I woke up Monday morning to the joyful news that the Blue Jays had won game three of the American League Division Series, and are still alive. The reactions of the fans interviewed on the radio were understandably ecstatic as they celebrated this all-important win.
Just a few days ago, I caught a few minutes of a TV show called Parts Unknown, with the chef and world traveler, Anthony Bourdain. He was in Marseilles, France, exploring the food and the culture of the place.
In the segment I watched, Bourdain went to a bar one evening with some local friends to watch the soccer match between Marseilles and Lille. In Marseilles, when the team is playing away from home, everyone in town is fixed to the TV set, watching the game.
One of Bourdain's friends, a local sportswriter and film director, shared that to the people in this town, it doesn't matter where you're originally from -- you always root for Marseilles.
His friend went on to say that soccer brings everyone together and enables them to have a common identity as fans of the home team. No matter where they originate, whether it's Paris, Morocco, Algiers, or elsewhere, they all share in their support for their team.
I remember in the fall of 1993, when the Blue Jays last won the World Series, and how the celebrations in the streets went on all night long. Even those of us who weren't die-hard baseball fans were caught up in the thrill of our home team winning the series. We were all proud Torontonians, and we felt the communal aspect of the win.
When we watch sports on TV, we can't help but have strong emotions: anger when an athlete blows it for their team; elation when they do something exceptional; despair when our team loses. Watching sports can make us cry from frustration and weep from being moved by the sheer brilliance of the athletes on the screen.
No matter whether we're huge Jays fans or occasional observers, we identify with our team. Anywhere we travel in the world, one of the first things a person will ask someone from Toronto is what they think of this year's sports teams.
And whether we're big fans or not, we always feel a surge of local pride, talking to this person about "our" teams. Our connection to local sports gives two otherwise strangers an immediate common ground, as we relate to each-other through our shared sense of loyalty to our teams.
According to Marsha Lederman, a journalist for the Globe and Mail, televised sports can be "a haven... in times of crisis." She describes a number of tragic situations in her life during which viewing sports on TV provided a salve to her hurting heart.
For her, watching sports has provided a soothing distraction from the painful realities occurring at various moments in her life.
In her article, Ms. Lederman also quotes Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, who says that our local sports teams form a part of our identity. This must be a large part of what draws us to watch sports on TV.
It's true that whether we're from Toronto, Boston, Marseilles, or Barcelona, our sports teams root us to a place and connect us through our passion for the games they play and through the drama involved with these games.
I don't know what's going to happen next for Toronto, but I'm sure that it will be very dramatic and that many, many people will be tuning in to watch the next game. It's just too important to miss.
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