the green was as bad as it looked in the pictures.  I was told it wasn’t and I’m going to say it grew on me as the match went on.  I don’t think it’s as bad as the pictures look.  Maybe if they play in a forest they’ll be trouble.

My daughter and I took our seats in row three of the far left hand section of the visitor’s area.  We watched the Toronto F.C. people tell some Sunderland fans they had to hang a giant Sunderland flag at the top of the visitor’s area.  I didn’t realize it until I saw pictures later but there were Sunderland flags everywhere there.  When we sat down in our seats, we met a father and son from southwest England and unfortunately I can’t remember where.  But they couldn’t have been nicer.  The first thing the father asked when we sat down was whether we were from Sunderland.

“New York,” I said.

“New York?  Why Sunderland?”

Again I repeated my take on why I chose the Cats.  He told me had been to the Sunderland – Bristol Rovers Worthington Cup match back in 2000.  The two couldn’t have been nicer.  We chatted during the match, they said they were going to Niagara Falls the next day before heading back to England.

The anthems were sung and the starting line-ups were announced but there was no Jozy:

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones , van Aanholt, O’Shea (c) , Brown, Larsson, Cattermole, Rodwell , Johnson, Defoe, Fletcher .

Toronto: Bendik , Morrow , Perquis , Zavaleta , Jackson, Lovitz , Cheyrou , Warner , Delgado, Giovinco , Findley

I want to tell you that I can remember everything that happened during the first half.  But I remember Toronto fans barely made noise.  Meanwhile Sunderland fans were singing their hearts out and sang along:

“My garden shed is bigger than this,
My garden shed is bigger than this.”

One of my favorites:

“Sunderland til I die.”

Of course:

“Ha’way the Lads.”

A brilliant one:

“Na na na na Jermain Defoe”

We are Sunderland of course we are going to out sing you.  We out sang them and we were loud and we were proud.

The first 2o minutes or so we seemed to be on the back foot as Toronto came pouring toward where the away fans were sitting.  I think at some point a comment was made that maybe the team was jet lagged and someone in front of us made a sarcastic remarked about being jet lagged.

“Jet lagged from what?  Sacramento?”

But if you thought about it, they had been on the road from July 12 or so, crossed over to California, then crossed back to Toronto and they were working on training the whole time.  Plus Toronto was in mid season form while Sunderland was barely two games into pre-season.  I don’t think it’s fair to criticize. My mate from England seemed rather jet lagged, so I could see how it could be true.

I know Seb got himself a yellow when he got in a tussle with one of the Toronto players, I can’t remember who.  They were grabbing each other’s shirts.  In fact the Toronto player was shown a yellow as well.  I was glad to see us showing fight and not giving in.  Johno tried this really ambitious shot in the first half that almost caught their keeper napping, on the replay it looked like the keeper had no idea it was coming until the end.  It would have been a marvelous goal.  We kinda were even in the first half even though Toronto practically made a hockey line change about the half way mark and subbed in half a team.  I never saw that before.  We did well at stringing together some passes and playing some down the wings.  Fletcher missed just wide on a header, Patrick made a brilliant tackle right in front of me and Pants made a couple good saves especially on a few corners.

A fan in front of me threw off Jonathan Osario who was taking a corner in front of us.

“OSARIO,” he yelled, “OSARIO!”

Osario looked up in the stands before whipping in this terrible ball that was headed out.

The second half meant Sunderland was attacking toward us so we got to see Fletcher and Defoe running at us and Johno crossing into the box.  But not too long after it started, Matthews couldn’t clear the box and Toronto put one past Pants.  1-0.  Ok.  Ok.  It’s not what I expected but let’s get it going.

The Lads showed fight.  A couple of fans behind me wondered if Catts would get a card.  He sure did.  He tugged and pulled and a Toronto player helped by diving.  The Canadian judge came over from the Pan Am games next door and gave him an 8 and the ref gave Catts a yellow.  We kept fighting back and somehow we worked the ball to Defoe at the top of the box who worked the magic to get it past Bono (I thought he was in U2 not a goalie).  There it was.  Defoe came back to haunt them.  I expected it was time for Jozy to show up.  But nothing.

We went ahead not too long later on a Defoe tap in after he took a pass from Fletcher as they had a 2-1 with the Toronto goalie Bono.  We sang some more.  With minutes to go we watched Toronto fans streaming for the exits as we sang.

We stuck around til the end and the Lads came over and applauded us.  All of them came over and we applauded them.  We made sure to let them know we appreciated them.

No Jozy. I heard that he was nailed on to score, I won my friends house in a bet.

Pants looked good. Not enough movement on wings. Happy with Catts, Defoe, Van Aanholt and even Brown. Fletcher was ok, he had a nice assist during a stoppage of play.  During the second half there was a stoppage down by the goal area and he kicked the ball and I yelled “nice pass,” he gave me a thumbs up.  We do however need work on our corner defense, they came awfully close multiple times and I was certain they were going to score.  Pants’ big foot stopped one goal from going in, you could hear it bounce off his shoe from up in the seats.

They say football is a uniting factor across many different nations, languages, backgrounds or religions.  I have been to professional sports before and I’ve never experienced anything like meeting Sunderland fans.  I was introduced to the family.  I was welcomed.  It didn’t matter that I was American.  There were Canadians, English, Australians and people from all over.  Football united us.  I know what it’s like to be a part of something bigger than just being a fan, I know what it’s like to a part of the Sunderland family. It’s a way of life.  I don’t know how to compare it to anything else.  I can’t compare it to anything else.  Sports in America is nothing like it.  There is nothing that compares to it.  This is magical.  It’s passion.  It’s a way of life, it’s something you have, it’s something that’s in your blood that you don’t give up.  You either have it or you don’t and once you get it it doesn’t leave.  You ask me why I’m Sunderland, I just am, I’m Sunderland til I die.  I’m Sunderland and I’m passionate about it.  I’m in the Red and White Army and proud of it.  This was my first game but I promise you it won’t be my last.  For all of you who were there, thank you…thank you for introducing me to the Sunderland family.

Only sight of Jozy:

The view of the 6:

The field from the standing room section:

 

Vito and Pickford:

Toronto and Sunderland…our Red and White army visible in the stands: