I rushed home that evening, taking the back roads because the main city streets had been blocked off since early that morning. The traffic was horrific, and the entire city was abuzz with excitement. Storefront after storefront that I passed bore our team’s logo and slogan in their windows. It felt like the entire city was united for this. Did we really have what it takes to finally win it all?
I was nervous. I was more nervous than I expected to be, considering my general disdain for sports. But this was bigger than sports. This was our chance to be the champions. Finally. After so many years and so many sports failures. Year after year in baseball, hockey, and basketball too, even when we had some momentum, our city’s major teams always ended up losing. Sure, we’d won the soccer final, but who really cares about North American soccer?
The traffic lights were out as I approached my apartment. At an intersection two lanes of traffic in all directions were attempting to treat it like a four-way stop. It should have been simple and straightforward, but it wasn’t. The three cars in front of me barrelled through the intersection in a line as if that was okay. It was a rush hour free for all. I tried hard to keep my cool.
The radio in the car was hard to listen to. We were getting a lot of bad press lately. First, there were the fans cheering when the star player on the other team was injured in the last game. Now, apparently, we’d booed a player from the other team’s mom outside of her hotel? Really? Someone on Twitter then declared us to be the most, classless city in the world. That stung. After a lifetime of being teased for being overly nice, suddenly we were “classless”. But I guess that kind of name calling is to be expected when you’re in competition for a title. I wanted it so badly. And so did everyone else in this city.
The next intersection was a small one. The car across the intersection and I arrived at the same time. I was turning left, and he was going straight. He flashed for me to go first, but there was a woman crossing the street with her dog. I couldn’t turn. The other driver honked and waved his arms wildly at me. The audacity I had to not accept his gracious right-of-way. He didn’t even bother to look and see the pedestrian who had almost finished crossing the street by now. He just plowed through the intersection glaring at me, as if I was the idiot. I bit the inside of my mouth in frustration. Maybe the media was right. Maybe this city didn’t deserve to win the title.
The most obvious complaint people have is that this city is expensive. Most jobs don’t cover the basic cost of living. Want to have a house, buy groceries and have a fulfilling career? Choose two. Maybe even one. That’s the state of our city now. The state of many major North American cities. But it’s worth it, I think. After all, this is the city that gave my immigrant family a chance at a new life. This is the city that allowed for my grandparents and parents to work their way up from the bottom to a comfortable middle class. This is the city I love with all of my heart.
I stopped at a grocery store to buy chips and drinks for the game. I wasn’t the only one. As I rushed into the long lineup, I arrived at the same time as an older man. The man waved me into the line. I told him he could go first, but he insisted I get in line ahead of him. After the grocery store, I stopped to get some gas and the same man from the store pulled into the pump behind me. He smiled and said, “a familiar face!” and I smiled. Reassurance at last. This was the city I knew. Of course we deserved to win.
I couldn’t watch the game. My best friends Chloe and Amy arrived, and we sat in the living room with my boyfriend Ant. They were all decked out in their team gear, but I had on the same clothes I wore to school. I couldn’t watch. I didn’t want to get excited. I worked on my homework for my Technology class instead. Quality checking an ebook was just so much more interesting than basketball.
The game went on and the stakes got higher. Eventually we were winning. Not by much, but we were winning. I couldn’t admit it. I couldn’t bear to watch. This city doesn’t just lose sports competitions, we get pulverized. We lose in the most heart wrenching ways. We’d lost the last game of this series by one measly point. We’d lost hockey games when we’d been up by four goals for most of the game, only to lose in overtime. We lost even when we outplayed the other team! Our city teams have lost painfully and dramatically, for as long as I can remember. I have so many memories in the bars, full team gear on, head hung low, heading back home after the loss. I wasn’t ready for the communal city sadness again. I knew it was sure to come.
But the minutes dwindled down and still, we were winning. I could barely believe it. I shut my laptop and finally leaned in to pay attention. The timer ran out, we were up by one point, and we jumped to our feet and cheered! But the players on the screen weren’t celebrating. There was confusion on the court. None of us really understood basketball, except that somehow the game wasn’t over. We stood frozen on our feet in front of the television screen dismayed. Suddenly, 0.09 of a second was added back to the clock. The game wasn’t over. Somebody really didn’t want our team to win. My heart sank. Oh god. This would be the most on-brand way for this city to lose. Again.
“This is it,” Ant announced, pretending he understood what was happening. We put our arms around each other and huddled in a semi-circle before the television. “If we get these two shots in, we win.”
The first basket was made. Then the second. The timer restarted, and we ran out the clock. That was it. No horrible tragedy. I waited, but there was nothing but joy. Our team had won. Our city had won! We were the champions! It was unreal. After so many years, after so many defeats, we’d done it. We’d finally done it! The communal city happiness that followed was so well-earned.